Teen Librarian Toolbox
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TPiB: Hunger Games Monopolgy (from Kearsten)

Do you have teens that are crazy for The Hunger Games and Monopoly? Why not put together this HG Monopoly game as a Teen program in a Box?

This was a pretty easy program to plan, and although the prep is intensive (thank goodness for our teen volunteers), it is easy to package and send to our branches as a program in a box.  We’ve included downloadable PDFs with all the images we used for our materials so you, too, can enjoy this fun interactive game!
What you need:

Game Board (20 posterboards halved, plus colored paper and place name print-outs)

  • Inflatable Dice
  • Property Cards (printed on cardstock)
  • Monopoly money (borrowed from another Monopoly game, or, if you print your own: 20 each of $500 and $100, 30 $50, 50 $20, and 40 each of $10, $5, and $1)
  • 32 houses, 12 hotels
  • 5 math challenge cards, 5 science challenge cards, 5 trivia challenge cards (cardstock)
  • Gift bags with parachute images taped to them (these can be reused, as long as you have people to refill them inconspicuously. We had 18 ready to go and gave out our last one in the last round)
  • Reaping bowl/container
The biggest brain-drain of our set-up was changing the property names to Hunger Games propreties, and, no lie, we used teen knowledge and Wikipedia generously.  Using place names like The Seam, Mason Dam, and Avenue of the Tributes (instead of Bow Street, Trafalgar Square, and Park Place), we pasted the place names, rent and corresponding color strips to poster boards cut in half.  We laminated our board pieces to keep them in good condition, then duct taped ’em down when we played in order prevent too much slipping and sliding.
My supervisor, Merideth Jenson-Benjamin, is magic with graphics and created Hunger Games money and Victor pins for our winning team (we purchased a Badge-a-Minit starter kit several years ago and have made very good use of it!).  We also created property cards (complete with the rent values) for wheeling and dealing, printed images of houses and hotels, and purchased blow-up dice from a party store.
With the help of our Teen Library Council, we made a few changes to the game board and game play to better reflect both the books and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts. Thankfully, the teens LOVED the changes we made!
Instead of Jail, we sent teams to “The Arena,” where they played a game we dubbed “Catch the Sponsor Gifts” (though all manner of “minute-to-win-it” style games could work).  Using two styrofoam bowls, we poked holes in the sides, then threaded the holes with orange ribbon.  Two team members tied the bowls to their heads, and then tried to catch large pom-poms tossed by the other two teammates.  If they were able to then transfer five of the “gifts” to another bowl without using their hands within 30 seconds, they received “Sponsor Parachutes,” which were gift bags decorated with a silver-gray image of a parachute.  Our TLC members had a great time putting random amounts of HG Monopoly cash in the bags (and laughed maniacally when a team picked the bag containing one $1 bill).  If the team didn’t catch five poms, we still let ’em out of the Arena, but without prize money. 

“The Reaping” took the place of Community Chest, Chance, Income Tax, Luxury Tax, and Go (they still collected $200 when passing the Go/Reaping space).  We made cards for math, science, and trivia challenges, and if a team landed on one of those spaces, they had to pull a card from the Reaping bowl (a glass fish bowl would be ideal!).  That team had a minute or two to answer the question, and if they couldn’t, the next team had a chance to answer.  Correct answers also won sponsor parachutes.  Reapings ended up being the favorite activity, and I don’t think I ever could have predicted the eagerness with which a roomful of teens tackled math problems!

But where did we get those math problems?  Our TLC members offered to write questions, but when they forgot I had to scramble to find other resources…so plan ahead!  Luckily, Sean Connolly’s The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math (97807611637490) was checked in, and I was able to paraphrase a bit to apply it to the Hunger Games.  For example, the book has a “Spend a Million” challenge (pg 21), which I shared with the group as, “You’ve just won the Hunger Games and received 1 million dollars.  In protest, you vow to spend it wastefully at a rate of $.50 a second.  About how many days would it take to spend that million dollars?” (The answer? 23 days.)

