The Hunger Games
Scholastic Books. First published 2008. I read the Kindle e-book, 'borrowed' using Chitra's 'Amazon Prime' account.
I had two motivations to read this book. First, Chitra, a couple of years ago, compared it to the first of the Harry Potter books, but meant rather for late teens. Second, I saw the movie based on the book in March 2012 in Montpellier, France and liked it. So now, as I read the book, I kept comparing it to HP1, and the descriptions of the heroine to Jennifer Lawrence. The book suffered in both comparisons. One major way in which the book was different from the movie was in that the film was more serious, and aimed not just at teenagers, but at older audiences as well.
But let me stick to my reactions to the book, in so far as I can keep them uninformed by thoughts about the movie. Katniss Everdene is one of two chosen to represent her district in a gladiatorial contest, a fight to the finish, between similar reps chosen from twelve of the thirteen districts that make up North America in a dystopian future. The contest is set in a vast outdoor arena, where savage and elementary survival and combat skills are advantaged. The book is about the lead up to the gory contest, and then about what happens in the arena. There are shades of 'Lord of the Flies' here, but of course the writing is more superficial. The influence of reality TV is clearly there, perhaps deliberately so. The choice of 'thirteen districts' is an unsubtle reference to the thirteen colonies or states first established by the white man on the continent, and which united to declare independence from the British. Designating one of them as the 'capitol' district that holds the rest in an iron grip, is of course a reference to Washington DC. The novel pushes the libertarian ideal, with a mixture of the Wild West 'each man for himself' point of view, but maybe I am once again over-interpreting a book written to entertain and make money, rather than to influence and 'change the world'. But even on those terms, i.e. 'mere' entertainment, the book is too superficial to compete even with the Harry Potter books, let alone the works of Golding. The movie was better, and Jennifer makes a better Katniss, than the one in the book, even though she appears to have just more or less reprised the role she played in 'Winter's Bone'.
Chitra tells me the second and third books of the trilogy, in which, presumably, Katniss leads a revolt to overthrow the Capitol, are not as good as the first. That saves me the trouble of reading them.