I'm not sure when I first heard about the bleak, dystopian future brought to life by Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games, but I know I haven't stopped hearing about it since.
The Hunger Games follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in the nation of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of what was once North America. When the book opens, Katniss has spent most of her life filling her dead father's shoes as the head of the family. She is hardened by years of caring and providing for her mother and little sister, Prim, as they struggle to survive in the Seam, the poor side of coal-mining District 12.
The book is filled with vivid descriptions of starvation, Orwellian politics and - though it's never mentioned outright - a deep sense of post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting both individual characters and the beaten-down society as a whole. The name of the book itself comes from a horrific event that would not be out of place in a Roman arena. Two children from each district, chosen at random once a year, are forced to fight each other to the death on live television.