I caved to mob pressure and finally took a look at this one now, rather than wait for the movie to ruin it:
I confess I went in with low expectations. I’d seen lots of people raving about it but with very little detail. About all I knew was “teenage gladiatorial combat”, and that didn’t really thrill me. I thought perhaps this was some odd dystopian tale of the perfect society that every now and then tossed some of its children into the meat grinder for fun, perhaps a bit like The Lottery but more cruel.
Well, yes and no. I’ll put in a mini-spoiler here that is revealed quite early in the book, and that’s the fact that this is far from a perfect society, and the tossing of kids into the ring is an intentional act of cruelty by an oppressing victor over its vanquished foes. Once that became clear, these games took on an entirely different feel to me.
And then… Wow!
The protagonist is imperfect but very likeable, responsible but frail, and angry while still compassionate. Yeah, lots of contradictions wrapped up in one amazing character. I found her very compelling.
And the story kept me guessing. One of the drawbacks to writing stories is that you get a good understanding of how stories work, how they flow, the build and release of tension and all that literary crap. It also means that I don’t get surprised all that often anymore. And while our protagonist’s dilemma is presented fairly early, my guess of the resolution kept changing the further I got in. Oh, betrayal! No, it’s going to be sacrificial! No, wait, it’s something else! Where is Spartacus??
So, I say definitely check it out. It’s got action, tragedy, ingenuity, more tragedy, and some bittersweet victory. The real villains, of course, are those who run the games, and with two books to go in the Hunger Games trilogy, I have some hope that those villains will get fitted for a nice spit.