From the Cover: Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see. Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
The Hunger Games takes place in what used to be North America. But everything has changed. There's the Capitol and the thirteen outlying districts. That is until the revolt. Now there's only twelve districts, the Capitol destroyed the thirteenth district as a response to the revolt. Each district is demanded to give up two children, between 12 to 18 years of age to The Hunger Games. This is to show the power of the Capitol. The power and control it has over the citizens forced to live under it's totalitarian government. The districts have to sacrifice what little resources they have to support the Capitol, even to the extreme of sacrificing their children. As the icing on the cake, each person is each district is required to watch The Hunger Games as a nationally televised program. It's the only time when there is guaranteed electrical service. Not only do the districts have to sacrifice their children, but they have to watch them die.
Katniss has been supporting her family and surviving by any means possible since the death of her father in a coal mine explosion. She's from District 12, one of the poorest districts in North American area. The only resource that District 12 has to offer is coal. And all of the poorest citizens of the district are forced to work and eventually died in the coal mines. Her's is a sad existence of too little food, too much hardship, and too little help. But she has learned to escape the fence and hunt and fish to provide for her mother and sister. At sixteen, she is self sufficient. Cale, her best friend and companion, break Capitol rules and provide what little sustenance they can for their town.
Every year at The Reaping, two name are chosen. One boy and one girl, to try to survive The Hunger Games. This year, Cale and Katniss have their name in the drawing at least 3 times their years. For every year between 12 - 18, your name goes into The Reaping drawing, 6 entries by your 18th year. Families are allowed to sell their children's names for extra supplies by taking on extra chances in The Reaping. And it's Prim's first year, Katniss' little sister, 1 entry for her. Katniss would not allow her sister's name to be sold for supplies. Katniss is astounded when Prim's name is drawn is the first drawn, she'll never survive. Katniss immediately jumps up, volunteering her name for Prim's, she will not allow her sister's death. The second name drawn is Peeta, the local baker's son. Together Katniss and Peeta must survive The Hunger Games until they are the only ones left. Then, only one can survive.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was a fascinatingly fast read that I could not put down. It was amazing. I literally read this book cover to cover in one evening, the story captures your attention and draws you in, until you become part of The Hunger Games. I found myself identifying with Katniss, she's had such a hard life, yet she's willing to give her life for that of her sister. Katniss is at a disadvantage from the start. She's had an inadequate diet from birth, almost no training, but she has learned how to use a bow, and not only that but she's very, very good with it. The problem is that some of the wealthier districts train players for The Hunger Games from birth so they can reap greater rewards. The winner of The Hunger Games gets fantastic prizes and so does their district. Bigger, stronger, better fed.....how can she outlast those players? Peeta who appears to be at least well fed as had a hard existence too, even as the son of a baker. District 12 is so poor almost no one can afford the goods made. But, he had even less training in survival than Katniss; his advantage is his physical strength. Lifting 50 pound bags of flour creates healthy muscles. His other problem is his feelings for Katniss, can he kill the one person he feels like he could love? His mother is so heartless that when she comes to see him off, she tells him than maybe District 12 has a chance for a winner this year; Katniss is a good hunter. The only hope for either to survive is to learn to depend and trust each other until they can't anymore.
The Hunger Games is great YA urban fantasy, definitely a keeper. I would highly recommend picking this one up. If you like action/adventure, this is a book for you. If you loved dark urban fantasy, you'll love this book. If you want a taste of young love, there's even that found within the pages. The second book is the series, Catching Fire, was just released in September 2009. I have a copy coming my way, so I can hardly wait!! I would recommend reading The Hunger Games before Catching Fire though, there's a lot of background information about this world given and it will make following the storyline easier. Right now, I'm rooting for Peeta, Cale has helped Katniss grow into the person she is today, but I'm not sure that Katniss has the same feelings for Cale as she could have for Peeta, go Peeta!!