My experience in the realm of young adult fiction is very limited - I think I've only read one other book. That being said, I had no idea what to expect. If I'm being honest here, I thought I might be exposed to something like Twilight - of which I had no desire. Having not read Twilight, I can't imagine Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games being anything close as I have a hard time believing anyone can truly hate this book.
These kids, they're being forced by a strict repressive government to battle it out to the death with the reason being, "Hey, don't forget who's in charge here people". You have those from the wealthier districts who have trained their whole lives for the chance at glory. The chance to kill those who are being forced to fight. In Collins' vision of the future, humanity has become so jaded, so disgusting that they consider the violent demise of children as entertainment. Even in the end, after the games are over, the thought that over 20 teens being murdered for no beneficial reason, just washes over the citizens of The Capitol. It's a horrifying thought to imagine society degrading to this level - yet really, is it really impossible? With the advent of reality television in the mid-to late 90s and the influx of websites that ridicule people and their misfortune on a daily basis, it appears the feelings of many are irrelevant. With the atrocities being committed overseas in war-torn countries and the fact that little is done by the average citizen in the wealthier nations is a sign that possibly, maybe eventually, this could become a form of entertainment. These aren't real people, they're contestants.
*Ahem* Let me get off my soapbox here.
Sometime in the future - an approx. date is never given, other than that the Hunger Games has been held 70+ times previously - North America has been rebuilt after a series of wars and environmental disasters. The continent is now known as Panem and is broken up in to twelve separate districts all surrounding The Capitol. Each district is supported by a core industry (textiles, agriculture, coal, etc), which in turn, supports The Capitol. Over the course of Panem's history, there have been several revolutions in an attempt to overthrow those who maintain an iron fist over the districts but always resulted in failure.
In an effort to show the Districts who's boss, The Capitol instigated The Hunger Games. Each year, two representatives from each District must partake in a giant fight to the death, the winner of which will be the recipient of a much easier life and several gifts for their homeland. The novel follows Katniss Everdeen, a resident of District 12, who along with Peeta Mellark are drafted into the battle.
Katniss is quite the lead character. Collins writes her with such spirit that she is easily one of the strongest female characters I've ever seen. She's a total badass. She hunts, kills and keeps her family alive at the tender age of 16. All that she's learned in her short life transfers well into her quest for survival in the games and you're rooting for her right from the start.
Overall, the novel itself is surprisingly violent. While Collins holds back a little, she still reveals a lot. Many of the deaths are quite descriptive with acts of poisoning, explosion and raw physical contact; this is not a book to be taken lightly. While all of this is happening, Collins writes a love story that eventually takes center stage. While I found some of the dialogue to be a little cheesy, you could probably defend that with Katniss' desire to remain alive.
I'm become enthralled with future fiction heavily influenced by dystopian society, maybe I was a little predisposed to like this than most but I was sucked in from beginning to end. I'd happily recommend this. However, I probably don't even have too. It appears to be one of the most widely read books on this site.