I also used books for our science challenges.  Why is Snot Green by Glenn Murphy offered up a list of the “Top 10 Killer Animals” (…of 2007 – pg 113-114), and I asked them to name at least five.  This was a challenge that made it around to all six teams, and we ended up giving a parachute bag to the team that named the most…which was only four.  (The listed animals are: mosquitoes, cone shell mollusks, sea wasp jellyfish, spitting cobras, taipan snakes, funnel web spiders, hippos, killer bees, elephants, and poison dart frogs.)
As for our trivia challenges, one of our Teen Library Council members (who dressed up as Seneca Crane, drawn-on beard and all) put together a list, but H.G trivia questions are all over the internet.  Just be careful to only ask questions up to Catching Fire, just in case some of your attendees are waiting to read Mockingjay!
As we only had an hour and a half to play the game, we played by speed rules: the teens sorted themselves into teams of four, and we shuffled the properties and handed them out evenly to the teams at the beginning of the game, along with $1500 to each team.

I do recommend reading through the Monopoly rules ahead of time.  I was lucky in that I had a teen volunteer who is more than a little obsessed with the game (she can rattle off rents, with or without houses and hotels, for most properties from memory), and so I was able to consult her when there was a question from the players.

Yes, there is a bit of set-up for this program, but considering that I’ve already packed and sent the program to one of our branches, and several teens asked at the program for the date of our next Monopoly game…yes, it was a hit!

Kearsten and Co. obviously put a lot of work into putting together this epic live action Hunger Games Monopoly game and they have been kind enough to share all of that hard work with us here.  You can get everything you need by following the links.

Hunger Games Monopoly Board 
Hunger Games Monopoly Cards 
Hunger Games Monopoly Challenge Cards 
Hunger Games Monopoly Hotels and Houses 
Hunger Games Monopoly Map 
Hunger Games Monopoly Money
Hunger Games Monopoly Parachutes

Kearsten LaBrozzi, MLS
I’m a Teen Librarian at Glendale Public Library in Glendale, Arizona. I’ve spent half my life working in libraries, but the last six I’ve spent in the teen department have been the most fun by far: book clubs, zombie LARPs, and gaming, oh my! I run two monthly book clubs and a third every summer, and talking with others about the books we’ve read makes my day. Wandering our teen room, pulling books off the shelves, is my favorite way to recommend teen fiction and non-fiction, and here on TLT I’m hoping to translate that informal book-talking into something anyone can use. Kearsten does our monthly “Booktalk This!” feature. 

The Myth of Katniss, a Catching Fire movie review (Spoilers)

There was this other big pop culture moment thing that happened this past weekend (yes, something besides Doctor Who), the Catching Fire movie was released and it apparently had the biggest November opening of any movie.  I took the Tween to see it and am going to talk about it after the jump.  There will be spoilers a plenty so proceed at your own risk.


I like The Hunger Games books, but I am not an uber fan.  I read each book when they were released and I read them only once.  Out of the three books, Catching Fire was the one I liked the least.  To me, it had to much of a retread feel.  Yes, I know that important things happen and there are big developments, and some subtle ones, but I just hated having to go in and read through another version of the arena events.  I very much felt, “Been there, Done that.”

BUT.  I loved this movie.  Loved it. It was so well done.  The acting was much improved.  The stakes were raised.  And I thought it really highlighted some important things, making them much clearer to the audience – especially on the myth of Katniss.  I know some of you are already having a knee jerk reaction, so stick with me for a moment.

I love Katnss.  I think she is a very complex character, but I also think she has been elevated among many as this feminist icon and hero, which she kind of really isn’t and the movie really reminded me of this.  To me, being a feminist is about equality and free agency.  I want to see women have the same respect, rights and opportunities as men.  Actually, I want this for all people regardless of gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.  And I want to see women have free agency, the rights and ability to determine their own path.  It is particularly in this second part where I see the myth of Katniss.  Let’s discuss.

