The Hunger Games, the newest YA literary phenom, is a dystopic young adult novel that plays like a mashup of Battle Royale, Stephen King's The Running Man and The Long Walk, and elements from pretty much every other dystopian book you can think of. That's not to be derogatory, just to let you know what you're in for: it's difficult to find a truly original element in the world of the Games.
The basic story is this: every year, the government chooses two children from each district, aged between 12 and 18, to compete in The Hunger Games. The winner is awarded wealth and comfort for the remainder of their life; the losers are dead.
The real centerpiece of the story is the narrator, Katniss, a 14-year-old girl who enters the titular games voluntarily, replacing her younger sister. She's a fairly complex character, with conflicting emotions and motivations that rarely feel less than genuine. She's smart and capable of brutality, yet tender and caring toward those she chooses. There's not a whole lot of romance, which is nice, but what there is feels a little silly compared to the rest of the story.
Calling the prose utilitarian is pretty accurate. Throughout the entire novel, I can't recall one memorable line or dialog. It's told in the first person present, which can be kind of annoying. I've read comments where people compliment the writing style as being no-nonsense or whatever, but it was probably the largest con of the book for me--I would have gotten as much out of a screenplay and it would have read even faster. Also, the ending was extremely anticlimactic, even taking into account that this is the first part of the trilogy.
I enjoyed The Hunger Games, although it might be hard to tell from this review, but I don't know if I'm going to be reading the rest. There just doesn't seem to be enough original content here to justify the hype.