I really struggled to put this book down, and when I did I couldn't stop thinking about it. Set in a dystopia future for the USA, the Hunger Games are a way for the Capitol to keep the people under its thumb, reminding them that they are owned.
Each year at the reaping, two young people are picked at random from each district and all are forced to fight to the death... while the whole country watches on their television screens. Collins weaves romance into the plot in a way that isn't twee or mushy, but stark. She portrays the conflicting emotions and desires that come with being sixteen years old accurately, but with the added dimension of the need to murder your peers.
I am wary, now, when reading teen fiction surrounded by hype, for the commonest comment is 'but it's so badly written!' Well I was so wrapped up in this novel that I forgot to take stock of the language at all! I devoured it how a dog wolfs down his dinner without tasting it. It was entirely satisfying, without Collins spoon-feeding us every answer. The first person present tense narrative was a bold choice, but one which highlights the claustrophobia of the Games and also the immediacy of everything when you know that death could spring upon you at any moment.
In this grim update of 1984, Collins raises questions about how we get our entertainment, how relationships develop under the most extreme pressure, and how far we are willing to go to survive.