Hunger Games: grimmer even than reality

Set in a dystopian future where the USA has been destroyed, this book tells the story of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her 12-year-old sister in The Hunger Games.

This is a deadly reality tv show where two 'Tributes' from each of the 12 districts of Panem are chosen at random to go to The Capitol. There they participate in the show the catch being that the event is a televised fight to the death – victory will earn you riches and fame, but you have to slaughter 23 other Tributes first.

The second Tribute chosen from Katniss's district is baker's son Paeta Melark, to whom she feels indebted after he gave her starving family bread when her father died, and the pair grow closer in the build-up to their TV debut.

Katniss and Paeta excel at training camp and hopes are high that their impoverished District 12 could have a rare winner – but the two friends know that one will have to kill the other to claim the prize.

Like a cross between X-Factor and the Minotaur myth fought out in a Roman arena, The Hunger Games is one long suspense-filled tale. It sags in the middle but picks up pace as it speeds to conclusion.

Recommended by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, this is for people who like their escapism to be even grimmer than reality.

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins

Scholastic, £6.99, 464 pages