The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Published by Scholastic Press

FIFTEEN years ago, the first Hunger Games novel came out, redefining and setting incredible standards for books within the young adult genre.

After a trilogy of widely successful books, films and a recent prequel with its own screen adaptation arriving later this year, it seems that the series is enjoying its social media renaissance.

Last week, Taylor Swift released the songs she wrote for the original movie, and so, with reminders of these iconic stories all around, it seems only right to look back at the immensely creative and emotionally impactful novel that started it all.

In Suzanne Collins’s world, Panem, society is clearly and strictly split into the centre of wealth and luxury of The Capitol and the 12 working-class districts, each defined by the product or service the area provides.

Though there are 13 sections to this dystopian reimagining of North America, truly there are only two, with the citizens of The Capitol seen as elite and far above others. This was emphasised by a failed and tragic rebellion of the 12 districts which resulted in a uniquely cruel punishment which forms the central plot and title of the novel.

Each year, two children between 12 and 18 are selected in a harrowing lottery from each district, trained and sent to an arena to fight to the death.

The story revolves around one of these young women, Katniss Everdeen, who after an unconventional entrance – sacrificing herself for the task in place of her younger sister – is introduced to a world far outside the day-to-day struggles of helping to feed her family.

Thanks to this early display of selflessness, the reader is eager to root for Katniss, creating tension and fear for her survival in an arena where only one young person can win a new life amid the luxury and riches of The Capitol.

Along the journey of learning to fight those she has no desire to, Katniss is faced with a stream of personal and political challenges which expertly reflect the real world.

Her love triangle with boy at home Gale and fellow fighter Peeta, which initially had readers rooting for her to end up with one, in fact, morphs into an observation on how trivial romantic ideas serves as a distraction from the brutality of this intensive and cruel class struggle.

In a sense, those reading and watching become a part of The Capitol, seeing the battles of these unfortunate children through the lens chosen by Collins, rooting for some and less so for others.

This series allowed me to consider the horror of that perspective and, in a way unlike much fiction of this kind, realise the value of all of the characters’ lives and, of course, to root for a new rebellion to succeed in the storming of The Capitol.