This is a good book, but it seems as if a lot of people are loving it for all the wrong reasons.
As with almost every other YA novel, as if by some unwritten law, there is a romantic sub-plot. I'll talk about that later, for now I'll focus on the main plot.
In a (somewhat)-dystopian future, North America is completely different and everybody is separated into districts. The conditions aren't too great for most of the inhabitants of the districts, but admittedly it's bearable. At one time there was 13 districts and the Capitol. The Capitol is where all the big-shot, rich people live. The 13th district was destroyed by the Capitol after they attempted to lead a rebellion. Ever since District 13 was destroyed, the Capitol holds an annual Hunger Games, where one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts are chosen at random. The chosen ones, called tributes, are then placed into a large arena where they fight each other to the death until only one is left, all while being broadcasted on live TV. The Capitol does this to remind them that they are powerful. It's somewhat childish, but kind of makes sense. It's actually almost exactly like the Roman Empire, with gladiator fights and whatnot.
So throughout the story we follow the main character, Katniss, from District 12, try and survive the Hunger Games. The premise isn't wholly original, numerous books have already dealt with the same concept. Although, to my knowledge this is the first time it's been done in a YA novel. Everything is done fairly well, the world is interesting and makes you think. Like how did North America become like this, or what happened to the rest of the world. So it leaves things open.
The book is suspenseful, well paced, and keeps you reading. The action is pretty exciting, and I liked how the book focused not only on the fighting part of the Hunger Games, but also the survival part. Some of the biggest threats are things like finding water, food, staying warm, etc. This reminded me somewhat of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
Then there is the romantic sub-plot, between Katniss and the boy that got picked from District 12, Peetar. The romance is not terrible, definitely not the worst I've seen. It was unique how their romance was, for the most part, an act so the audience would like them and sponsors would send them care packages while in the Hunger Games. So their romance tied into their survival, which was cool. You can tell that Peetar has genuine love for Katniss, but sometimes you doubt his sincerity. You can also tell that Katniss is very confused about the situation. Sometimes their love for each other feels really weird and awkward, which may be intentional since Katniss is just pretending.
One problem I had was the ending, although I admit a better way doesn't really come to mind. Throughout the novel I tolerated the romantic parts. While they were well done, I'm just really not one for romance in books. I find it tacky. What I was enjoying while reading was the actual Games themselves, the survival, and the combat. I, for the most part, gritted my teeth through the romance, although still somewhat enjoying it. This worked out well since the Hunger Games, the survival, and the combat were all part of the main plot and the romance was just a sub-plot. But the ending focused completely on the romantic side, after finishing up the other parts. It ended with Katniss (finally) realizing that Peetar's love was sincere, and Katniss (still) not being sure how she feels. This, of course, upset Peetar once he figured out that it was purely her pretending to love him the whole time. I didn't really like how the sub-plot became the main focus of the ending. I do appreciate that the ending somewhat managed to tie up the story and still leave it open, without the use of a cliffhanger. So I guess the ending wasn't too bad.
I didn't really care much for any of the characters. I didn't really like Peetar. Katniss was alright. I liked Rue. The other characters were typical. Although, my favorite character was Foxface, and she had a very small role. I appreciated the mysteriousness and slyness of her. Which is why her death somewhat disappointed me.
Also, I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, maybe being since it's a YA novel, but either way, Katniss never kills anyone in 'cold blood'. She never just kills someone just because she is in a game where you have to kill the others. A reason is always presented to 'justify' her actions, as if being in the Hunger Games isn't enough of a reason.
-Her first two kills were the two she killed by dropping a hornets nest on them from high up in a tree. She doesn't kill them directly, the hornets do, and she doesn't kill them immediately.
-Rue, who she forms an alliance with, is killed by someone else, so she doesn't have to do the inevitable of killing her herself.
-She kills the boy who killed Rue, out of angered vengeance. Even though she would of had to do the same eventually.
-They accidentally kill Foxface with poisonous berries.
-She doesn't have to kill Peetar because the Gamemakers change the rules.
-Cato is portrayed as a psychopath. And Katniss only kills him to put him out of his misery the wolves had left him in.
-All the other players die at the hands of someone else.
This is a cheap way of avoiding conflicts. I assume it was done to make Katniss look like the 'good-guy' or the hero or the innocent one. But I'd of liked it if she was just the survivor, not the good guy or bad guy, just the girl who had to do what she needed to survive. But instead the author tries to justify all of her kills, as if being a player in something as awful as the Hunger Games and protecting yourself isn't enough justification. This is somewhat of a nit-pick though.
Overall it was a good book, and much better than most of the other popular YA novels that kids go crazy over. If I was a few years younger I'd probably love it much more.