"Katniss, it's just hunting. You're the best hunter I know," says Gale.
"It's not just hunting. They're armed. They think."
"So do you. And you've had more practice. Real practice," he says. "You know how to kill."
"Not people," I say.
"How different can it be, really?" says Gale grimly.
The awful thing is that if I can forget they're people, it will be no different at all.
Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 of Panem, the dictatorship that rose from the ashes of the United States. The Capitol of Panem is surrounded by 12 districts, which it rules with an iron fist, a "fist" that obliterated the revolutionary District 13. District 12 mines coal, and seems to would no doubt at one time been called Apalachia. As a reminder of its power, the Capitol hold the annual Hunger Games. Two teenagers are chosen from each district to fight to the death in a place referred to as "the arena." The last man or woman standing gets to live out the rest of his or her life in relative luxury. Katniss little sister is chosen during this draft, but Katniss volunteers to go in her stead. The other teenager "reaped" from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, who has a bit of history with Katniss. Of course, this is someone who Katniss must view with a kill-or-be-killed mentality.
This book is equal parts: Running Man, Survivor, and Lord of the Flies, with just a dash of teenage romance. The relationship between Katniss, Peeta, and her "friend" from District 12, Gale fits into the YA fiction model. That is to say, it is not very interesting, nor noteworthy. The action that takes place within the arena, however, is worth mentioning. The book is incredibly violent. Blood is nearly its own character. Children are impaled, stung to death, and eaten alive -- not by other contestants, cannibalism is one of the few no-nos in the Hunger Games.
The novel reads quickly, in large part because there are no flourishes to Collins prose. It is fairly straight forward and to the point. Most of the plot moves rapidly, mimicking the pace of its characters as they attempt to outrun and outsmart each other. The second half slows down a bit, with Katniss trying to nurse Peeta back to health. I am sure that Collins was trying to make a statement about the effects of violence and war on children, but there was not enough psychological development of her characters for this to be effective. There were some minor plot points that I simply had to look over. For example, these "games" were supposedly televised to the entire country of Panem, but at no point does Katniss mention seeing a camera. There were other similar plot devises that while annoying did not have a huge effect on my enjoyment of the book.
For YA fiction, this was pretty good.