Katniss is in many ways fierce.  When we first meet her we know that she has been taking care of her family, hunting and supplying them with food.  She is determined, strong willed, and possesses many admirable goals.  We also see her, at times throughout the books, as being selfish, bullheaded and half-cocked.  See, she is complex.  She has depth and flaws and is very realistic.  BUT, and this is a big but, she is not the revolutionary hero that many make her out to be.

She stumbled into herodom.  And in much of the books she is being used as a pawn, by both sides.  In a lot of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire Katniss does not have free agency, a fact that was highlighted all too well by the final scene in Catching Fire.  As we see Katniss being lifted out of the games – being saved by men who have conspired to save her so that they can use her as a token to inspire their revolution – we are reminded once again of how little free agency Katniss had in books one and two.  These people – these men in fact – are using her.  And because they don’t inform her of their plan, her self-agency is being denied her.  In fact we learn in Mockingjay that there is a lot that no one has bothered to tell Katniss. 

We also see, in that final gaze into the camera, the moment where she makes a decision to fully participate in the revolution.  It is in this moment that she begins to become the revolutionary hero that much of the media makes her out to be.  Before this, she is a pawn, a token, a symbol.  She has stumbled into something that she doesn’t fully understand or realize; events are being orchestrated around her, using her as a symbol without her full knowledge or consent.

That’s not to say she doesn’t display amazing character traits and tendencies, because she does.  We see it when she volunteers as tribute; we see it in the way she handles Rue’s death; and we see it when she stands up to and holds her own with President Snow.  I mean, this is a teenage girl being called to stand before the powerful, sociopathic president of Panem, and she looks him straight in the eye.  That’s pretty admirable. I do believe I would wet my pants. Don’t laugh, you probably would too.

There was another great scene that showed the push and pull of Katniss while her and Peeta were on tour.  Peeta agrees to speak when they pull into the first district stop, Rue’s district.  Peeta is going to be the man and step up and save her, because it is clear that Katniss does not want to speak.  And you see Katniss standing there, brimming with emotion but once again being controlled by the threats of President Snow, and then she steps forward and speaks from the heart.  It was a beautiful scene that illustrated the push and pull of influence inside (and out) Katniss.  Here, President Snow still has tremendous power over her and she is trying to play into his hand to save everyone, but she also knows what is right, what is truth.

That is part of what I love, actually, about The Hunger Games series.  I think it is a much more authentic portrait of a journey.  Katniss doesn’t wake up one day and decide to be a hero and then come in with all this swagger and save the day.  No, she takes some hesitant steps forward, the Capitol reasserts its authority, she wavers (see her reading the speeches on the cards after a man is shot before her).  It’s a dance, and she is not always sure of what the right moves are.  She sometimes stumbles, she sometimes missteps, but then she gets her footing back.

But that last scene, man it galls me.  Especially Haymitch, she trusted him.  Put her life in his hands.  And he doesn’t even do her the courtesy of letting her know what is happening.

So the other day I was thinking about the various YA dystopians that I have read and I was trying to remember: Are there any dystopian/post apocalyptic YA novels where the main female character is truly and fully aware of leading a group of people into revolution?  It seems, and trust me I haven’t read them all so I could be totally wrong, that the tendency is that the female meets a male who then brings her into the revolution (see also Tris and Four) and the female still has less agency than the male because she has less knowledge and experience about the truth of their society and the revolution, giving the male character a huge advantage and making them the de facto leader.  

Anyhow, loved the movie.  Thought it was very well done.  Took the Tween and she also loved it (she has not read the books). Entertainment Weekly has an article on 12 changes from the book to the movie if you are interested.

