- "The Games will change everyone."
- ―"The Hunger Games" promotion
The Hunger Games is a young-adult, dystopian novel written by Suzanne Collins. It was originally published on September 14, 2008. The book is the first in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire, then Mockingjay. A prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, was published in 2020.
In the novel, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the ruthless Capitol randomly selects one boy and one girl, each between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve districts, pitting them against each other in a game of survival where they are forced to fight one another to the death. The victor then wins a new house for themselves and their families in their district, along with food, fame, and wealth.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Each year, for 74 years, the Hunger Games have taken place, forcing 24 children from 12 districts (one boy and girl from each district) between the ages of 12-18 (who are chosen at the annual Reaping ceremonies) to fight to the deaths a punishment for the rebellion initiated by District 13. This year seems no different for Katniss Everdeen, until her younger sister, Prim , is called to participate. She takes her sister's place as tribute to save her sister from certain death.
Katniss will do anything to survive, even if she may have to go against her own moral standards. But when a fellow tribute reveals his affection for her and another begins to act like and remind her of her sister, it becomes harder and harder to figure out how to survive without killing those closest to her.
Part I: The Tributes
The book opens with Gale Hawthorne and Katniss slipping away into the woods on the day of the reaping, which is the only place where they feel safe enough to discuss the Capitol and other problems. Being poachers, they catch their loot of the day and go out to sell it at District 12's black market, the Hob, to Greasy Sae and other customers. Once the game is sold, Gale and Katniss go to Mayor Undersee's house to sell strawberries, an old favourite of the mayor's. When they knock on the door, Madge, the mayor's daughter, answers the door. After a petty argument between Gale and Madge ensues, Katniss returns home to prepare for the reaping. Because the day of the reaping is a solemn one, Katniss tries to cheer Prim up by commenting on her dress, a previous reaping day outfit for Katniss (which is a little roomy on Prim), and says "tuck your tail in, little duck." This displays Katniss' love for her sister.
At the reaping ceremony, Prim is chosen as the girl tribute for District 12. Katniss, devastated and shocked, immediately volunteers for her twelve year old sister. This is seen as an almost unheard of occurrence as the last winner was almost 24 years ago. As the rest of the district stares in shocked silence, Katniss becomes the female tribute for her district. As an act of respect to a loved one, the entire district places the three fingers of their left hands to their lips and presses outward in a silent salute. Proceeding this, the next tribute, Peeta Mellark, is chosen. Katniss' mind reels as she remembers the one real interaction she had with him some time previous. She is distraught that he saved her life by tossing her the bread that day.
Katniss and Peeta are then taken into custody, being guarded, so they do not escape. Katniss and Peeta are permitted visitors, and Katniss has five. When her mother and Prim arrive, Katniss makes her mother promise not to "leave" Prim as she did when their father died in a tragic mine explosion, as she is confident she will not be returning home. She also promises Prim that she will try her hardest to win the Games. The baker, Peeta's father and often the person Katniss and Gale trade squirrels to, is the next to farewell Katniss. He promises to look out for Prim and "making sure she's eating." Her second to last visitor, Madge, is full of urgency and passion as she begs Katniss to take her mockingjay pin as her tribute token, a tradition Katniss hadn't even thought about until that point. Katniss hesitantly agrees. Finally, Gale is sent into the room. Their final meeting isn't long but Gale leaves her with "Remember I...." Katniss does not hear the rest because he is taken away.
After the visits from friends and family, they are rushed to the Tribute Train that will take them to the Capitol. When they arrive at the Capitol, they are immediately taken to the remake center to be readied for the Opening Ceremonies, where all the tributes ride through the City Circle in chariots that reflect their respective districts. When Katniss' prep team, Venia, Flavius, and Octavia, are finished with the basic alterations, Cinna, Katniss' stylist, comes to show Katniss her costume for the Ceremonies. He dresses her in a black unitard complimented by a headdress and cape. Katniss makes her way to the stables to find Peeta in the same outfit. They board their chariot and Cinna and Portia, Peeta's stylist, light their capes and headdresses using synthetic fire. Just as the chariot is about to take its turn, Cinna tells Katniss and Peeta to hold hands as they ride their way through the streets dazzling the people of the Capitol.
