Spunky and resourceful Katniss Everdeen is sixteen and has supported her mother and sister for years via hunting/gathering since her father's premature death in the Panem district mines. She's chosen for the games, and she finds that her friendship with fellow Panem resident Peeta plays a pivotal part in her participation, and in her survival.
Dystopian fiction is having quite the heyday in YA literature these days, perhaps because it takes us out of our world, but without the more heavy requirements of world building of other types of fantasy. And there's nothing more thrilling, and conductive to heart-pounding romance, than a world on the brink of collapse.
The dystopian element makes for fascinating reading in The Hunger Games, but what you see is what you get. The language is plain, the emotions straightforward, and there's no attempt at hidden meaning. This is not a comment on the voyeurism of contemporary media, it is voyeurism. Katniss is a fine character–family and survival concerns her just as much as love–but the book isn't overly concerned with her. In the end, it's about the thrill of the games, and the budding romance.
I like a novel thick with plot as much as the next person, but I'd have liked to get inside Katniss' head, to really feel the conflict between decency and self-preservation. Damn fine story, but needed to be darker.
The Hunger Games/Suzanne Collins / Scholastic Press / PB, 2010 (reprint)