Spoiler alert! This article contains spoilers for not only The Hunger Games movie (opening this week), but the entire book trilogy. While it won't spoil everything, if you haven't read the books, please be aware that reading this article may give you more information than you want!

I recently finished reading ("devouring" might be more appropriate) The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This young-adult fiction series is gripping, poignant, and powerful, and Collins' characters, terrifying setting, and themes have been marinated in my mind ever since, growing richer and deeper with more time and reflection.

The series depicts a bleak, yet believable, post-apocalyptic future world in which the nation of Panem has risen out of the ashes of what once was North America. The central government controls its outlying population through various cruelties, most horrifying of which is an annual reality show featuring young people chosen from the land's various outlying districts. The young people, ages 12 to 18, are forced to fight one another to the death, for the sport of the Capitol's citizens and to remind the districts how completely they are at the mercy of their rulers.

Against this brutal backdrop, we find plenty of characters we recognize from the real world—people who respond to their circumstances with resourcefulness, despair, nobility, and hope. We follow the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, as she struggles to survive against the odds, to protect the people she loves. The books are replete with heart-pounding action, sympathetic and multi-dimensional characters, plenty of surprises, a touch of romance, the believability of a future world, and striking indictments of our own world—including the futility of ...

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