The Hunger Games begins on the day of the reaping in District 12. Katniss Everdeen, the story's 16-year-old narrator, sets out to meet her friend Gale so they can do some hunting and gathering before the reaping that afternoon. As Katniss makes her way from her home to the Meadow and, finally, to the woods, where people of the district are forbidden to go, we learn about Katniss' life in the impoverished part of her district, the Seam, and her family. She thinks about her sister Prim, who is 4 years younger, and her mother, both of whom have depended upon Katniss for survival ever since Katniss' father died in a mine explosion when she was 11.
The reaping is a nerve-wracking time because it determines which boy and girl, ages 12 to 18, will serve as the district's tributes in the Hunger Games. Two tributes are drawn in each of the 12 districts, and those tributes are sent to an arena where they fight until only one tribute remains alive. The victor gets to return home, and the victor's district is showered with gifts — namely food. The Games, put on by the Capitol, are meant to punish the 12 districts of Panem as well as to remind them of the Dark Days and how the 13th district was obliterated for its uprising against the tyrannical and cruel Capitol.
Against all odds, Prim's name is selected at the reaping. Katniss volunteers to take the place of her younger sister and becomes District 12's girl tribute for the 74th Hunger Games. Peeta Mellark, a boy Katniss' age and the son of the baker, is selected as the other tribute. She remembers Peeta and the kindness he demonstrated toward her when they were children, giving her a burnt piece of bread so that she wouldn't starve. Peeta's selection doesn't bode well for Katniss, who feels that she owes Peeta for saving her life when they were children, which is inconvenient considering she's now expected to kill him in the Hunger Games.
Before she leaves, Katniss says goodbye to her mother and Prim; to Madge, the...