Previously on TLT:
Sunday Reflections: Be Your Own Katniss
May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor
Feed Their Hunger for The Hunger Games
Why We Hunger for The Hunger Games

Random Dystopia Generator; a journey through genre fatigue and what happens when the market becomes oversaturated (a not a book review)

Without a doubt, Dystopian is a hot genre right now.  I have read a ton – I have bought a ton – and my teens are definitely asking for them.  But after a while, they are all starting to blend together.  Recently I began reading The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse (awesome cover), and I began to realize what my problem as a reader has become.  Let me take you on a trendy reading journey. (Please note, this is not a review.)

In the beginning of our book, Alenna sits at home with her family when the government comes to arrest her parents for being rebels.  As I read this opening sequence, it immediately brought the beginning of Crewel by Gennifer Albin to mind.  Crewel came out earlier, but I had already read it.

Then Alenna is taken to a facility to watch a live feed of lost souls that are sent to a place called The Wheel.  The purpose of this feed is to demonstrate how you don’t want to be a lost soul; it’s all about reinforcing government control.  This brings about almost every dystopian to mind, but particularly ones like Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Matched by Allie Conde.

Then Alenna is taken to a place where she has some testing done to determine whether or not she will stay in her community or be sent to The Wheel; to determine whether or not she is a Lost Soul.  Again, it has the familiar ring to it.  Whether they are testing you to see what your skill is or whether or not you are “Divergent“, it seems the government is very much in to testing.  Beware government testing.

Then we get to The Wheel.  Think Katniss being placed in The Arena or kids coming up the elevator in The Maze Runner by James Dashner, or even the outer areas in Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  The Wheel has a Lord of the Flies survival feel to it.  If you learn one thing from reading dystopian fiction, learn this: the end of the world brings out the basest, most survivalist tendencies of mankind.  It ain’t pretty.

Of course, when the teens arrive at The Wheel they divide up into factions who compete for power.  Think Variant by Robison Wells or Quarantine by Lex Thomas.  Although some of the groups are truly bad guys, even the good guys have to resort to questionable tactics to survive – see my point above.

Don’t get me wrong, this post is not meant to dismiss The Forsaken, which may or may not be a good book (I’m still in the process of reading it).  What it is is a statement about the flooding of a genre market and how all the pieces start to bleed over into one another.  As a reader, you begin to compare each element to all the others that have come before.  Every dystopian hero gets compared in your mind’s eye to Katniss.  Every renegade society on the outskirts of civilization gets compared to the districts, or the maze, or the area outside the fence in Delirium.  At times, it almost seems like there is a formula and a writer steps up to a row of jars and pulls an element out of them:

Jar 1 – plucky heroine (sometimes hero)
Jar 2 – intrusive government agency
Jar 3 – test for social acceptedness
Jar 4 – unique location to be banished
Jar 5 – quirky gangs fighting for power, etc. 

Viola’! There’s your random dystopian generator.

Thankfully, there are always those twisty element that separates it from all the other dystopian novels and  keeps us coming back for more.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the dystopians that I have read have truly been great.  I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games, Delirium, and Crewel, to name just a few.  I loved Unwind and the sequel Unwholly.  And I freely admit that The Forsaken may be a good book (I am not in a position to write a review as I have not finished reading it).  I understand the value of reading in our comfort zone: I went through a phase where I was reading every single Star Trek the Next Generation book because they were exactly what I needed at that time in my life and they made me happy.  But there is also value in revelation, in being challenged, being stretched, and thinking.  To be fair, The Forsaken may end up being that revelation for some readers, it may even end up being that for me after I finish it. But I am setting it aside for the moment to read some fantasy and science fiction that are not dystopians.  In the immortal words of Ross Gellar, dystopian and I are “on a break.”

