My brother, ten years my junior, literally bullied me into reading Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy. He ranted and raved about how good the books were and I was convinced that they should be, to have caught his attention! He who doesn't read unless it is for school work or only if he is truly impressed by the novel.
I've read my fair share of young adult novels as an adult that occasionally dabbles in a quick read just to keep myself occupied (and the count of books going), so I wasn't skeptical about this book (as I had been about 'The Host'). I read it in two days and was, I must admit, thoroughly taken by it.
As gruesome as the summary might sound, this is definitely one of the nicer, better written young-adult books currently in the market. No stupid vampire love triangles or supernatural presences. Just a nice story of adventure, loyalty, love, and survival.
(Since I've read only the first book, as of February, 2012, I shall base this post only off that)
The book is set in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in North America with The Capitol, the rich metropolis, controlling 13, now 12 (due to a rebellion which lead to District 13 being annhilated), districts of the nation. Each District has its own specialization and status within the country, some more prosperous than the others. District 12 is the mining district, and one of the poorest, where Katniss Everdeen lives with her worn out mother and younger sister. Starvation is one of the most common causes of death in this district, and to ensure that her family never goes hungry, Katniss, along with her best friend Gale Hawthorne, sneaks out into the fenced off woods, and poaches animals, which she then sells in the market place for food. Though things get tight, it is quite obvious that the security in District 12 isn't as stringent as in most other districts mainly because the Capitol does not have very high regard for the people in this district. Until the 74th Hunger Games begins.
This is games that the Capitol forces each district to play, to reassert their power and to remind the people of Panem how vulnerable they really are. Two tributes, a girl and a boy, are chosen from each district to compete with each other, to the death. The last one standing walks away with riches they could not have imagined and brings pride to their district.
Most unfortunately Katniss' younger sister, who is entered into the lottery for the first time ever, gets picked, and Katniss volunteers to take her place. The boy tribute is Peeta Mellark, the baker's son, who seemingly has a crush on Katniss. Their mentor, one of only two winners of the Games from District 12, is the drunkard Haymitch, who eventually gets his act together and begins to instruct the two tributes in earnest. Their aim, to stay alive for as long as possible, win the favor of the audience, who will place bets on tributes based on their chances of survival and provide them with much needed assistance during the game.
The Games begin with killings at the very start, with 11 of the 24 tributes murdered almost immediately. Alliances are formed by those considered 'most likely to win' while others fend for themselves in a forest. Peeta and Katniss are portrayed to the audience as star-crossed lovers and quickly gain a faithful following, though they are both aware that only one can win.
Told in the first person, Katniss' perspective, the narrative never gets dry. There is no dwelling upon the inevitable, or unnecessary emotions. No elongated descriptions of days or events. Just quick walk throughs with importance given to decisions, strategy and thoughts. There are escapades into the happy times in Katniss' life, the few that she can count, and the brief glimpses into the future as the possibility of her winning the Games hovers within reach.
Naturally, I liked the pace of the book. Collins does a good job of keeping you on your toes through every chapter, and you're just itching to find out who dies, how, and who lives. The winner is revealed towards the very end with the undertone of restlessness which paves a restless path to the next book.