Book five in my challenge to read one book (I haven't read before) a fortnight in 2012 is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
It's no exaggeration for me to say that after reading the book I am now obsessed by The Hunger Games. Collins' story is brilliant, her characters fascinating if not always likeable, and her writing is pretty good.
The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen, tribute for District 12 as she goes to the 74th annual Hunger Games.
Held every year, the Hunger Games are a show of power by the Capitol, reminding the 12 districts that make up what was once America of the Capitol's power. Each year one boy and one girl aged between 12 and 18 are picked from each of the 12 districts to take part in the Hunger Games - a sporting and entertainment event in which the 24 participants must kill each other until the last one left alive is crowned the victor.
The Hunger Games is a book written for teenagers, but its themes of life and death make it a good read for adults.
Katniss Everdeen is a three-dimensional character, and we see her flaws - occasional selfishness, single-mindedness, cynicism - as well as her good points - loyal to friends and family, a sense of what is right. Her flaws only make us like her more.
However, Katniss is not my favourite character. That honour goes to Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District 12, who is kind and loving, but has a steely determination and a willingness to do whatever it takes to keep Katniss alive, even though she may not like it and she may not want him to.
Secondary characters are also well-formed - Cinna, Katniss' stylist who has a rebellious side; Haymitch, District 12's drunk mentor who can still be sharp as a pin; Gale, Katniss' best friend and the other romantic interest in her life; Rue, the sweet tribute from District 11.
Even the characters we only see briefly are written well by Collins. I particularly like Caesar Flickerman, the interviewer who presents the tributes to viewers every year.
The concept of the story is interesting, and Collins says she came up with it while channel surfing, flicking between reality television and scenes of war on the news. The Hunger Games themselves are a horrific idea, but fit perfectly with the new world order Collins has created, of a government so powerful it can order citizens to enjoy watching the death of its own children. It's a chilling idea, but that's what makes it so interesting.
Above everything else, The Hunger Games is just a brilliant story. It's dark (could children killing each other be anything but?) but it's a compelling tale. I really would recommend everyone go and read this, you will love it. Thank goodness there are sequels (and a film due soon), or otherwise I'd be left wanting more.