I will say this about The Forsaken, the back cover has this as its blurb: “What if you were imprisoned for a crime that hasn’t even happened yet?”  Although this is certainly not a new concept, see Minority Report, it certainly is turning out to be a timely one in light of the Aurora, Colorado shootings.  If you read any of the news on the topic, there has been a lot of discussion around the concept of trying to keep guns out of individuals who have mental illness and may be likely to snap, which definitely fits into the concept of pre-crime.  That will make The Forsaken an interesting discussion.  And, of course, like all dystopian novels, there is good discussion to be had around the concepts of government control and what role every day citizens play in trying to curb excessive government regimes.

So there you have it, our journey through the random dystopian generator.  What are your favorite dystopian conventions (and favorite dystopian titles)? And what dystopian conventions are you ready to retire?  Do you think Dystopians are finally reaching their saturation point?  What do you think will be the big trends in 2013?

Random note: The word dystopian was used 12 times in this post.

Why YA? How the Hunger Games changed my life by Sara Ansted

As part of our Why YA? series, guest blogger Sara Ansted shares how the Hunger Games reached into her chest, pulled out her heart and changed the way she views the world we live in.  Sara actually has the honor of being our first Why YA? post but don’t worry, you can write about a book that touched you.  Just follow the link to learn how.
I know what you’re thinking. Not another post about The Hunger Games. I totally understand. But this isn’t a story about The Hunger Games. It’s a story about how YA fiction can literally change lives.  

The premise:

Katniss lives in district 12. Like most of the districts, they are destitute. Think depression era mining towns. The capitol, on the other hand, is high-tech, wealthy, vain, and in complete control of everything.

Katniss is constantly one step away from starving to death while the citizens in the capitol glut them selves at feasts, pop some meds that make them puke it all up, and then go back for more. While Katniss is thinking about where her next meal might come from, the capitol yuppies are getting their hair styled and their skin dyed.

But that’s not bad enough. This year she becomes a tribute in the Hunger Games. For capitol citizens, the Hunger Games are the big entertainment event each year. A televised death-match, where kids are thrown into an arena to kill each other.

24 go in. One comes out.

Ancient Rome all over again.

When a book changes your life.

Every major book is going to have its revilers. For Harry Potter, it was the witchcraft thing. For The Hunger Games it happens to be the brutal combat-to-the-death of 24 teenagers. Some go as far as to call the book “spiritually damaging.”

For obvious reasons, I understand where they’re coming from. But I heartily disagree.

Yes, the plot is disturbing. But that is just what happens, not what the book is about. It’s about kids who have to be strong to survive in a hard world. It’s about people standing up for their rights. It’s about a girl who would offer herself up for certain death, just to protect her little sister.

We could talk for hours on all that. But there’s more. Something that I think we often forget, but I hope I never will. Not after last June.

It started at a camping trip. Even though it was June, the air was freezing. It was too dark to do anything but cluster around the fire and hang out. As usual, I was the awkward one. Wanting fit in with the group, but too shy to make it work. After a while, I finally gave up. Out came the book.

People were having fun all around me, and I didn’t even notice. My flashlight batteries were dying. The firelight wasn’t close enough to read by, let alone warm me up. There I was, huddled on a bench in the middle of the forest, wearing only shorts and a hoodie. I was freezing and squinting, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page.

The thing is, I’d read it before. It was then that I started to realize just how awesome it was. You know a book is quality when it’s even better the second time around. Plus, reading The Hunger Games in the middle of a forest with no cell signal and a dying flashlight – well, let’s just call it epic.

The afternoon after a camp out is a pretty standard time for a good nap. And I was tired. I’d spent half my night reading, and the other half freezing. But I didn’t nap. I just read. And read. I already knew the characters and what was going to happen, but I still spent the whole time covering my face and wishing that it would change. Sadly, it didn’t. Things still happened, and I still cried.

When the book ended, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Emotionally, I was a mess. (Physically too, I suppose. I was still covered in dirt and leaves from the night in the woods.) As usual when I finish a great book, I just needed some time to process it.

But I’m a multi-tasker. I needed something unobtrusive to do while I sorted my brain out. So I hopped in the car and started driving.

