During the Roman Empire, gladiator fights were an important part of culture, both politically and socially. It allowed the government to have a sense of control over what happened in their jurisdiction, and served as a form of entertainment for the vast public. However, those who participated in the gladiatorial games were either forced to as punishment for their crimes or volunteered in order to gain social standing and escape poverty. Each gladiator would face creatures, the elements, and other gladiators in a battle to the death. In Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, a similar fate awaits 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, as well as twenty three other teenagers from the nation of Panem. In the future, Panem exists amongst the ruins of what was once North America and is divided into twelve districts surrounding the all-powerful and cruel Capitol. In order to maintain authority and dominance over the districts, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games in which each of the twelve districts must send a boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to battle the other districts to the death; the last tribute standing wins fame, fortune, and glory for themselves and their district. The worst part is that the entire thing is on live television and everyone has to watch. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, is a skilled hunter and strong-willed girl from District 12, one of the poorest districts in Panem. When she volunteers to fight in the Games in place of her little sister, she enters an entirely new world where her own survival is the only thing that matters. In the midst of the animalistic violence and struggles that the Games present, she experiences first love and friendship with the male District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark. Suzanne Collins’s novel was an excellent story, with interesting characters and a suspenseful plot. One of the best aspects of the book is that it makes you think – what if this happened in today’s world? How could society be so corrupted that this is allowed to happen every year without fail? How do the teenage tributes cope with what is ultimately a death sentence? How does the Capitol justify these actions? Beyond these questions, Collins also finds a perfect balance between action and romance to add depth to the story. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone; I can’t wait to continue with the next two books in the series and see the movie in March!