The Hunger Games is a science fiction novel about a bleak, fascist, futuristic vision of the United States, which has been renamed as Panem. There are 13 outlying districts (one of which has been obliterated in a thwarted revolt) and a Capitol, to which the other districts serve. The Capitol keeps the other districts cowed by keeping the people in them ill-fed, and threatening to destroy them if they try to revolt again.

This book was apparently written for teens. I didn’t know this when I read it, and I found the plot interesting enough that I couldn’t put it down. I assume most people reading this review are more likely to be parents than teenagers, so I’ll explain why this book can teach your children an important idea, the premise behind cooperation when interacting with others. This book has been turned into a film to be released next year. A trailer follows at the end of this review.

The plot of the book basically is that in an act of horrific brutality, every year the other districts are forced to choose a boy and a girl to compete against other teenagers from the other outlying districts. The idea is that, in these Hunger Games, the 24 competitors fight to the death until only one remains, and is declared the victor. The main character, Katniss Evergreen, resides in a district (I assume it is in Appalachia) with her widowed mother and her younger sister. When her sister’s name is chosen in the lottery to fight, and presumably die, Katniss volunteers in her stead. The remainder of the book is about Katniss’ adventures as she prepares to do battle, and fights in the Games.

In real-life situations, such as business or politics, it is important to understand when cooperation with others should be promoted, and when it should be avoided. Generally, there are four different types of situations that involve cooperation. The Hunger Games uses each of the four categories as Katniss gets involved in the Games.

First is the area of communication. If one person depends on information they receive from another in order to make the best decisions, then they must cooperate with that person or they’ll find themselves dominated by people with better information.

Second is the area of structure. Generally what is meant by this is that it is easier to cooperate when a person is involved with a small group than with a larger one. The rationale behind this is that it is easier to defect in a larger group without being punished by the other people in the group.

Third is the impact of social forces on cooperation. Generally, the idea is that you are more loyal to your family than to strangers; more loyal to your own nation than to outside countries; more loyal to your own religion than a ‘strange’ religion. Therefore, you are more likely to cooperate with forces that you are loyal to.

Finally, institutions can mandate cooperation, even when an individual inherently desires to defect. A good example of this is Internal Revenue. We all pretty well know that the likelihood of our return being audited is remarkably low. Yet, most of us file returns that are, more or less, accurate. Therefore, we are cooperating with the institution.

So, the book is not only an exciting read, but is something of value to both adults and teenagers. Trust me, it’s not nearly as boring as this review has been. In fact, it is being turned into a movie that will be released next spring starring Jennifer Lawrence. Below is the trailer for the film.