Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, left), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, center) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, right) in THE HUNGER GAMES.
Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably aware that 1) The Hunger Games movie opens this weekend, and 2) it is based on a book by the same name, the first in a young adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins that has taken the nation by storm. Well, we looked under a rock in our office and found that our colleague, Research Editor Tay Wiles, was only barely aware of the phenomena (“Is there, like, a billboard with a medieval woman…a detective? There are detectives! Right?”), so we subjected her to the Hunger Games Literacy Challenge.
Q: What do you think the Hunger Games are?
A: I don’t know what they are. It sounds like...I know this is like a tween thing, so it’s probably not hunger strikes, which is what it sounds like to me. Also, judging from what’s popular in the teen market, I would guess it has something to do with vampires and werewolves.
Correct answer: The Hunger Games is an extreme survival game in which children from different districts of a dystopian society are pitted against each other and the last one living wins.
Q: I’m gonna say some words now, and you give me your best guess as to what the words might mean: Peeta, Katniss, Haymitch.
A: Peeta…it’s a good thing you spelled it, or I would have said the animal rights activists… It’s also not the bread from the Mediterranean… I have no idea. What do I think Katniss is? I think it’s like a place. Haymitch… that’s maybe one of the teams.
Q: Of the vampires and werewolves?
A: Well, I don’t know… It could also be a group of people, or a family, or one of the sides...
Q: You think Haymitch is a faction.
Correct answer: Peeta Mellark is a 16-year-old contestant in the games, Katniss Everdeen is the 16-year old girl narrator of the novel, and Haymitch Abernathy is the alcoholic adviser to Katniss and Peeta.
Q: OK, so those were all characters. Which of these is the protagonist: Peeta, Katniss, Gale, or Rue?
A: Gale, I think. It’s a strong, one-syllable, bold name. It sounds like a main character.
Q: Do you think Gale is male or female?
Correct answer: Katniss is the protagonist and Gale is her male friend from her hometown.
Q: What is a tracker jacker?
A: It’s something like a bug that you put on someone to track them.
Correct answer: A tracker jacker is a specially bred wasp that hunts down and kills whatever disturbs the nest.
Q: What is a mockingjay?
A: Well, it’s a bird. I think it imitates people.
Correct answer: A mockingjay is the result of breeding jacker jays and mockingbirds; it’s known for imitating people.
Q: What do you think your training score would be?
A: My training score? I think it would be… I think it would be 1,000.
Correct answer: Training scores are given to Hunger Games contestants and range from 1 (bad) to 12 (good).
Q: Where is the Capitol? I’ll tell you that it’s somewhere in North America.
A: I think it is in the Montreal area.
Correct answer: The Capitol is located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
Q: If a tribute is given a donation, how does it arrive?
A: Fully clothed.
Correct answer: Donations arrive via parachute.
Q: Would 16-year-old Tay have been willing to fake a romance in order to secure food and supplies and survive?
A: That’s an intense question! Would I sleep with someone? Um…
Q: Just fake a romance, not necessarily sleep with someone. I mean you’re only 16, this is young adult fiction.
A: Um, yes. Yes, I would.
Q: What is the purpose behind the Hunger Games?
A: If you win the game, you get to eat food. Everyone else is starving.
Correct answer: The purpose of the hunger games is to remind the district citizens that they are under complete governmental control.
Q: What happens if you step off your platform too early?
A: Wow, I kinda want to see the movie now! It sounds really cool. Um, if you step off your platform too early, you fall to your death.
Correct answer: If contestants step off of their platform too early, it sets off a landmine and they get blown to bits.