Katniss Everdeen has grown up with the threat of the Hunger Games ever-present in her mind, just another fact of life in the dreary Districts. When her little sister turns twelve, Katniss reassures herself that she cannot possibly be chosen for the Games during her first year of eligibility -- the odds are impossible. But when the unfathomable comes to pass, Katniss doesn't stop to think. She volunteers herself to enter the Games in her sister's place, fully expecting that this decision means forfeiting her life. As she faces an unknown number of days trapped in the arena with 23 other children, fighting to the death so that their district won't go hungry for another year, Katniss has no idea what awaits -- but she has something that the others don't: someone to live for.
Put simply, this novel will be a classic someday. Suzanne Collins' world-building is incredible. Though set in the future, the landscape is bleakly primitive and sets the tone immediately. The premise is disturbingly plausible - like reality TV run amok. Collins holds no punches, launching the reader straight into the midst of this harsh, unfeeling world. Within the first 50 pages, readers will already be moved to tears. Collins' writing deftly evokes the powerful, gut-wrenching emotions of this world and draws the reader heart and soul into Katniss's story. Katniss truly makes the novel what it is with her rare, awe-inspiring courage and incredible selflessness, all while seeming utterly and entirely real. Her complexity and bravery are beautiful to watch. Unlike many modern heroines, Katniss is resourceful and independent; she is a survivor, raised by an uncaring world, but still possessing the capacity for compassion. Katniss has a dark edge to her personality that stands in beautiful juxtaposition with her compassionate nature. She is not fearless, but she is brave in the face of her fear which is even more admirable. Her complexity is astounding, and Collins expertly paints a portrait of the internal struggle between her strong sense of justice and her survival instinct, her knowledge of what she must do. The way Collins carefully prevents Katniss from becoming a monster in her fight for survival is brilliant, and one of the most nuanced aspects of the book. Katniss Everdeen is truly the best heroine I've ever read.
While readers may get caught up in Katniss's saga, Collins repeatedly brings the story abruptly back to the stark reality of the Games -- never letting them forget what's at stake. The Hunger Games is a complex psychological novel and constantly keeps the reader on their toes, as though they were playing the Games alongside Katniss. The tight narration befits the topic; there is something calculating about the tone and pacing that is wonderfully fitted to the theme. There is an unsettling correlation between the entertainment value of the novel and the entertainment value of the Games that brings the reality of Katniss's world to life in a devastatingly vivid way. Everything in this world is so uncertain -- feelings, events, even life itself. Though it is initially tempting to make absolute judgments, Collins does not make her world that easy or black and white -- not everyone at the Capital is evil, not everyone in this world is heartless. The one aspect of the novel that felt contrived was resolved by the end, and left me utterly enthralled with the sheer genius of Collins' work. The Hunger Games is the most thought-provoking piece of fiction I've ever read. I turned the last page months ago, and I still can't stop thinking about it.