Here's the blurb from the publisher:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survived.
After I described the book to a friend she said it sounded too gory and depressing for her, and I insisted that it wasn't. She countered with, "How could a book not be gory and disturbing if the main character has to kill 23 other teenagers in order to survive to the end of the book?" I know it sounds crazy, but Collins does just that. This is partially due to the fact that Katniss doesn't have to kill all 23 other kids to win, they can attack each other and the reader doesn't necessarily have to know what happened, Katniss just has to try to be the last one left standing. The reader gets to know Katniss and the goodness of her heart so well that no matter what she ends up doing, they will still love her in the end.
That said, yes, this is a book where kids kill each other, and I wonder how that effects its Newbery chances. I probably wouldn't recommend this book to kids twelve and under (because the end has some especially upsetting scenes that would scare the heck out of most younger kids), but that still leaves it within the age range of the Newbery award; however, I wouldn't be surprised if it was pushed into the Printz category. I just hope that it doesn't get lost between them.
I can think of several books set in futuristic societies where the government has gone awry and readers discover some atrocity committed against the youth (think The Giver, The Shadow Children Series, Uglies, Ender's Game etc.), but The Hunger Games still seems so original.
Teachers everywhere will love it because it will probably interest boys and girls equally. The main character is female and studies show that while many girls will pick up books with male main characters, most boys will not pick up books with female main characters; however, a male protagonist emerges within the story. The story is about a gruesome battle, which will entertain guys but it has a little romance and even fashion mixed in that will be just enough to pull in readers who do not like war stories.
What I think you must know before picking up this book, is that the last line is, "End of Book One" which I promise will make you groan if you had no warning. There are so many things I still wanted to know about so I'm eagerly awaiting book two. The good news is, according to Publishers Weekly, Book Two, titled Catching Fire is due out September 8th so you won't have to wait too long. The final book in the trilogy is tentatively scheduled for 2010.