The chariots take them to the Training Center where they will stay until the day of the Games. Here, they train in the underground gym until the day of the Gamemaker's assessment. This is when each of the tribute's best skills are shown to get a training score that will ultimately decide whether a tribute receives sponsors. Katniss is last as tributes are called according to their district number and gender; males are the first to undertake their private sessions. As she enters, she can already tell that the Gamemakers are drunk and are not going to pay attention to her. Her first shooting attempt with the bow and arrow is unsuccessful as she is not used to the rigidness of the bowstring. However, she shoots several times in order to gain a feel of the new weapons and ends up hitting all her targets in a round of fantastic shooting. A few of the Gamemakers look impressed, but the majority of them are still caught up in their own conversations. In an act of defiance and anger, she shoots an apple out of the roasted pig's mouth on the Gamemakers' dining table, greatly shocking them. Later that night when the scores are displayed, Katniss gets 11 out of 12, the highest score of all the tributes.
The next day, the interviews take place and Cinna dresses Katniss in a stunning jeweled dress again depicting her as the girl on fire. During his interview, Peeta professes his love for Katniss to the entire nation of Panem, causing an immense sympathetic reaction to arise from the Capitol audience.
Part II: The Games
This part of The Hunger Games chronicles most of the actual Games. The death, destruction, and chaos that surrounds the event is described within these chapters.
The Games begin with 11 of the 24 tributes dying on the first day at the highly anticipated bloodbath. When the Games begin, Katniss considers running for the already strung bow she notices quite close to the Cornucopia, but decides against it when she loses her momentum after a slight distraction from Peeta. She gets away quickly, after trying to grab as much as she can, getting into a minor tussle with a boy over a backpack which ends when the boy is knifed in the back by Clove. Katniss is almost killed at the Cornucopia when Clove aims a knife at her; she blocks it by using her backpack and earns a sturdy knife with a serrated edge. Over the next few days, Katniss moves further and further away from the Cornucopia, sleeping at high points of trees, though she is later slowed down by the lack of water. She nearly dies of thirst, and becomes desperate to the point where she begs Haymitch to get water for her by shouting into the empty air. When she receives no reply, she sees this as a sign, or a way of her mentor communicating to her that he is not sending her water because she is close to a source. She finds a small pond to drink from, stumbling into it while she thinks of camouflaging her bright orange backpack so it won't draw too much attention.
The next morning she is awoken by a wall of Gamemaker-created fire, including fireballs that are flung at her. She survives this, but suffers minor burns on her hands and a severe burn on her right calf. She goes to sleep and is woken by the sound of footsteps. Katniss is briefly chased by the Career pack, consisting of Glimmer, Marvel, Cato, Clove, the girl from District 4, and Peeta, and escapes up a tree. Cato tries to climb up after Katniss, but crashes to the ground because he is too heavy for the branches. Glimmer tries to shoot an arrow at Katniss, but misses every time. Katniss does not suffer any injuries from Glimmer. All of the Careers are too heavy to climb after her and settle to wait for her to come down after the suggestion is made by Peeta. During this time it is said that Haymitch sent Katniss a silver parachute that contained her first gift from a sponsor, a small container of burn cream that Katniss uses immediately to help relieve the pain. Rue then appears in a neighboring tree and silently points out the tracker jacker nest above Katniss. Katniss cuts it down with the knife she received from Clove and the tracker jackers attack the Careers, killing Glimmer and the girl from District 4. Seeing this as a chance, she takes the bow and arrow that Glimmer was able to get from the Cornucopia, but not before she is seen by Peeta who lets her escape, therefore getting him into trouble with Cato. The other Careers all get tracker jacker stings, as does Katniss, and take several days to recover.
