The Hunger Games — ritual, punishment, death. Only one can survive.
It's the day of the Reaping, an annual ritual, an annual punishment, an annual reminder that rebelling against the Capitol is futile. This afternoon all the residents of Panem will gather in the town square of each of its twelve districts to watch the drawing. The names of all the children in every district between the ages of 12 and 18 have been put into large bowls filled with slips of paper. One boy's name will be drawn, and one girl's. They will represent their district in the Hunger Games. All twenty-four will be trained for a week, then herded into an arena, where they will be forced to fight to the death, as the entire population watches on live television. The winner is the last person left alive.
Katniss is from District 12, the smallest and the most distant from the Capitol. She's 16, and the sole support of her mother and younger sister. She hunts for food to feed them, and to barter at the market for soap, or salt, or clothing. That afternoon, she doesn't hear her own name called, but her little sister's! Prim is only 12, this is her first Hunger Games, and as gentle and fragile as she is, she won't live long. She wouldn't fight even if she knew how. Katness immediately fights her way through the crowd, and volunteers to take Prim's place. She would be a part of this year's Hunger Games.
The boy's name is drawn, and Peeta, the baker's son, walks toward the stage, his face emotionless, stunned. He doesn't look like he's ever missed a meal, muscular and strong. Everyone in the town likes him, even Katness. He helped her once, long ago, when she was alone and desperate. She's never forgotten, and from the looks he's giving her, he hasn't forgotten either.
In another world, they might have been friends, or more. But in this world, they have to be enemies, prepared to kill each other. In the Hunger Games, there is only one winner.