Target Audience: 13+ (according to the back cover)
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before—and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...
I guess the above description of The Hunger Games is fairly accurate. Yet for me it doesn't communicate what I understood the novel to be about. It is as if the description is written from the outside and not by a reader who has "lived" the story. First and foremost, I interpreted The Hunger Games to be a story about the power of the state and the extent to which it controls its people. Yes it does this through the repulsive concept of forcing its young people to fight to the death and then televising it. However, even before the games begin, Katniss is feeling the injustice of the society in which she lives. She rebels in order to survive and it is the willingness to do this that gives her strength against the Capitol.
Katniss is expertly characterised by Collins as a strong-willed and independent young woman. As the games progress, Katniss maintains her sense of self through helping Rue. However, it is her relationship with Peeta that prevents her losing her humanity as she confronts violent death all around her.
Overall, The Hunger Games is an extraordinary novel. It is a bleak and brutal story about survival against the odds. However, I felt no feel good factor at the end because there was a sense of inevitability that the state will need to do something drastic to demostrate its devastating powers. I'm left divided: I want to read Catching Fire to find out what happens to Katniss but I'm also afraid to...