The Hunger Games is a 2008 dystopian novel by the American writer Suzanne Collins. It is written in the voice of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the future, post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in North America. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, exercises political control over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games is an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death.
The book received critical acclaim from major reviewers and authors. It was praised for its plot and character development. In writing The Hunger Games, Collins drew upon Greek mythology, Roman gladiatorial games, and contemporary reality television for thematic content. The novel won many awards, including the California Young Reader Medal, and was named one of Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of the Year” in 2008.
The Hunger Games was first published in hardcover on September 14, 2008, by Scholastic, featuring a cover designed by Tim O’Brien. It has since been released in paperback and also as an audiobook and ebook. After an initial print of 200,000, the book had sold 800,000 copies by February 2010. Since its release, The Hunger Games has been translated into 26 languages, and publishing rights have been sold in 38 territories. The novel is the first in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). A film adaptation, directed by Gary Ross and co-written and co-produced by Collins herself, was released in 2012.
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Collins has said that the inspiration for The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two “began to blur in this very unsettling way” and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus served as a major basis for the story, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus, and Roman gladiatorial games provided the framework. The sense of loss that Collins developed through her father’s service in the Vietnam War was also an influence on the story, with Katniss having lost her father at age 11, five years before the story begins. Collins stated that the deaths of young characters and other “dark passages” were the most difficult parts of the book to write, but that she had accepted that passages such as these were necessary to the story. She considered the moments where Katniss reflects on happier moments in her past to be more enjoyable.