I hadn’t eaten, so I drove past Wendy’s. Past Arby’s. Past the Malt Shoppe. But I didn’t want any of it, which was weird. I drove past Café Rio and didn’t want that either, which was weirder. Eventually I ended up at Walmart. 

When I walked through the first door I was suddenly hit with a wave of disgust. Flashy labels. Neon lights. I was violently assaulted by the sheer commercialism. (And that was just the drink machines in the entry way.)

I have to be honest, I almost turned around and walked back out then and there. But I really needed groceries. You know, that whole needing to eat thing. So I made myself keep walking. I grabbed a cart. I went through the second door.

And I stopped dead in my tracks.

Piles of food. Literally. High quality, disease free, pre-harvested piles of food, stacked there for anyone who wanted it. Dozens of racks with shirts and pants and jackets and socks. Aisles filled with the most advanced toys a kid could ask for. Video games, movies, cell phones, cameras, TVs, laptops.

I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t speak. I just stared, absolutely dumbfounded.

And then there were the people. Girls walked past sporting the latest fashions. Guys talked about video games and computers. Kids threw tantrums because they wanted a certain cereal. All of them bemoaning the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad lives that they were forced to endure. And all of them completely oblivious to the sheer abundance around them.

I felt sick. Actually physically sick. All I could think was, “This is the capitol. We live in the capitol.”

There really aren’t any words that convey the depth of my revulsion for the society in which I found myself. Suffice it to say that I was shocked in a way that I have never been shocked before.

Isn’t it scary? How different are we really? Suzanne Collins might have exaggerated a bit when she wrote the Capitol citizens. But only a bit. A very little bit.

As I stood there, I had a few choices. I wanted to collapse to the floor in hysterical tears. I also wanted to run through the aisles, shaking people and screaming “Don’t you people get it?!” I wanted to wear a sandwich board and picket the front of the store. I wanted to write on the walls in 50 foot letters “You’re not starving. You’re not naked. So shut up about your stupid, petty inconveniences.”

Fortunately I’m not quite that crazy, since most of those things would have gotten me arrested.

The drive home was no better. New cars were everywhere. And in them were furious people. Honking, shouting, punching the steering wheel. Why? Because the person in front of them was going the wrong speed, or they didn’t accelerate from 0 to 90 the instant the light turned green. As if that really mattered.

It’s been almost a year since then, and I am once again capable of shopping at Walmart without accosting hapless patrons. But I can’t read the book or watch the movie without remembering that night.

At least a dozen times a day, I walk past the hold shelves at the library. And every time, I see the spine of The Hunger Games. I’m not perfect. I still take things for granted all the time. But that black spine keeps me on my toes. It reminds me that I’m not starving. I’m not naked. I’m not homeless. I have a job. I have friends. I have a queen size bed, and an iPod, and a laptop, and a smart phone.

You can try to tell me that YA fiction doesn’t matter. But you’d be wrong. YA fiction changes lives. It definitely changed mine.

Sara Ansted

I’m 26. A not-exactly-mainstream 26 year old. My income goes to lightsabers, not shoes. My time goes to Doctor Who, not Cosmopolitan. (Did you like that? Doctor Who. Time.) (Just smile and nod.) I work in a library. I’m just a peon. The lowly back room alphabetizer. But someday I’ll be as cool as the real librarians. Some day I, too, will know everything.
Editor’s note: Current statistics indicate that despite the abundance of food you see available in the store, 1 in 6 American children go to bed hungry each night.

Why We Hunger for the Hunger Games

A little over 10 years ago planes crashed into the World Trade Center changing the landscape of the world we live in.  There was a before and there is an after.  In the after, we live with the constant drum beats of war.  In the after, we live with the encroaching footsteps that trample our civil liberties.  In the after, we live with the omnipresent fear of “them” and “terrorists”.  In the after, we live with color codes that tell us how afraid we should be.

