In a Dystopian future, the world has survived a mass uprising and now is split into 13 districts, ruled by dictator President Snow. To keep the districts in line and remind them that defying the capital is futile, each district must send a male and female representative (ages 12 and up) to compete in the annual “hunger games”, a survivor like competition where the contestants must kill their opponents to win, and there can only be one winner. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister’s name is drawn, she volunteers to replace her. An experienced hunter, Katniss has at least a chance of having the skills to survive. But killing animals is different than killing humans, when faced with this horrible choice; will she do what she must to live?
When she is sent to the capital for training, Katniss is pampered and lavished with gourmet food and given the ultimate makeover. The representatives are now celebrities, and the games being a televised event that becomes a celebration. As she adjusts to the limelight, Katniss begins a relationship with fellow district representative Peeta, the baker’s son. She knew him from a far, and remembers a random act of kindness he showed to her when they were children. In order to appeal to the crowd, the stylists and mentors of the teens decide to present the two as a couple with a blooming romance. They convince the audience they are truly in love, but is Peeta’s part just an act, or has he really fallen for Katniss? And once they are a midst the arena and the games, their true colors emerge.
As would be expected from a book about “gladiators”, violence runs amuck. But the development of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship and what will become of them keeps the reader completely emerged. There are a great host of well thought out characters, and the extent at what the Hunger Game developers go to keep the games interesting is mind-boggling. I’ve read the sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and the violence heightens in the last of the trilogy to the point of being depressing. I think the story overall was good, but would only recommend the entire series to those young adults mature enough to handle the loss of many beloved characters, and willing to discuss the repressions of war and political uprising.