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 survival.
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About the Author. Suzanne Collins' debut novel, Gregor the Overlander, the first book in The Underland Chronicles, received wide praise both in the United States and abroad. I prop myself up on one elbow. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. My mother was very beautiful once, too. Or so they tell me. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash.
Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home.
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Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love. I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots.
Supple leather that has molded to my feet. I pull on trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag. On the table, under a wooden bowl to protect it from hungry rats and cats alike, sits a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside.
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Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets are empty.
Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. May as well sleep in. If you can.
Our house is almost at the edge of the Seam. I only have to pass a few gates to reach the scruffy field called the Meadow. Separating the Meadow from the woods, in fact enclosing all of District 12, is a high chain-link fence topped with barbed-wire loops. Even so, I always take a moment to listen carefully for the hum that means the fence is live. There are several other weak spots in the fence, but this one is so close to home I almost always enter the woods here.
Electrified or not, the fence has been successful at keeping the flesh-eaters out of District Inside the woods they roam freely, and there are added concerns like venomous snakes, rabid animals, and no real paths to follow. My father knew and he taught me some before he was blown to bits in a mine explosion.
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There was nothing even to bury. I was eleven then. Five years later, I still wake up screaming for him to run. Even though trespassing in the woods is illegal and poaching carries the severest of penalties, more people would risk it if they had weapons. But most are not bold enough to venture out with just a knife. My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers. My father could have made good money selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion.
But the idea that someone might be arming the Seam would never have been allowed. In the fall, a few brave souls sneak into the woods to harvest apples. But always in sight of the Meadow. Always close enough to run back to the safety of District 12 if trouble arises. Then I glance quickly over my shoulder. Even here, even in the middle of nowhere, you worry someone might overhear you. When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol.
Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts. Do my work quietly in school. Make only polite small talk in the public market. Discuss little more than trades in the Hob, which is the black market where I make most of my money. Even at home, where I am less pleasant, I avoid discussing tricky topics.
Like the reaping, or food shortages, or the Hunger Games. Prim might begin to repeat my words and then where would we be? In the woods waits the only person with whom I can be myself. I can feel the muscles in my face relaxing, my pace quickening as I climb the hills to our place, a rock ledge overlooking a valley. A thicket of berry bushes protects it from unwanted eyes. The sight of him waiting there brings on a smile. Gale says I never smile except in the woods.
My real name is Katniss, but when I first told him, I had barely whispered it.
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Then when this crazy lynx started following me around the woods looking for handouts, it became his official nickname for me. I finally had to kill the lynx because he scared off game. But I got a decent price for his pelt. I take it in my hands, pull out the arrow, and hold the puncture in the crust to my nose, inhaling the fragrance that makes my mouth flood with saliva.
Fine bread like this is for special occasions. He must have been at the bakery at the crack of dawn to trade for it. His expression brightens at the treat. Happy Hunger Games! I catch it in my mouth and break the delicate skin with my teeth. The sweet tartness explodes across my tongue. We have to joke about it because the alternative is to be scared out of your wits. Besides, the Capitol accent is so affected, almost anything sounds funny in it. I watch as Gale pulls out his knife and slices the bread. He could be my brother.
Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same gray eyes. Most of the families who work the mines resemble one another this way. They are. They ran an apothecary shop in the nicer part of District Since almost no one can afford doctors, apothecaries are our healers. My father got to know my mother because on his hunts he would sometimes collect medicinal herbs and sell them to her shop to be brewed into remedies.
She must have really loved him to leave her home for the Seam. I try to remember that when all I can see is the woman who sat by, blank and unreachable, while her children turned to skin and bones. Gale spreads the bread slices with the soft goat cheese, carefully placing a basil leaf on each while I strip the bushes of their berries. We settle back in a nook in the rocks. From this place, we are invisible but have a clear view of the valley, which is teeming with summer life, greens to gather, roots to dig, fish iridescent in the sunlight.
The day is glorious, with a blue sky and soft breeze. Finally, we've been made privy as to why he was asked to leave the show, and he claims it involves a rogue foot in an unfortunate place, alongside a term that rhymes with "stunt runt. Needless to say, Maura pulled 'Tammy Fury' faster than you could say "madferrit.
The bride with the least messy dress won and that was Anna Yewande, you were robbed. Did Lucie have a problem with that? But you'll never guess who did. Bestie, Amy.
Where's Tommy's head's at after Maura literally put the lunge in on him last night? Well, he's pulling a Molly-Mae and keeping his options open, you know, for the purposes of reality TV. Twitter at large is pretty much done with the Longford's lassie's unfiltered predilections, with most spouting they'd prefer to see him stick with Molly-Mae. Molly-Mae isn't the only one viewers would be happy to see Tommy with Well, the girls in there seem pretty immature when it comes to platonic companionship.
Oh, Joe, if you took a leaf out of Tommy's book and played it cool you'd probably have three girls vying for your attention also. Instead, he whinged: "The whole thing with Tommy, it is strange. You were with him for a good hour. It looked like two girls were going to get dumped, with Anna and someone else largely in the firing line thanks to Sherif's impromptu departure. The electronic music by Matt Morton can be overwhelming at times in its attempt to heighten tension. Also, the restored communications between land and sky, despite their historic value, can often resemble the scratchy sound of sitting too long at a drive-through squawkbox.
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