All I can say is: Wow. I am a huge fan of the Gregor the Overlander series, so I was looking forward to Suzanne Collins newest book, which was aimed at young adults. As the release date got closer, I started hearing more and more buzz about the book. Now that I’ve got my hands on an actual copy, I can see that it is every bit as good as I’d hoped it could be.
Katniss is a teenager living in a dystopic world that has been split into twelve Districts and the Capitol. Each year two young people from each District are randomly chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, a cruel spectacle that reinforces the idea that the Capitol is in complete control of their lives. The twenty-four teenagers are forced to kill one another; the last remaining survivor wins. For District 12, where Katniss lives, being selected is virtually a death sentence. The last person from District 12 to win did so nearly fifty years ago, and has since become the town drunk.
On the day of the selection, Katniss is first relieved to not be picked, then horrified when it is her younger sister. Determined to protect Prim, she volunteers to take Prim’s place. What follows is a whirlwind of action as Katniss and Peeta – the other District 12 competitor, who has a complicated past with Katniss – are brought to the city to prepare, and then must compete in the Games.
Some critics have complained that the premise is hardly fresh, that teens fighting to the death has been done before. That may be true, but every book is different. This book focuses not just on the action scenes – although there are many! – but also on the emotional impact of that action. And it’s not the agonizing over killing that one would assume it would be. When Katniss kills she does it out of necessity, and rarely wastes time angsting. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun, but it is her life. What Katniss really worries about are the people that she *might* have to kill: her ally Rue, or District-mate Peeta. The tension of possible friendships with people that might end up killing her is palpable, as Katniss struggles with what she feels. Between the awkwardness of strained relations and the frantic race to save herself, this is one of the few science fiction novels that I can see being passionately adored by both male and female readers in equal numbers.