The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. 2009 ALSC Notable Children’s Books. This story was somewhat reminiscent of Stephen King’s stories, “The Running Man” and “The Long Walk.” I remember reading “The Long Walk” and finding it chilling, but this is even more horrifying. In this distopic novel, Katniss is one of the tributes at the annual Hunger Games, which the ruling class at the capital sponsor. The games pit 24 children and teens, two from each of the 12 districts, in a battle to the death, where only one can survive. Katniss is forced to compromise the ideals she has to survive. This is a terrific, well-told story. In the first two pages, you get a sense of how harsh Katniss’ world is. What makes this book good are the layers, though (and some of the not-so-subtle commentary on today’s society). Katniss must not only use her skill and wit to win, but must learn how to work the system and gain audience favor (the games are broadcast). What Katniss does could be seen as questionable, but even the other tributes — even the feared “Career” tributes — are painted sympathetically. The blame is assigned soley to those in the Capital, whose depravity would make the last years of Ancient Rome seem civilized. I’m very curious as to where this story will go next, but I can hardly wait for the next installment, which I’ve heard is due out this September.