The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I heard about this book from several people. After it was brought up and called a fantastic book during a Q&A session with Melissa Anelli, I couldn't resist longer and put it on hold at the library. I was a little worried, because I knew it was the first in a series and the very last thing I needed was to start a new series. But I'm SO glad I picked this up! It's a Young Adult dystopian society story, which pretty much means it was set up for me to devour it right from the start :-)
The story follows Katmiss, a citizen of District 12. Two children from all of the districts are chosen at random each year to participate in the Hunger Games, which is the government's way of keeping control of the people, putting them in their place, and keeping the class-heavy society intact. It's also a form of entertainment, comparable to the Olympics (which I'm watching right now as I'm typing this). The only problem is that in these games, the children must fight and kill each other until only one of them remains.
As you might expect, the main character we grow to love (first person narrative) ends up being one of the 2 tributes chosen for her district. So we get to see the whole disgusting process of training the children to kill each other, playing the children up in opening ceremonies and exclusive reality show-type interviews, and then letting them lose in the arena. Not only are the games described in horrifying physical detail (murders, TONS of injuries, lack of food/water) but also psychological torture (kids team up, betray, trade, bond, forgive, and--oh yeah--murder each other!).
The story itself progresses toward an incredibly predictable and painful conclusion, but all of the suspenseful twists and turns are great. I couldn't NOT stay transfixed, wondering how in the world Katmiss was going to survive and what would happen to the one who did. Her particular situation is a great one to follow, because she is a great mix of observant, talented, caring, noble, and clever but has a whole string of weaknesses compared to her competitors. Worse of all, her fellow district member is so obviously smitten with her, and now they're forced to fight to the death with 22 other kids.
The thing I liked most about this book was that it gave me so much to think about, regarding human nature and other topics. Reflecting aspects of our own society and presenting extreme, shocking differences are two things I want the most from a good dystopia novel, and this world that was created lacks for nothing on that level.
I wasn't the world's biggest fan of Peeta (I want to see more of Gale and of Katmiss's family), but he was realistic and you better believe I cared about him (maybe not as much as Katmiss, but close). I cannot wait to see what happens in the second and third books of the series. I immediately put book 2 on hold.