Andrea S.

Second Place Winner

Choosing a favorite book is similar to singling out a favorite child: both are utterly impossible. I love each of my favorite books either for what it has taught me about life or for the adventure it has taken me on. However, I have always gravitated toward tales of fantasy and imagination. One shouldn't underestimate the value of fiction; I've found that it's taught me the most about human nature and potential. It is a portal to what-could-have-been and what-might-be, snapping us out of our mindless day-to-day routines.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a book that inspired me to make the most of my life. It's set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the individual is powerless and all activities are controlled by "the Capitol". To discourage rebellion, 24 children are chosen yearly to fight to the death in the gladiator-style Hunger Games. When 16-year-old Katniss takes her little sister's place in the competition, she unknowingly sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually bring the whole twisted organization crashing down.

The Hunger Games is a moving story of courage and sacrificial love, and of an everyday teenage turned hero, struggling to outwit a system that always wins. The characters are captivating: I smiled, cried, and felt the pain of injustice right along with Katniss. I, too, want to write like that, so vividly that the separation between reader and character blurs to nonexistence. I have always loved writing, but I often wrote with no purpose except my own enjoyment. Collins however, taught me that the best books are those that inspire and teach real-life lessons.

Though I plan to major in writing, I realize writers often share the same economic circle as starving artists. Realistically, writing might not be my chosen career. But regardless of what I do in life, no matter how extraordinary or mundane, my real vocation is to be an advocate of change.

While the Hunger Games don't truly exist, their world shares many terrible similarities with our own. Children aren't forced to kill each other for the entertainment of the elite, yet in Africa they are abducted as child-soldiers. In Asia they are sold to the sex-trade, in India they are exploited as laborers, and in America they are abandoned on the streets. Throughout history, children have been victims of infanticide, abuse, poverty, and neglect.

As individuals, we may seem insignificant, but if we consistently act in small ways to encourage kindness and hope, I believe we'll be doing our part to eliminate the evil we see. In The Hunger Games, one girl made the ordinary decision to continue fighting for what she loved, ultimately sparking passions and igniting a revolution.

Maybe someday I'll be running a non-profit organization or raising awareness as a journalist. Possibly I'll be volunteering my money and efforts to help in whatever ways I can. Or perhaps, I will be the one writing stories, inspiring humanity to better the world one small act at a time.