I did not want to read this book. I heard all the hype, and saw about a zillion people reading it on the train, but I resisted. I thought it was going to be badly written crap like the Twilight series (and I don't want to hear it about the Twilight series...I did try to read them, but after ten pages in the first book, I felt myself developing a brain aneurysm from the terrible, terrible writing and had to stop.) You know, lame YA series for girls coated in unbelievable fantasy tropes and damsel-in-distress behavior. However, several ladies I trust seemed to enjoy it, as well as The Boyfriend, so when someone offered to loan me the first book I decided I might as well give it a chance.
I'm so glad I did. Each year, two teenagers from each of the twelve "districts" must compete in "The Hunger Games," a bloody battle to the death that is mandatory viewing for everyone in the nation. This particular year, Katniss Everdeen ends up as one of the twenty-four competitors, representing District 12, the poorest and weakest district. Along with Katniss is the baker's son, Peeta Mellark. I hate to give away more plot, but it's a bit like Battle Royale meets Stephen King's "The Long Walk".
The character of Katniss is great, and has a very distinctive voice. (Oddly, the character reminds me very much of Ree Dolly, the main character in Winter's Bone--a hard girl, mature beyond her years, scratching out a living in Appalachian country, trying to take care of the family herself because her father is gone and her mother is useless. The funny thing is, Jennifer Lawrence, who played Ree in the film version of Winter's Bone will be playing Katniss in The Hunger Games movie.) Katniss is torn between her feelings of self-preservation, her desire to rebel against "The Capitol," and curious new emotions with regard to Peeta. Katniss soon realizes that nothing is what she first thought, and that The Hunger Games are dangerous in ways she never could have imagined.
I loved this book--I really enjoy stories of survival, and having a tough, interesting heroine is definitely a plus. The secondary characters were for the most part well-drawn, though obviously many of the lesser Games competitors were merely caricatures. On the whole, I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyed any of the books/films mentioned above, or for anyone who likes fiction with a strong female lead.