The Hunger Games - Suzanne  Collins
In the nation of Panem, formerly known as North America, a totalitarian capital lives in luxury, surrounded by 12 poorer districts. As punishment for rebellion, the Districts are forced to send two children a year as “tributes” to the capital, where they will be made to fight each other for the capital’s entertainment in the annual Hunger Games. Winning the games means a life of wealth and ease for the victor, as well as numerous other spoils for his or her district; losing means simply death.

Katniss Everdeen, the narrator and heroine of The Hunger Games, resides in District 12, a coal mining region and the poorest district in Panem. When her younger sister is selected as a tribute for the titular games, Katniss sees no choice but to step in and take her sister’s place as a competitor. Katniss narrates the story in the present tense, providing a sense of immediacy as she journeys to the futuristic capital where she is thrust into the insane pageantry of the games.

While much of the ceremony surrounding the games can get a bit over the top, it reinforces the fact that the Hunger Games are simply a form of entertainment for the capital. The idea of the games is horrifying enough on its own, as young people are forced to fight for their lives; the reader cannot help but to imagine how he or she might behave in such a situation. The petty concerns of the capital residents ass to Collins’ world-building, showing a disconnect between the capital and the daily struggles of the surrounding districts.

Katniss is a very strong heroine, using the hunting and survival skills she has learned as a necessity in District 12 to persevere in the games. Katniss’ struggle to remain herself is a central conflict in the story, as she constantly finds herself forced to put on an act for the capital viewers. While evading her fellow tributes and surviving int he wild, Katniss must also deal with conflicting feelings towards her fellow tribute, Peeta, who despite his silly name is a very believable and likable character.

The Hunger Games is very suspense and addictive, despite the weakness of the reader knowing that in some way, Katniss will probably survive. Character development also seems to suffer at the expense of action and story. Aside from Peeta, most of the other tributes remain virtual unknowns to the reader, which lessens some of the impact of their deaths. This reader was hoping for background on some of Katniss’ support team, such as Hunger Games veteran Haymitch and crafty stylist Cinna. Hopefully Collins will expand on her characters in the subsequent books.

Suspenseful and thought-provoking, The Hunger Games is a wonderfully addictive novel, with an engaging heroine to boot.