Monday, 15 November 2010

I'm a character in a teenage novel ... get me out of here!

I toyed with this title back in 2002/3 when I first compiled our Survivor booklist. I'm a celebrity was newly on-screen, but I decided it might be a flash in the pan and no-one would get the title after a few weeks or months. How wrong could I be? The programme is still going, but so is my list with its much more prosaic title. Mostly set in apocalyptic versions of the future, the books on it share a common theme: the battle for survival. Their central characters, usually teenagers, have to overcome fire, floods, demons or some other horror as they struggle to build new lives or new societies. As well as being good stories, the books will also make their readers think about the way we treat our world today.

I've just updated the list to include two recently completed trilogies. I've already written about Patrick Ness's Chaos walking books here and here. (For a sneak preview of the cover of his next book, see his blog.) The other trilogy is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which I've just finished reading. (Catalogue details here.) In the first book, we are introduced to a dystopian society based on what is left of the USA after a global disaster. The wealthy Capitol is surrounded by 12 poorer Districts which, 75 years ago, had tried to break away. As punishment for the failed rebellion, every year each District must supply one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 to take part in the Hunger Games. These sound like I''m a celebrity with the added excitement of being a fight to the death - the last participant alive wins. The very first time Prim Everdeen, from District 12, is eligible her name comes out of the hat but her older sister Katniss volunteers to take her place and it is her adventures we follow through the three books. It's not pretty - by their very nature, the games have to involve violence and Collins doesn't shirk from describing it. The politics are presented in a thought provoking way too, without being heavy handed. There are also gentler themes though - love, for instance, as Katniss explores her feelings for both Gale, her childhood friend, and Peeta who accompanies her into the Arena.

I was first recommended these books by my 14-year old neice who really enjoyed them and I have to say I agree with her taste. It took me a while to get into the first few chapters, but after that I was hooked and tore through all three. As with Chaos walking I found the quality tailed off a little towards the end - I didn't find the final battles terribly convincing - but on the whole they were a great read.

Suzanne Collins has her own website and there's also a special Hunger Games one. You can find information in various other places - for example on Wikipedia, on the publisher's website (Scholastic) on My Hunger Games or on Youtube (trailers). Play the game Find your Hunger Games name, keep track of the movie, expected to come out in 2013, and Google it for much more!

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