The labyrinth revisited
A Greek myth is transported to the future
By Judi Ketteler AS A CHILD, SUZANNE COLLINS was both ter- rified by and obsessed with the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. According to Greek mythology, as part of their surrender terms, every nine years Athens had to send seven girls and seven boys to Crete. Once there, the defenseless kids were eaten by a terrible monster (the Minotaur) that lived at the center of a labyrinth—until a hero, Theseus, killed the monster. That idea of a winning nation making ruthless demands of those on the wrong side of the war stuck with Collins into adult- hood. “The message was: We are going to do something far worse than kill you; we are going to kill your children,” says Collins from her home in Connecticut. Collins grew up to become a playwright, but eventually settled into kids’ television writing. She worked on several Nickelodeon shows, and was the head writer for Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford’s Puppy Days. As much as she enjoyed creating adven- tures for the big red dog, she couldn’t get Theseus out of her head. After finishing the five books of Gregor the Overlander, a successful middle-grade fantasy series, Collins decided to tackle that horrifying idea of a nation having to make a yearly sacrifice as pun- ishment for rebelling. But modern society has some- thing the Greeks didn’t have: TV cameras. The combination of voyeurism and violence inspired the plot for The Hunger Games (2008), the first in a series of three books set in the future. The Hunger Games takes place in the dystopia of Panem (formerly North America). As punishment for their ebellion against the government, each district of Panem (there are 12) is required to send one teen- age boy and one teenage girl to the Capitol to par- ticipate in the Hunger Games. There, the 24 teens fight to the death in an “arena” (a man-made forest), on live television. The heroine, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, emerges in the first few pages of the story, when she steps for- ward to take the place of her younger sister, whose name is randomly drawn in the yearly lottery (a scene that echoes Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery”). “Katniss just appeared in my head right away,” Collins says. “I could see her and sense her, from the initial hour I had the story concept.” Katniss is the heart of The Hunger Games because she is a survivor—smart, strong and skilled. Once at the Capitol for the Hunger Games preparation, she starts to see that she might actually have a chance to win. Throw in a hint of romance, lots of action and adventure, and the stirrings of rebellion, and it’s easy to see why The Hunger Games has captivated hundreds of thousands of readers. Still, figuring out how to confront and write about the violence wasn’t always easy for Collins. “Given these topics, you know that some characters are going to die. It’s difficult to write, but it’s essential to Katniss’ journey,” she says. When she was writing tough sequences that dealt head-on with violence, Collins thought about how she would tell the story to her own kids (now 16 and 11). “You write what readers need to know, without being gratuitous with the violence,” she says. The Hunger Games and its successor, Catching Fire (2009), haven’t left the New York Times best- seller list since their respective releases—thanks in part to the adult audience the books have attracted. The third and final book, Mockingjay, is due next month. It was always planned as a trilogy, Collins ays. “It’s like three acts of a play: Each has its own dramatic arc.” It will be hard to leave Katniss behind, Collins ays, and she’s happy to be consulting on the movie development for The Hunger Games (the project hasn’t been green-lighted, but Lionsgate optioned the rights). Plus, Collins says, she already has an idea for another young-adult (YA) series swimming around in her head. “YA readers are an excited, thoughtful and hungry audience,” she says, “and I really enjoy writing young protagonists.” C NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. Suzanne Collins
CAP PR YOR
HAVE YOU EVER resisted
reading a book even if
everyone you know—whose
book opinions you respect—
has been over the moon
about it? When you finally do
read it, you’re so enchanted
with the book that you wonder what took you so long.
That scenario is a fair
assessment of my relationship with Suzanne Collins’
The Hunger Games. Once I
picked it up, I could not put
it down. The life-and-death
plot has adventure, young
love and a focus on family
and community. The story is
admittedly a little disturbing,
but it’s also addictive.
If you’re new to this book
too, there is one benefit of
starting the young-adult
trilogy now: The second book
is already out, and the third
will be available next month.
The Hunger Games and
Catching Fire are available in
most warehouses and at
For more book picks,
see page 53.
COSTCO HAS 50 COPIES of Suzanne Collins’
The Hunger Games with signed book plates
to give away. For a chance to win, send an
e-mail with your name and mailing address
to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Suzanne
Collins” in the subject line. Or print your
name, address and daytime phone number
on a postcard or letter and send it to:
Suzanne Collins, The Costco Connection,
P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088.
Signed book giveaway
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. S weepstakes is sponsored
by Scholastic, 557 Broad way, New York, NY 10012. Open to legal residents
of the U. S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received by August 1,
2010. Winners will be randomly selected and noti;ed by mail on or before
September 1, 2010. The value of the prize is $8.99. Void where prohibited.
Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes.
Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
Employees of Costco, Scholastic and their families are not eligible.
Judi Ketteler writes about health and lifestyle
topics for AOL.com, Better Homes & Gardens,
American Baby, Self and others.