It seems like we get books like this in regular intervals — Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, and now The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — books that make us examine the prospects for the future of humanity and the good and bad of our very real present day society. With the movie version of The Hunger Games opening this week, on March 23, there’s been a frenzy to read (or reread) the books of this trilogy, and despite it being marketed as a YA book, these are very good reads for readers of all ages. Panem is a future version of North America that exists after some vaguely described wars that, while important to the lore, do not require detail in order to be significant in placing things. Seventy-four years before the story begins, a civil war occurred in which one of the districts of Panem tried to rise up against the Capitol. In the years since, two youths are culled from each of the remaining 12 districts and forced to participate in The Hunger Games, a fight to the death in which only one can emerge the victor. Katniss Everdeen is a poacher in the Coal Mining District, District 12. Of course, the district is so poor that to the people living there, illegal hunting and trading is necessary to survive. When the time to pick tributes comes around, Katniss’s younger sister Primrose’s name is picked, and Katniss steps up to take her place in the games. The main thrust of the novel is the juxtaposition of life in the districts and in the Capitol, with those who barely have enough to get by compared with those who have everything they need and more; those who are giving their lives and those who are watching for entertainment. It’s difficult to read these books without finding yourself offended at some point or another, and that’s what makes reading them so great. In fact, finding offense is the point. The book can very easily be read as a criticism of consumer society, a critique of people who are willing to give up their liberties when those in power demand it for a temporary and false sense of security, as the characters in Battle Royale did. It can remark on how easily we are willing to give up our humanity just to survive, as the characters in The Lord of the Flies did. However, I personally see it foremost as a deconstruction of what it means to be a hero. Katniss is not the usual idolized version of a hero that tends to pop up in books like these. She’s not fighting for change. She’s not trying to keep the peace. She’s merely out to survive. She lies, she backstabs, she plays dirty … but, when it really counts, her honesty, hope, and humanity shine through. And in the second and third book … Well, you’ll just have to read the series, won’t you? Though currently in high demand, all of the books from The Hunger Games series are available at Queens Library. Are you looking forward to the movie? Share your review of the books or the movie in a comment!