This review is a little late coming. I recently finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Score: 5 out of 5
The Hunger Games brings us to a grim future where the rich are richest and the poor are their playthings. The eponymous Hunger Games exist as a yearly tournament used to entertain the wealthy citizens of the Capitol and as an ongoing punishment for the citizens of the Districts for a disastrous rebellion seventy five years ago. Each year, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve Districts is randomly chosen to be taken to the Capitol and entered into the Hunger Games. The whole event reminds the Districts that the Capitol owns them completely. Even their children are not safe and can be taken from them at the Capitol's whim, and they are forced to treat it like a festive event.
Katniss Everdeen is thrust into the Games when she volunteers to be taken in her sister's place. What follows is a harsh battle for survival, even before Katniss enters the Arena. The contestants are paraded as celebrities, playing it up for the crowds from day one to get the support they'll need to win. There's a gripping reality tv theme running through the book, playing on the real-world obsession with them. As much as The Running Man played on the Eighties' love of game shows, The Hunger Games delves into today's reality tv and rockets that obsession up to the most twisted extremes.
This is one of the most tense and exciting books I've read in a while. I was brought to tears by page 30, and it threatened to happen again a number of times throughout the book. By the end, I felt as exhausted and drained as Katniss. She really is put through hell and although she's a hardened, pragmatic girl, I still felt such strong sympathy for her, and for her fellow District 12 contestant, Peeta Mellark.
All I can really say to finish this is read this book! I'm itching to read the next in the series. Suzanne Collins' style, concise and direct, has incredible impact. It's a style I find easy to just fall into and she's definitely an author I can learn from.