After many suggestions and hearsay, I finally picked up a copy of this novel at the local book store. I started last night around 11 and finished it just before 3 am.
In a dictatorship made from the wreckage of what once was North American, The Capitol hosts a yearly competition called "The Hunger Games." One male and one female child between 12 and 18 is chosen from each of the 12 districts (district 13 was nuked years ago). Placed in an arena that changes landscaped every year, the 24 children must battle until only one remains. It is to remind the people of the districts that The Capitol is in control, they can make them watch their children kill each other on tv and there is nothing they can do about it.
When Katniss hears her 12 year old sister summoned for a place in the games, she volunteers to take her place as the girl from District 12, the coal mining district.
The novel sprints along at an unstoppable pace, making it a definite one sitting book. Though there are moments that fall from expectation, Suzanne Collins is not lacking in creativity when it comes to illustrating the brutality of The Games. Her creation of a bleak, futuristic world is a believable projection. The eerieness of reality tv becoming a weapon feels almost prophetic.
Her main character, Katniss is strong. She is aged beyond her years and a skilled hunter with a bow. Watching her tentative relationship with fellow competitor Peeta bloom is riveting, but sometimes frustrating as her wishy-washy interal monologues continue. Still, Katniss is a survivor. That is why she is so hesitant to trust anyone, but the moments when she is touched in spite of her armour are truly emotional.
Of course, the real battle is not just against the other competitors in The Games, but the government that forces it on the people... which is focused on in the next book Catching Fire. I just started on that this afternoon.