And indeed, my suspicion was unfortunately confirmed when I finished the book and discovered that it was actually the first in a trilogy and the story is left dangling at the end, to be continued in September. I hate when that happens! There should be a warning label for unsuspecting readers letting them know that this story will not be concluded for at least two more years (or eleven, for Jordenesque type series) so that they can knowingly decide if they want to pick up this book or move on to one that does not involve a three year commitment.
Ok, enough of the ranting...
The Hunger Games takes place in a futuristic society in which the United States has been replaced by 12 districts and an all-powerful government body. As a form of punishment for a past rebellion by district 13 (now destroyed) every year two children are chosen by lottery, from each district, to fight to the death, for the entertainment of the rest of the population, in the Hunger Games. As part of the punishment, citizens are forced to treat the day of the lottery as a holiday in which they dress in their best clothing and gather in the center of town for the event.
Katniss is a 15 year old girl who supports her mother and younger sister, after her father was killed in a coal mine explosion. When the day of the lottery arrives, Katniss' much-beloved little sister is chosen for the Games and Katinss volunteers herself as a replacement.
Soon, Katniss and Petta, the district's male participant, are headed on a train towards the capital, where they will begin preparations for the Hunger Games. Preparations that include makeovers, new wardrobes and public interviews. Despite the fact that they are there against their will, each of the kids are forced to pretend enthusiasm and to show themselves in the best light to the public, in order to gain sponsors who may provide life-saving gifts during the game.
As a strategy in gaining audience support, Katniss and Petta are encouraged to act the part of young lovers, an act which brings Katnisss to reflect on her own feelings for a close friend back home, even as she comes to care for Peeta. And Peeta, who for many years has harbored a crush on Katniss, proves himself to be an ally to one whom he he is meant to kill.
The Hunger Games is brilliantly told, fast paces and thoroughly exciting. It is narrated by Katniss, who forces herself be be cold and calculating, in order to win the Games, and yet she still remains a likable a sympathetic character.
The story itself is grim, with children participating in a "Survivor" like game, to the death, for the entertainment of others. Despite the horror of the situation, it is easy to believe in. In today's era, where television's "Reality TV" includes people doing ridiculous and horrifying things for the entertainment of the watchers, the events in this book don't seem so far-fetched. And when Katniss declares that she never wants to have children, it easy to understand why.
I love this book and have been recommending it to everyone that I speak with, though I would suggest that you wait until September to read it, so that you can immediately continue the story in the sequel Catching Fire.