In a not-too-distant future, North America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss' young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.
Inspiration and origins
Collins says that the inspiration to write The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two "began to blur in this very unsettling way" and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus served as basis for the story, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus, and that Roman gladiatorial games formed the framework. The sense of loss that Collins developed through her father's service in the Vietnam War also affected the story, whose heroine lost her father at age eleven, five years before the story begins. Collins stated that the deaths of the young characters and other "dark passages" were the hardest parts of the book to write, but she had accepted she would be writing such scenes. She considered the moments where Katniss reflects on happier moments in her past to be the more enjoyable passages to write.