Today’s teens will not remember living in a world without these things.  They won’t remember a time without fear, without war, without the desperation that hangs heavy in our air.  And they will barely remember living in a time when we weren’t on the brink of economic collapse.  We are thisclose to walking of the edge and plunging into the abyss of being like District 12 it often seems.  And the people in the Captiol, well – they are living large.

Teens today will also not remember a time when you could walk into an airport and sit and wait with your loved one until boarding time.  They will never remember what life was like before The Patriot Act.  They will barely understand what it means to have to get a warrant or that we don’t kill Americans just because we think maybe kinda sorta there is a possibility that they are a terrorist.  They won’t remember that we have safeguards against unlawful searches and seizures and that you have a right to request a fair trial in the presence of your peers.

And young girls who are flipping the pages reading about Katniss Everdeen, they won’t see the benefits off how hard their foremothers fought to bring about equality to women.  No, instead, they will hear the rhetoric of men standing and making laws saying that women should stay in abusive marriages and not have the right to make decisions for themselves regarding their bodies and their medical care.  They won’t see the benefit of women marching through the streets demanding the right to vote and own property and demanding equal pay for the same type of work because we are making baby steps to beat women back and put them back in their perceived place.

This – This is why I cheer for the powerful message of The Hunger Games and other dystopian fiction titles that are making their way onto the shelves and into the hands of teens and adults.  It reminds us that if we are silent, if we are still – then we lose.  We lose our rights to be heard, to be free, and to control our destiny.  It is hard to imagine that a government would ever rise up and demand that our children enter into a televised game and kill one another to remind everyone to be complacent – and yet . . .

That is the glory of The Hunger Games: It takes what seems like a truly absurd situation and makes us examine the truth of our world today.  You can hear the lock step shuffle and the drum beats of war right now in the midst of our culture and know that if we keep heading in the direction that we are going, we may make it there.  More and more people are falling into poverty and without work, they are desperate.  Will members of our Capitol bathe in splendor while our people starve? 

It is easy to think that could never happen, and yet we know that many people sat fearfully by and said nothing while millions of Jewish people were exterminated in death camps right next door.  When Peeta says that he wants to die still being him, that he doesn’t want them to own him – I want every teen to stand up and cheer and make that their personal mantra.  There comes a moment when we must all, as people and as citizens, stand up and say this is not right.  When we fail to do so, we find ourselves living in a world like The Hunger Games, a world where we have lost the power and influence that we should have as citizens.

President Snow says that a little bit of hope is a good thing but too much hope . . . today, we still have hope.  We have the hope that our country can turn around and together we can avoid a dystopian future.  We hunger for political and social change that will take us in the right direction.  We hunger for leaders who remember that they are public servants elected by the people, for the good of the people.  We hunger for the opportunity to rise up to the challenges that face our nation and to speak up, be heard, and make a difference.  We hunger to push back those drumbeats and create a different soundtrack to our lives.  And we hunger for books and movies like The Hunger Games because they remind us of who we can become and give us the hope to stop it before it is too late.

I, for one, am glad that our teens are reading The Hunger Games and other dystopian tales.  I watched the movie last night and loved it.  Not because it is a feel good movie, but because it captured the spirit and the message of the books so incredibly well.  It reinforced the message.  It inspired.  I hope that every teen that reads The Hunger Games will be inspired to change their world before the world changes them.

And I think there is another important message of The Hunger Games.  When we are starving, it is easy for it to become every man for himself.  And yet, the truth is that we work better when we work together, when we remember that every person has value and a place in this world.  There doesn’t have to be just one victor – we can all be victorious together.

