Hunger Games is reminiscent of The Running Man by Stephen King (aka Richard Bachman), but the games themselves are more akin to Survivor. In a dystopian future Katniss Everdeen becomes one of 24 competitors in the Hunger Games - the annual display of power by the current rulers of Panem which used to be North America. Two children from each district between the ages of 12 and 18 are randomly selected to participate in the annual fight to the death. Since you are allowed to put your name into the lottery more than once in order to receive an annual allotment of food, the poorer folks are much more likely to be selected. In richer districts there are often volunteers, since the reward for winning the games is to be set for life, but in the poorer districts "winning" the lottery is a death sentence.
Katniss is an awesome main character. She's strong and independent. Not inclined to trust anyone, and yet extremely loyal and caring once she has placed her trust. I thought Collins did a fabulous job of making Katniss's motivations clear. Every decision she makes is based on her experience and personality. She is a very real character and very easy to empathize with even though she is so independent.
The focus of this book is the Hunger Games, and that is Katniss's focus as well since she doesn't expect to survive, but the best moment for me was when I came to the very last sentence and saw the words "end of Book One" - and understood the implication that this was only the beginning! Even if the follow-up was only going to be Katniss heading home to her district and living in a nice house with her mother and sister, I want to know what happens! She isn't a simple person, and there's no way she could just adapt to a life of relative luxury. She's a fighter and a survivor, and has just been given access to a larger world. She's about to become a player in a much bigger game, with much bigger stakes and I can't wait to find out how she's going to cope with it!
This was totally fabulous. Super quick to read, incredibly hard to put down. Definitely violent a points, but not at all in a dehumanizing way. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a teenager. In fact, I think I will go do that now :)