The government select two children at random as 'tributes' from each of the 12 outer districts to compete in The Hunger Games, a fight to the death in a special arena where only one winner can survive. When Katniss hears her young sisters name called, she insists on taking Prim's place. Along with Peeta, a boy she owes her life to, she will be mentored by Haymitch, the only District 12 winner in history who is now a troubled alcoholic. As the Games grow closer, Haymitch has to prepare them for killing, surviving, and for entertaining the crowd watching on TV who send gifts of food and medicine to their 'favourite' tributes.
I instantly warmed to all the characters in this book-Katniss, older than her years who has to support a young sister and sick mother, her friend Gayle, caring Peeta, sweet Rue, wily Foxface, the eccentric style team and poor old Haymitch. The build up to the Games was tense and allowed a lot of great character development so that you saw the other tributes as people, not just cannon fodder. I was already sorry that a few I liked would surely die.
There are elements from the film 'The Running Man' here as the TV audience watch people being tortured and murdered for entertainment. Only this time it is not criminals but children who are dying. Snow is very much a Killian character and you love his evilness. It is pretty scary to think of this as ever happening in the future. The way the kids have to be coached in not just survival and killing tactics, but also in public relations to try and gain an edge in the arena is pretty disgusting.
The Games themselves are gripping, tension filled and gave me a knot in my stomach as I turned each page. I really did not want to put this book down. The twist where the rules are changed to allow each district to work as a team was a good and unexpected addition to the story, and took things in a whole new direction. Even the deaths of the tributes had conflicting emotions for you. It was so sad to watch Rue die like that but so touching the way Katniss was looking after her right to the end. The death of Foxface seemed so ironic in that it was truly an accident-a great piece of writing. The fight to the death at the end was excellent. When we are left with Katniss and Peeta at the end, I loved the plan that they came up with to avoid having to kill each other.
There was nothing about this book that I didn't like and I went straight on to book 2 and 3.