This seems like a good time to review The Hunger Games, what with the movie destroying at the box office and all. This is a dystopian science fiction story about an annual competition in which children fight to the death. They are forced to participate in this “game” as a penance for a civil war that occurred many years earlier. The main character is one plucky teen (Katniss) who volunteers for the ordeal so that her younger sister doesn’t have to participate. There is a also a romantic subplot with a slight amount of intrigue in that she has two boys that admire her. I’m sure you can guess what happens to her in the end (hint: there are two sequels).
In terms of plot, although it doesn’t really have anything groundbreaking (the plot borrows heavily from The Long Walk and Battle Royale), it’s well paced and exciting to read through. I couldn’t put it down and stayed up fairly late to finish it. However, it doesn’t offer much apart from that. The setting and premise is completely illogical (for enjoyment it’s best not to think too much about it): for example, why would the ruling government think that slaughtering children is a good way to maintain peace? It’s also implied that the ruling government maintains its wealth and happiness at the expense of the poorer outlying districts, but the districts are described as having much smaller populations, and in any case given its advanced economy it seems unlikely that the government would really need the labor. The best that can be said about the writing is that it’s workmanlike–it doesn’t get in the way, but you won’t really ever get much joy from some particular diction or turn of phrase. It’s also unfortunate that the novel focuses so much on the violence of the hunger games themselves, rather than on the characters’ feelings about it. Only Katniss shows any kind of nontrivial thought, and yet the potentially interesting love triangle among her and her suitors is barely explored.
Overall, if you come in not expecting much more than cheap thrills, you won’t be disappointed. After I finished I felt sort of hungover, like I had just consumed some drug that, while giving me an enjoyable high, left me empty inside of any authentic stimulation. But I don’t want to understate how fun the book is to read while you are doing it. After all, it’s not possible to read intelligent literature all the time, and if you read The Hunger Games instead of watching reality TV, then that’s at least some improvement.