Once I'm on my feet, I realize escape might not be simple.Panic begins to set in. I can't stay here.Flight is essential.But I can't let my fear show.Winning means fame and fortune.Losing means certain death.The Hunger Games have begun... (from back cover)It's hard to remember that this story takes place in the future. North America is no longer. The nation of Panem has been built upon it's ruins. 12 districts surround a prosperous Capital that controls everything. At one time there had been 13 districts but an attempt to overthrow the Capital resulted in punishments and total obliteration of District 13. Fear and cruelty keep the people in line and at the mercy of the Capital. Each district is assigned an industry, 3 is factories, 4 is fishing, 11 is agriculture, 12 is coal mining, etc. The people aren't allowed to have access to any of these things, not even the ones they do. It's all for the Capital and any other use is punishable by death.Katniss Everdeen is 16 and lives with her mother and little sister Pru in District 12. Her loving father was killed in a mining accident, her mother has never recovered from the loss and the family is barely surviving. To keep them alive Kat has learned to hunt, a skill she developed from her father when he taught her how to make and use a bow and arrows. No one is allowed to enter the nearby woods, another punishable offense, but Kat must to find food. She has also found a companion in the woods. Gale is a young man who is also trying to feed his family. They merge their abilities to bring home more game. Her mother and sister have a talent for finding herbs and plants to treat illnesses and injuries. They help others who need medical treatment and are compensated with whatever that person can provide. Kat has also learned to trade on the black market to receive other food and necessities. In order to remind the districts about the past rebellion and to keep them from repeating it in the future, every year they host The Hunger Games. This is a fight to the death with only one winner - the last person to survive. The whole event is televised with huge celebrations. The winner not only walks away with their life but they also receive a home and food for their family and will bring honor and more food rations to the whole district. Each district is forced to provide a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18. In Kat's they are chosen by lottery. When her 12 year-old sister is chosen, she races forward to take her place. Kat and a boy named Peeta will represent District 12 and are swept away to the Capital after quick goodbyes to family and friends.After reading how harsh life in the districts is it comes as a shock at how prosperous the Capital is. Kat's life was similar to pioneer days with their primitive shelter and meager supplies. The only reminder of the real time period is when a broken down TV is mentioned. When the tributes, the boy and girl who represent each district, arrive at the city it becomes obvious that this is a story from the future. The people here have every luxury available to them and the technology is far advanced. The tributes are allowed several days to train and be evaluated. They get to eat from luscious banquets, wear beautiful clothing designed especially for them and enjoys all the luxuries now available to them. But it is bittersweet. They know this is all part of the game and they know their families are still starving and they don't have much chance of surviving. As the game starts I am surprised and amazed by how complex the set up is and how clever the tributes are. Although after a lifetime of struggle they would have to be clever and tough. Kat is faced with many decisions she must make by herself. Although they are provided with council when training they must play on their own. Politics complicate it all as everything that happens must not ever reflect poorly on the Capital. Anything or anyone that is a threat to their image or reputation is easily removed. This story is action packed with adventure, suspense and even romance. Throughout it all is the message of hope but also the effects of war. It is deeply disturbing at times but it also delivers heroes. This is the ultimate game of Survivor and you don't get voted off the island. You get sent home in a coffin. This is the first in a series.