(Almost) Everything You Need to Know about The Hunger Games

The movie “The Hunger Games” opens nation-wide on midnight Thursday night/Friday morning. If you’re completely clueless about this moving and the series of books on which it is based, you are not alone. Lots of folks have been caught off-guard by this new teen phenom. So to get you up to sepeed on the world of the Hunger Games, we’re providing a cheat sheet for you. Here’s (almost) all you need to know.

Setting: a post-apocalyptic (we don’t know what happened) country called Panem in North America.

The Government:Panem is goverened by persons in “The Capitol.” It is a totalitarian regime that controls and rules 12 outlying Districts.

Background:In the first book (The Hunger Games), the reader is introduced to a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen. She, along with her widowed mother and younger sister, struggle to eke out an existence in District 12, which is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly Appalachia.

Plot:The title of the book comes from an annual event—a part gladiator style, part reality TV extravaganza. One boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected at random for the Hunger Games, a macabre event in which the participants (called “tributes”) must fight in an outdoor arena controlled by the Gamemakers in the Capitol, until only one remains (think kill or be killed). Not only do the tributes battle against each other, but against the elements and any twists the Capitol adds to ensure higher ratings from TV viewers.

Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie) volunteers to be a tribute in place of her younger sister, Primrose (mostly called Prim) who is only 12. Katniss is joined by Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson), the male tribute from District 12 and a classmate who once gave her bread from his family’s shop when her family was starving.

Back home watching the Hunger Games is Gale Hawthorne (played by Liam Hemsworth). Gale (age 18 at the book’s opening) and Kat are best friends and hunting partners. While hunting, the pair combined their respective talents to become a highly effective team. Their success makes them fixtures at District 12’s black market where they sell their “kills” (deer, squirrels, etc.) in exchange for critical supplies.

Katniss and he two men in Kat’s life (Gale and Peeta) create a love triangle, a la the Twilight series, with the new question being, “Are you Team Peeta or Team Gale?” Kat is forced to determine who is love and who is friend, a choice that is very blurry at times.

Eventually, someone wins the Hunger Games, but the story doesn’t end with the victory tour around the country. Hence, book 2 in the series, “Catching Fire.”

The book tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, the effects of war, and self-preservation. It also addresses morally complex choices, government control, personal independence, and power.

Other folks in the movie:Lenny Kravitz (a rock-star stylist named Cinna, who sports gold eyeliner) and Woody Harrelson (a drunken former tribute and mentor named Haymitch) play advisors to the tributes, and Elizabeth Banks plays a government rep (named Effie) whom you can’t decide whether to love or hate—or both.

FYI: The second movie in the series is set to release in November 2013.

Simple questions to ask:

  • Which book are you reading in the series? Which was your favorite?
  • Which do you like more, Peeta or Gale?
  • If something like the Hunger Games was televised today, would you watch it?
  • What would your talent as a tribute? (Each Tribute has a skill. Kat’s is archery)
  • Would you pretend to love someone in order to get something? (Katniss feigns love in order to get gifts that outsiders can offer to their favorite Tributes)
  • Do you like how the book ends? Why?
  • How would you handle the fear and pressure if you were in Katniss’ shoes?

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