Lucky number thirteen, eh? I received this book (and the sequel) in the mail from RJ for my birthday - I'm sending her the first four of the Percy Jackson series in reply this weekend. She told me she thought I would like these books, even though they (again) fall under the YA heading.
Suzanne Collins did not disappoint. Hunger Games is set in the future in the remnants of North America, and every year 2 children are chosen from each of the twelve districts to play in the "Hunger Games," a fight to the death orchestrated by the government and aired on television. Katniss, the protagonist, volunteers to go when her sister is chosen from the bowl. Along with Peeta, a boy she does not know very well (even though, we come to find out, he knows her well enough). But that's all the set-up, and something you could get from the flap of the book.
Collins' story sort of reminds me of Octavia Butler's stories, but for a younger audience. The main character struggles against all odds to survive in a wastelandish future, though the twelve districts are also reminiscent of an Orwellian future, with the government always watching. I found Katniss to be very relatable and realistically characterized, and there is not too much attention paid to the Capitol itself, since they do not spend very much time in the city.
The story of one girl against the world, in this case, the world is comprised of the twenty-three other competitors in the Hunger Games, the alliances and enemies she makes along the way, and her relationship with Peeta all step into the foreground at various moments in the book; Katniss remains the central character throughout, and her voice never waivers, even when she doesn't fully understand the motivations behind what she is being told to do.