This book was intended for a teenage audience, but I know I first heard of it because of my then 11-year-old step-son. As an adult, the book was very suspenseful and kept me reading but the theme of the book might be too much for some parents to allow their children to read.
The plot of the book is about a dozen or so "states" within a country that are very controlled by the government. The poverty in many of them makes having enough food very difficult and many people die. Once a year the "government" holds an event called the hunger games. Two tributes from each of the states enter the games-but only one single person will leave the games alive. The winner will have an abundance of food and money made available because of their win that they will not have to worry about again.
The way they choose the tributes is by lottery. Every year older the child, an additional entry is put into the drawing. If a family is starving to death, a child can have their name entered additional times to get additional food items.
This all might seem like a pretty horrific theme, but it gets worse-once the hunger games begin the children are fighting to be the last one standing. The conditions of the outdoor arena make it necessary to find food, water, and shelter just to stay alive. Some of the children have been trained from young how best to kill off the others so they may be the last one standing. It is very difficult to imagine a 12 year old child stabbing another child to death.
From a parental perspective, I really wish I had read this book first so that I knew how and what to talk about as my step-son was reading the book. There are many things that a teen can learn from and think about in their own life. The main point I hope my step-son took from the book is how lucky our life situation is-such as having enough food, not being completely controlled by a government, and that killing another person is not ever a possibility.
I would say that this book has a similar feel as the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
I am already starting the second book (I told you it was good!). Just be careful with the age of your child or if this subject matter might be particularly difficult for your child because of their unique circumstances.