by Suzanne Collins
Published October 1st 2008
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Actually I didn't like the concept, the entire government and the districts, it made me angry... but I think that was the point. I was disgusted with the annual Hunger Games. Each district randomly picked two of their children, 12-18 years old, and sent them to the capital to fight to the death... while it was televised live for everyone to see -- appalling. The dazzle around the games was the worst. They buffed, painted, paraded, and tried to upsell all these tributes (kids) before unleashing them on each other; expecting to slaughter one another. That was the worst part for me, the big show around it.
Katniss, the 16 year-old heroine, is from District 12, but she wasn't originally chosen. Her younger sister was and she volunteered to take her place. She'd been taking care of her sister and mother for years. Hunting with her friend Gale to provide food and being their sole support, she sacrificed herself to save Prim -- who was only 12.
I liked Katniss. She was tough, a survivor, even before going into the Hunger Games. I sympathized with her, she seemed a little hard around the edges, but I felt it was warranted in her life situation.
Okay, of course there's always a love element in these books. At first, the very beginning, I liked Gale. He and Katniss learned to hunt together to help support their families. They knew each other well and both were strong individuals. I liked their chemistry, though it was far from romantic. Then there's Peeta. He was sweeter than Gale, and apparently had a crush on Katniss for years, but never said anything either. However, he is going to the Hunger Games with Katniss and they become each other's biggest allies. He does his best to take care of her, even before they set foot in the arena. Mind you, there can only be 1 winner. Peeta, Katniss, or both will not be coming home. At least those are the original rules.
I recommend this book to anyone, but understand that the entire premise of the story is disturbing. There's nothing fun about having a bunch of children running off to kill one another -- and they do. The story is more about survival and rebellion than anything else. The love story is there, but isn't the central focus. I'm okay with that, Katniss doesn't need anyone -- she just needs to make it out alive.