When Katniss wakes up from the hallucinations caused by the tracker jacker venom, she proposes an alliance with Rue, who reminds her of Prim, in both size and demeanor. The two bond over several things, feeling comfortable with each other. Katniss and Rue then plan to destroy the Careers' food supply. Rue provides a distraction by setting 2 of the 3 fires that she and Katniss had prepared while Katniss checks out the Career pack's camp. She figures out that the food is protected by landmines, which were the mines they were standing on as they enter the arena. From this, she gathers that the boy from District 3 reactivated them. She watches on as Foxface darts to the area, skips around the mines and she takes some of the supplies. She later shoots a sack above the mines to spill apples onto the ground, setting off all of the mines. Nearly everything is destroyed and Katniss' left ear is blasted, leaving her somewhat blindsided.
Katniss goes to the woods, listening for Rue. Her four note melody rings out through the woods from mockingjays, but she suddenly cries out for Katniss. Knowing it's probably trouble, and possibly a trap, she runs through the trees to find Rue entangled in a mesh net, one arm sticking out for Katniss before a spear is thrown into her abdomen by Marvel. Katniss kills the boy instantly, sits down with Rue, and sings the Valley Song, one that many people refer to as Rue's Lullaby. She dies after Katniss finishes the song. Seeing Rue dead and angry that the Capitol enjoys watching innocent children die, Katniss grabs flowers and decorates Rue's corpse with them, hiding the wound and weaving them into her hair. After this, she gives Rue the same farewell gesture that was directed to her in District 12. Katniss thinks to herself that the Gamemakers will not permit much of this to be shown on TV as they could appear to be acts of rebellion defying the Capitol. She then takes Rue's and the dead boy's backpacks, knowing that Rue would have wanted her to have them. As she moves away from Rue and the hovercraft claiming her body, a parachute falls down from the sky to her, containing bread shaped like a crescent and dotted with seeds - a gift from District 11. It is speculated that the bread may have been intended for Rue but after her death, the citizens decided to give it to Katniss as she was Rue's ally. This gift is very significant, and it is acknowledged as the first gift given to a tribute by a district they didn't belong to. Later Claudius Templesmith announces that two tributes can win if they are from the same district. Momentarily forgetting the potential danger around her, Katniss calls out Peeta's name.
Part III: The Victor
After it's announced two tributes from the same district can win, Katniss finds Peeta camouflaged along the stream and is horrified by the condition he is in. In the act of saving Katniss, Peeta took a gruesome sword slash to the leg delivered by Cato that cut through the fabric of his pants all the way down to the bone of his left leg. Katniss attempts to heal Peeta, but is shocked when he develops blood poisoning from the sword cut.
Claudius Templesmith then announces that there will be a feast, but not just any feast. Each district has to have one thing to win. For District 12, something to treat Peeta's leg injury. Under the impression that Katniss promised she won't go to the feast, Peeta is quickly tricked by Katniss into "eating" the sleep syrup sent by Haymitch that could knock him out for a day, giving Katniss more than enough time to retrieve the medicine for Peeta at the feast. Foxface is the first to retrieve her backpack, running in so quickly Katniss loses her momentum. Katniss runs to retrieve hers, a bag small enough to fit her wrist labeled with a 12.
As she runs from the scene, holding the medicine that would save Peeta, Clove throws a knife that she is able to deflect with her bow. However, the second knife Clove throws opens a gash above her eye. Clove tackles Katniss to the ground and goads her with Rue's death and her own slow, imminent one. Just as Clove is about to cut Katniss, Thresh, the remaining tribute from District 11, throws Clove away from her and demands whether Clove killed Rue. Clove denies this despite talking about it only a couple moments prior, but Thresh doesn't believe this and crushes her skull with a large rock, the cannon soon signifying her death.
As Thresh turns to Katniss, she asks if he can make it quick, but Thresh spares her life for being Rue's ally and taking care of her while she was dying. Cato later runs to Clove's body, so Thresh lets Katniss run as he takes his backpack, and Cato's, from the table. Katniss runs back to their cave, injects the medicine into Peeta and blacks out.
