I just finished The Hunger Games. Once I turned the first page, I knew that I wouldn't be able to stop until I reached the back cover. In a post apocalyptic America, The Capitol rules twelve districts, spread across the country. Each district is known for the goods it produces, and each is ruled with a totalitarian fist.
Like Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, it's clear from the beginning that being chosen a the "tribute" is not a good thing. Everyone in District 12, the coal mining district in the area once known as Appalachia, knows it as well. And when Katniss Everdeen's younger sister's name is selected for The Games during the annual Reaping, she immediately volunteers to take little Primrose's place.
Twenty-four children, two girls and two boys from each of the twelve districts are pitted against each other in a fight to the death. The last one standing will be set for life, and their district will earn rewards for a full calendar year. Until the next Reaping, that is.
Katniss is sixteen, and a survivor. Her father died in a mine explosion and her mother retreated into her own head, leaving Katniss to provide for the family. A skilled hunter, trained by her father, she's able to make ends meet by poaching animals from prohibited lands and trading in the markets.
Upon her declaration to be the female tribute for District 12, Katniss is paired with her district's male counterpart, Peeta, and they are whisked off to The Capitol to be primped and prepared for their debut.
The Games are required viewing in Panem, and filmed in as much detail as possible in order to be broadcast live to the entire nation. In a sick and twisted reality show (The Truman Show comes to mind, though in a much more benign way, of course), The Games are a way to show the districts that The Capitol is in charge.
Suzanne Collins weaves an amazing story and makes it absolutely imperative to know what will happen next. Her characters are expertly developed and even if you want to hate them at times, you still want to root for them. Our heroine is calm and calculating, yet unable and unwilling to give in to the ruthless brutality of The Games.
I've already started the second book in this trilogy, Catching Fire. I don't know that I'll be getting much sleep tonight.