The series has a great set-up. We are in the not-too-distant future and the area of the world that used to be North America has been ravaged by war and the human race has been severely reduced. However, there is still a semblance of society and civilization. The world of the book is run by a city known as The Capitol. Imagine a wheel with spokes and The Capitol would be placed at the center with the 12 districts it oversees fanning out around it.
The Capitol rules with an iron fist and takes what it wants from the districts. It keeps them in line with a strong security force. In the recent past, the districts attempted an uprising but were subjugated. As an ongoing punishment and reminder of the district's place as servants to The Capitol, the hunger games were created.
Each year, a lottery is held in each district and one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected to battle to the death with the other districts' unfortunate participants. The games are gladiatorial contests to the death and each year they are staged in different natural arenas that are not only pitted with weapons for each competitor to use, but also unspeakable death traps and grisly surprises.
The book opens with our heroine, Katniss. She, like all members of district 12 is living one day at a time. Her district is the mining area of the empire and is a backwater afterthought. The residents eek by on meager rations and Katniss and her good friend, Gale, help their families survive by hunting illegally in the woods outside of district boundaries.
The hunting lifestyle has made Katniss into a talented archer and a very resourceful and strong-willed young woman. Katniss cherishes her family more than anything and when the inevitable lottery comes around again in her 16th year, she dutifully approaches the town square to hear who the unlucky girl and boy will be.
When her 12-year-old, younger sister, Prim, has her name announced, Katniss does the only thing she can to save her, she volunteers to take her place in the hunger games. All seems lost for Katniss but she discovers she has an interesting history with the boy selected next to her. Peeta is her age and she doesn't really know him that well. However, Peeta knows Katniss better than any other living person as he has secretly loved her since the first day he laid eyes upon her.
Thus, Katnis and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol to begin their training for the hunger games. Katniss has to say goodbye to not only her family, but her dear friend, Gale, who she never quite sorted out her feelings for. Gale has been her steady friend for years and she has always been so concerned with what her next meal will be that she's never considered him as anything else until she is forced to leave him, in all probability to die.
Because, make no mistake, Katniss and Peeta will not be favorites to survive the games. Only one child wins and the districts closer to the capitol are better fed and their kids are better trained. Only one child from the last 30 years has won from district 12. That child, now a drunken man called Haymitch, will actually be their mentor at the games and this doesn't seem in anyway an advantage.
That's all the details I'm getting into. I wanted to paint a picture of the world and give you an idea of where the book is headed. The games are even more cruel and amazing then you would think for a young adult novel. Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch are a dysfunctional group who argue and stumble through the pre-game ceremonies and training. Yet, they manage to bond and they quickly realize that they will all need each other if anyone is to survive.
There is real emotion involved once they reach the Capitol. These are just children that are being forced to murder or be murdered in turn. It's brutal and it is draining to watch them stare their mortality in the face. But, through all the tragedy, there is heroism, generosity from unexpected places, and love.
I've actually finished the entire trilogy and it is exceptional. There's no way to go into details without spoiling major story and character revelations. I hope your curiosity is piqued and you give the books a chance. I know you will love them.