Things happen after that with them either staying in their cave, resting and recovering, or hunting and foraging nearby. Thresh's cannon signifying his death fires while Peeta and Katniss are trapped in their cave due to the bad weather. Foxface is killed after she steals and eats nightlock berries that Peeta collected, not knowing that they were deadly.
On the final day of the games, the river that runs near their cave runs dry. They see this as a sign that the Gamemakers are gathering the three remaining tributes to the lake near the Cornucopia. This is where they find a frantic Cato running from giant Capitol muttations, human-like wolves who turn out to be in some form that resemble the dead tributes. The final showdown on top of the Cornicopia has Cato trying to use Peeta to stop Katniss from killing him. He ultimately fails as Katniss pierces his hand and falls down to the muttations below the Cornucopia. He does not die and is merely tortured continuously by the muttations because of his armor which most likely came from his district pack. Cato is severely wounded by the mutts and finally killed by Katniss with an arrow through the head. His cannon fires, and Katniss and Peeta are unsure why they are not being announced victors.
Claudius Templesmith then announces that there can only be one victor, revoking the previously placed rule. As a way to defy the Gamemakers, Katniss introduces the idea of suicide with the nightlock berries to Peeta, in the hope that the Capitol would rather have 2 victors than none. Peeta agrees, and just as they are about to consume the berries, they are hastily declared the winners. However, the Capitol becomes angry with Katniss and claims she was sparking rebellion by "outsmarting" the Gamemakers and therefore defying the Capitol. When Haymitch tells Katniss this, she sees it as her job to reverse it to save the ones she loves so she layers the madly-in love act very thick in order to convince them that she did this for her future with Peeta.
Upon going home, Peeta and Katniss start drifting apart when she tells him she knew when Haymitch would send her sponsorship gifts and survived most of the Games that way. Katniss' thoughts are in turmoil; she is conflicted about her feelings for Peeta and is incapable of sorting out what felt real and what didn't. Peeta offers his hand to Katniss, conveying his hurt by saying "One more time? For the audience?" She obliges, and the book ends with her dread of finally letting go of the boy who she feels is slowly slipping away from her.
- Katniss Everdeen — The story's main protagonist, a sarcastic, determined and strong-willed sixteen-year-old. Katniss lives in the coal-mining town of District 12, one of the poorer districts, and lives in the part nicknamed the Seam. She often hunts outside of the District's walls in order to feed her family. Her father was a coal miner who died in a mine accident. When Katniss' sister Primrose is picked from the reaping for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Her hunting and archery skills are key assets to her in the Hunger Games. She has straight dark brown hair, light gray eyes, olive-colored skin and usually wears her hair in a braid down her back. She is nicknamed Catnip by her best friend, Gale, when they meet for the first time in the woods hunting.
- Peeta Mellark — The male tribute from District 12, Peeta is a baker's son and works at the bakery in the Seam, where he decorates the cakes. He has been in love with Katniss since they were five years old, and he once saved her and her family from starving. Peeta is characterized by a likable personality, strategy, and selflessness. He has blond hair and bright blue eyes, unlike the people from the Seam, the poor part of District 12 where Katniss lives, who have darker hair and grey eyes.
- Gale Hawthorne — The best friend of Katniss, she and Gale met when she was only twelve and he was fourteen after both of their fathers died in the same mining explosion. Gale hunts with Katniss in the forest, usually everyday. Katniss mistakenly assumed their relationship was not romantic.
- Cinna — He is Katniss' stylist, and later becomes a close friend of Katniss. Cinna is clever and supportive. He resides in the Capitol. He makes stunning outfits for her including, the tribute parade costume, the interview dress, and bright yellow homecoming dress. Although Cinna lives in The Capitol he is not flamboyant like the rest of the citizens.
- Portia — She is Peeta's stylist and works with Cinna to design Katniss and Peeta's outfits. She is a Capitol citizen.
