'The Hunger Games': a quick guide for the uninitiated

The books continue to top the best-seller lists. The first movie adaptation arrives on March 23. There's no doubt about it: Suzanne Collins' 'Hunger Games' trilogy is everywhere. Are you one of the uninitiated (ie, the only one of your friends not to have raced through the books?) Not to worry – we'll help you catch up. Here are 'The Hunger Games' – 8 plot points from the first book to help you distinguish your Capitol from your Cinna. (And we promise not to give away major spoilers or tell you the ending.)

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1. Panem

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    The Capitol

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The name of the country where "The Hunger Games" is set, Panem, may be unfamiliar, but the area is closer to home than you may think. In Collins' world, some mysterious disaster – it's never stated what – caused what was essentially the end of civilization. America is gone, but on the continent of North America, a new country called Panem formed. (The word "Panem" is part of the Latin phrase "panem et circenses," which means "bread and circuses.") The country was divided into 13 districts, and the city called the Capitol ruled over the area. At the beginning of what is known as the Dark Days in Collins' novels, the districts started a revolution against the Capitol, and during the warfare, the area known as District 13 was destroyed entirely. The other districts were defeated by the government. 

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