For more on the Hunger Games:
The Hunger Games and Revolution
Penn Badgley: The Hunger Games is Occupy Wall Street
Occupy the Capitol
Be Your Own Katniss
My Letter to Lauren Oliver (author of the dystopian series Delirium)
Top 10 Dystopians from a teen point of view

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Last night was the midnight premiere for The Hunger Games movie, which I was not able to attend (insert frowny face here).  But it was also the night for #figlitchat hosted by Figment and the topic was oh so appropriately The Hunger Games books.  Fans of the series joined together to discuss the works and world of Suzanne Collins and it was interesting to hear what people had to say.  It goes without saying, if you haven’t read the books I wouldn’t read on if I was you.

The Love Triangle

The topic of love triangles comes up a lot these days in teen fiction because they are omnipresent.  As many chat participants pointed out, the love triangle did in fact exist before Twilight.  Not everything is about Twilight people.  For me, the love triangle basically worked in THG.  Gale was a childhood friend who genuinely knew and had spent a lot of time with Katniss before the games.  And after the games, Peeta is now the only person who really understands Katniss, what she has been through and what it has done to her.  As far as triangles go, this one makes sense.  Katniss has a before and an after and you would want to be able to come back to the life you led in the before, but you can’t because the games change you; war changes you.


The moderators asked if Katniss was a likable character, and most people said no.  I had never really thought about whether or not she was likable but as someone in the chat pointed out, once she steps in and volunteers to save her sister she has a nobility that is hard not to root for.  Plus, in a story about Katniss versus the Capitol readers are going to choose Katniss.  I feel that the question of likability is a moot point; these are a group of people who are barely surviving, they are not concerned with friendship and character – they are concerned with not dying, trying to find enough food to get through the day.  Most people felt that Katniss was flawed and realistic and that THIS is what made her a great character.

World Building

Without a doubt, one of the areas where Collins succeeds is in the building of the life in Panem and the Capitol.  Life in the districts, the contrast between the districts and the Capitol – these all become a character of its own in the novels.


Since Figment is an online writing community, the question was raised as to whether or not Collins did a good job of creating a tight, sustainable plot throughout the three books in the series and the answer was almost unanimously no.  Most people felt like the story unravelled over the course of the three books and for reasons that I have never understood, most people continue to loathe Mockingjay.  I, however, did not and felt that Katniss’s time in a drugged stupor was a reasonable response to being a teen and having killed others and faced death not once but twice.  I think it is important to remember that Katniss is in fact a reluctant hero; she didn’t sign up for a revolution, she was simply trying to save her sister.  At points, in fact, you could even say Katniss is being used and manipulated by those trying to overthrow the Capitol.

What Makes The Hunger Games YA?

Now this was an excellent question and the most excellent response was this: the characters are disenfranchised and feel a complete lack of control over their lives.  This is also, I think, what makes The Hunger Games such a powerful novel for our times.  In today’s world we live in a constant fear that the economy if failing, more wars are coming (because 3 in the last 10 years isn’t enough), the terrorists are coming, and we continue to lose civil liberties left and right in the name of safety.  Never before in my lifetime has there ever been such an assault on women and their bodily integrity.  And the media is used by those in positions of power to control the populace by controlling access to information.  Now more than ever we need to be a people who stands up and says that we are all a part of this nation in this together and that we will not be controlled.  And I think it is important that in The Hunger Games, it is a woman who eventually does it.  Girls need strong role models (as do men).  There are enough Bella’s in our world, we need more woman to be like Katniss who will ultimately decide to take a stand for what is right and true in this world.  That is our only hope for the future.

Share your thoughts about the #figlitchat in the comments.

For more information, check out the following:
The Hunger Games and Revolution at Galley Cat
Be Your Own Katniss
Occupy the Capitol: Engaging Teens in Politics

Figment is an online community for teens and young adults that focuses on writing.  Here you can share your work and have it critiqued by others.  Figment also provides daily writing prompts.  You will want to visit and be involved because it is a very cool community. There is a #figlitchat on a new topic each Thursday evening at 9/8 Central.  It is a fun and informative chat to be involved in.  They will have a more complete recap of the chat on their website soon so check it out.