The combatants, called “tributes,” are chosen by lottery then whisked by train to Capitol City, located in an area once known as the Rocky Mountains. There they are trained and fight to the death; the last one standing wins, and is showered with prizes … mostly food, because hunger is the usual state of being outside Capitol City.
District 12 is the eastern-most district, located in what used to be known as Appalachia, where Katniss Everdeen and her best friend and confidante Gale sneak outside the fenced-off town to hunt for and gather food for their families.
Unfortunately, Katniss becomes this year’s female tribute when she volunteers to take the place of her 12-year-old sister, Primrose (“Prim"), who had entered the lottery (“the reaping”) for the first time. A baker’s son, Peeta Mellark, is selected as the boy tribute.
With the help and guidance of Effie Trinket, who has been assigned District 12, and Haymitch Abernathy, one of only two District 12 Hunger Games survivors, Katniss and Peeta prepare for battle – a glamorous opening parade and ceremony, three days of training sessions, a national televised interview, and a ranking by the Gamemakers.
The competition is brutal and bloody, one by one the tributes fall, some killed by others, some killed by the elements, some killed by hunger. But killed, nevertheless. But as we find out at the exciting climax of the Games, they aren’t forgotten.
Friendship finds a place, and Katniss finds an ally, only to suffer unimaginable emotion when things change for the worse, just as the reader experiences a lump in the throat. Then, the rules are changed and she discovers she doesn’t have to kill her fellow District 12 tribute in order to win.
The Hunger Games is a very good read. Written for teens, yet also appealing to adults, the prose is flowing and uncomplicated, and the characters are easy to identify with and care about. It makes you want to read the second book in the trilogy, Catching Fire.
Scholastic Press ($17.99 list)