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The Hunger Games

In a dystopian future state, a teenage girl and boy must fight for their lives and their freedom.

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In middle school, we were tormented annually by something called the Presidential Fitness Test. If you failed (as I inevitably did at the “arm hang”), they gave you a T for “tried.”
Things are a little different for Katniss Everdeen. If she fails, the 16-year-old dies.
“The future” equals dystopia in much of science fiction, and Suzanne Collins’s gripping new novel for teens, The Hunger Games, is no exception.

After society’s collapse from environmental chaos and a subsequent failed rebellion, what’s left of humanity is organized into 12 districts. (There were 13, but the last one was obliterated as punishment for rebelling.)

Kept in poverty by a totalitarian government, the populace is forced to labor to keep The Capitol (what used to be Denver) in sumptuous splendor. Katniss and her mother and sister live in District 12, formerly Appalachia, where they would have starved if Katniss didn’t sneak daily into the forest to go hunting. (Poaching is technically punishable by death, but local officials are more likely to buy her game than arrest her.)

It’s not the setup that gives “The Hunger Games” its crackling energy.

At different times, the novel reminded me of everything from the myth of Theseus and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to Stephen King’s “The Running Man” and the reality-TV show “Survivor.”

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