Review in Short: When 16-yr old Katniss takes her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games -- the annual fight-to-the-death, gladiator-style -- that the Capitol forces every district to participate in, she finds herself outmatched and in the unenviable position of placing her survival over everything else. Including loyalty, love, and even the lives of her fellow tributes, some of whom are even younger than her. This is an incredible story rife with complications, conflict, and a gut-wrenching fight for survival. 95/100 = A
Premise: 8. Teenage "tributes" in a huge arena. A fight to the death orchestrated by the government. A girl who takes her younger sister's place in the struggle for survival. As great as this premise is, I do feel like it's been done to death. PUNS FTW.
Plot: 10. I'm a bit lost in the world of action-packed dystopian stories, but I thought the plot and pacing -- especially the pacing -- of this book was incredible. From the moment Katniss steps up to take her sister's place in the Hunger games, she's closely watched by everyone in the country, and in danger both from her fellow tributes and the Capitol. The pace of this book and the twists and turns were so flawless that honestly I'm having a difficult time pointing out just why it was so great. I just know it was.
Characters: 10. I didn't love Katniss at first. She's guarded, smart, very focused, and very untrusting. But she's in a fight to the death: she has to be these things. And, by the end of the book, I loved her. I loved her confusion and her conflicting feelings and the fact that she knew everything was wrong and was powerless to stop it. And the other characters? Incredible. From Rue to Cinna to Peeta I loved them all. Seriously, seriously good job on making the characters in a very plot-driven book stand out and be multi-dimensional. Such greatness here!
Relationships: 10. Again, incredible, and I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who, like me, is late to the party with this one, but I loved the development of characters and relationships in this book. It was just short of perfect as Katniss' love and loyalty is pitted against her need for survival. The conflict here, as in the rest of the book, is palpable.
Setting: 10. Come on. The setting is the book. The poverty of District 12 contrasted with the wealth of the Capitol and then the wilderness of the arena. Suzanne Collins, I tip my hat to you.
Themes: 9. Family. Loyalty. Love. Survival. Doing what's right vs. doing what you have to. Government. People. Wealth.
Ending: 10. I have an incredibly difficult time judging endings of books that are set up for a sequel and this is no different: I'm a little conflicted. But, to be honest, the entire conclusion of this book is awesome and it makes you want to read the next book without telling you what the next book is about.
Fangirly: 10. This book is like if the world of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" was explored in depth, from the perspective of a teenage girl. It's awesome. Incredible. Gut-wrenching. And I can't wait to read CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY.
This book gets 95 out of 100 points, an A.
For anyone interested. Honestly, this is one of those novels that I feel like I can't tell you if you're going to like it. As incredible as it is, there is a lot of action, a lot of violence, a lot of death. And you have to decide if you want to read something like that.