The upcoming movie, Hunger Games, got me kind of curious, so I got the book recently, and finished reading it yesterday.
I could see why they wanted to make a movie out of it; it should translate to the screen fairly easily. And it was well- and sparingly-written, had a very compelling plot, several interesting characters, and an interesting world.
The world is some kind of post-apocalyptic one, where the US (or maybe all of North America) broke up into regions with a capital at Panem (exact location unknown, except that it is somewhere along the western feet of the Rockies). Sometime before the book began (75-100 years prior, it seems), the thirteen Districts rose up against the Capitol, and were put down. One of the Districts was completely extinguished, in fact.
The remainder are pretty harshly ruied, with minimal food and energy, a lot of policing, and an annual droit du seignor-type ritual called The Hunger Games. Adolescents (age 12-18) are chosen from each District by lottery; one boy and one girl, and sent to compete at the Capitol. To win, all you need to do is survive. And the game environment changes every year, but it is always some kind of wilderness.
Kat, the main character, is actually in pretty decent shape for this. Although she's at a disadvantage, being a girl, she's been hunting all her life (bow-hunting, mostly, although some trapping as well) and knows a lot of wild plants, as well.
We see how she grew up (poor, in District 12, which seems to comprise Appalachia), and how her father died in a mining accident when she was young. Plus, we see how the clinical depression her mom sunk into when her father passed away left her as the family bread-winner (her sister, Prim, was much too young), and destroyed her trust in her mother.
After all that, Prim is really the only one Kat loves (she did love her father very much also, and he, thankfully, was able to teach her to hunt before his passing). So, when her sister is chosen, Kat volunteers to take her place in the Games (this, we're told, is almost unheard-of in that District, though common in a couple of the wealthier ones).
Things get more complicated when the boy chosen from their District is one that Kat doesn't really know, but feels deeply obligated to.
So the question becomes, can she live through the games?
I kind of expected the book to become about more than the Games themselves, and to a small degree it did. But not substantially, though it appears that that is what happens in the second (and third, I assume) books in the series.
It was extremely well done, and I've got the second book on order (was at the library yesterday, but there was a long waiting list to get it). The only negative thing I can say about the book is that it shied away from what would have been some pretty brutal moral decisions. But I think I'm glad that it did; while that makes for a much more interesting story, and main character, it definitely puts distance between the character and most people.
We'll see, but as I said, it should translate well, and I'm looking forward to the movie even more, now.
Update: It occurs to me that I should have been a bit more specific about Kat's duties after her father died. It wasn't like she found a job (mining, it seems, would have been her only option, if she was old enough); she had to hunt and gather so she could get food for the family. And she traded more that she'd found for the stuff she couldn't hunt. And that trading was why she wasn't arrested for her illegal hunting; some of her "customers" liked to get the extra meat she brought.