- Rue — The tribute from District 11. Small and bird-like, she is largely underestimated in the games, but her knowledge of trees and how to hide keeps her alive longer than expected. She also reminds Katniss of Prim. She warns Katniss about the tracker jacker beehive, muttations that were once set out by the Capitol to help destroy the rebellion. Unfortunately, Rue was killed by the boy tribute from District 1, Marvel, who had thrown a spear into her stomach. Katniss sang Rue to sleep, and then death. After Rue closed her eyes and the cannon was fired, Katniss gathered flowers and covered Rue with them, showing the Gamemakers that she was 'more than just a piece in the games'. She also sang a song that she had learned, from her father. Throughout the books, Katniss mentions Rue on numerous accounts. Katniss had a special connection to Rue because she reminded Katniss of her beloved sister Prim.
- Cato — The brutal District 2 male tribute. Described as a "ruthless killing machine," he is extremely strong and was the most likely choice of a winner. He, Katniss, and Peeta were the last three tributes to face the mutated wolf-like creatures resembling the deceased tributes. Cato had been weakened by the muttations. Katniss and Peeta hid on top of the Cornucopia for one last night in the arena waiting for the cannon signaling Cato's death, but it didn't come. At last, he emerged as a "raw hunk of meat." After hours of moaning and groaning, Katniss decided to end his misery by shooting an arrow into his skull.
- Clove — The dangerous female tribute from District 2. She is proficient in knife throwing, as she was the one who killed the male tribute from District 9, who had been the first tribute to die in the Games. She was the fifth last person to die and went to the "feast" at the Cornucopia (where she was killed), having Cato guarding her. Clove seemed to have a connection to Cato. After admitting she had some involvement in the killing of Thresh's district partner, Rue, Thresh fractures her skull with a rock "the size of a small loaf of bread." She dies in Cato's arms, as Katniss flees for her life.
- Foxface — Known by no other name, the red-head from District 5 is wily and elusive. Though she doesn't have brute strength or proficiency in weaponry use, her superior intellect became her vital tool in the Games. She is described as sly and good at stealing. Foxface was the only tribute who didn't kill any other tribute. Foxface figured out how to steal from the Career's supplies. She's killed by accident by the poisonous berry Nightlock when stealing food from Peeta and Katniss. She placed fourth in the Games overall.
- Thresh — The huge and dangerous male tribute from District 11 keeps to himself. He disappeared during the first part of the Games. This made him even more dangerous because he was hiding out in a wheat field with adequate shelter and food. He spared Katniss' life because she was friends with Rue. It was implied that he was killed by Cato, but this is unknown.
- Glimmer — The female tribute from District 1, who was very beautiful, sexy, had long blonde hair and emerald green eyes. She was killed by Katniss' tracker jacker attack, when she foolishly swatted at the muttations in an effort to protect herself. She provided her DNA for making a muttation, her muttation was killed by Katniss when it tried to climb the Cornucopia.
- Marvel — The male tribute from District 1, who was a part of the Career pack. He was killed an arrow through the neck from Katniss, after he killed Rue by spearing her in the stomach. Katniss doesn't learn his name was Marvel until Catching Fire.
- Haymitch Abernathy — Katniss and Peeta's mentor. Haymitch is the only currently living survivor of the Games of the two victors from District 12. Dangerous and cunning, Haymitch was mostly drunk, with a glass in one hand and knife in the other. It is discovered that he has a habit of sleeping with a knife in his hand. He promised he would sober up long enough to provide advice for Katniss and Peeta. He sends Katniss gifts throughout the book to help her survive.
- Effie Trinket — The escort for the tributes of District 12, Katniss and Peeta. She is very prim and proper, and is known for having a distinct Capitol accent. Manners are very important to her as well as keeping an immaculate schedule. She dresses flamboyantly as she is a resident of the Capitol. She helps organize sponsor gifts alongside Haymitch to send Katniss during the games. She also chose the tributes during the Reaping of the 74th Hunger Games. She tried to help Peeta and Katniss with their manners and etiquette but was appalled at Katniss' deliberate rudeness at times. As a result, she quickly grew frustrated and gave up.
- Primrose "Prim" Everdeen — The younger sister and the only sibling of Katniss Everdeen. In the first book of the series, she is only twelve, and against the odds, she is chosen. She owns a goat named Lady and a cat named Buttercup. Lady provides dairy for the Everdeen family. Unlike her older sibling in many aspects, Prim has a heart full of compassion and an affinity for healing. Prim had been originally chosen as a tribute, until Katniss volunteered to take her place.
- Mrs. Everdeen - Mrs. Everdeen is the mother of Katniss. She went through a great depression because of the death of her husband in the mining accident. She abandoned her children by closing herself up in her bedroom to stare at the walls, not eating for days, ignoring their hunger, and pleading for interaction for months afterward. As a result of her neglect, Katniss was left with the difficult tasks of supporting the family by finding ways to forage and hunt, eventually trading for what they needed as well. She has blonde hair and blue eyes with light colored skin, characteristics common to the Merchant area of District 12 where she was born and raised.
- Flavius — A member of Katniss' prep team. He has orange corkscrew locks and wears purple lipstick. Flavius is in charge of hair styling.
- Venia — A member of Katniss' prep team. Has turquoise hair and gold tattoos above her eyebrows.
- Octavia — A member of Katniss' prep team. Has pea green skin.
After writing the novel, Collins signed a six-figure deal for three books with Scholastic in 2006. The first book originally had a 50,000 first printing which was then increased, twice, to 200,000 copies. As of February 11, 2010, The Hunger Games has sold 800,000 copies and 26 foreign editions; rights to the novel have been sold in 38 territories. The novel entered the New York Times Best Seller list in November 2008, and would remain there for more than 100 consecutive weeks. As of March 2012, the book had 17.5 million copies in print.
- "The Hunger Games is a violent, jarring, speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense... I couldn't stop reading."
- ―Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
- "I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it. ...The Hunger Games is amazing."
- ―Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight Saga
- "Brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced."
- ―John Green, The New York Times Book Review
- "BEST. CHILDREN'S BOOKS. EVER."
- ―Jon Scieszka, Newsweek
The novel has been criticized for its similarities to the 1999 Japanese novel Battle Royale, which is about junior high school students forced to fight to the death by a repressive government in an alternate timeline. Suzanne Collins said in a statement, "I had not heard of Battle Royale until my book was turned into Scholastic."
- Main article: Catching Fire
- Main article: The Hunger Games (film)
Lions Gate Entertainment acquired worldwide distribution rights to a film adaptation of The Hunger Games, produced by Nina Jacobson's Color Force production company. Suzanne Collins adapted the novel for film herself, with screenwriter Billy Ray revising it. The film was directed by Gary Ross and released on March 23, 2012.
The original black cover features an alternate version of the mockingjay pin designed by Tim O'Brien with the mockingjay holding an arrow in its beak.
- Hunger Games: The Hunger Games. Scholastic.
- John A. Sellers (June 9, 2008). 'The Hunger Games': A Dark Horse Breaks Out. Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
- Roback, Diane (February 11, 2010). 'Mockingjay' to Conclude the Hunger Games Trilogy. Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
- Children's Best Sellers: Chapter Books: Sunday, November 2, 2008. The New York Times (November 2, 2008). Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
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- Lee, Stephen (March 28, 2012). 'Hunger Games' books: More than 36.5M in print in the U.S. alone. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
- King, Stephen (September 8, 2008). The Hunger Games. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on Decemebr 19, 2019.
- Meyer, Stephenie (September 17, 2008). September 17, 2008. StephenieMeyer.com. Archived from the original on October 26, 2008. Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
- Green, John (November 7, 2008). Scary New World. New York Times. Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
- 'The Hunger Games,' a Japanese Original?. ABC News (March 22, 2012). Retrieved on December 19, 2019.
- John A. Sellers (2009-03-12). Hungry? The Latest on 'The Hunger Games'. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-10-04.
- Jay A. Fernandez and Borys Kit (2009-03-17). Lionsgate picks up 'Hunger Games'. The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2009-03-22.