The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins.
Not one book but a trilogy, but I figured there's little point reviewing them separately, and as all three only took about a week to read then I thought I'd treat them as one.
They're written for the "young adult" market, but in the same way that "Twilight" did, they've managed to become the guilty pleasure of many parents and even those who don't have a teenager's copy to "borrow"/steal.
I hadn't heard anything about them before the last quiz night when two of my more sensible friends were raving about the Hunger Games, one of these friends actually works in publishing (albeit non-fiction) and I think she had fallen hardest under their spell.
So I finished the crappy bookgroup book (which I shan't bother to review because I shall save my vitriol for my wine fuelled rant at bookgroup next week) on a Sunday morning and wanting something good to read downloaded the first of the Hunger Games. I was not disappointed.
The stories are set in the future, somewhen on earth, on what was I think once the continent of North America. Something happened and 100 or so years before, life on earth had to be reorganised, so that on this continent there is the Capitol and 13 districts which supply Capitol with everything needed for day to day life. Then 75 years ago district 13 rebelled and fought back, using their threat of nuclear power (each district has its own speciality, nuclear was 13's) Capitol levelled 13 and told the rest of the population that 13 was no more, whilst promising 13 no more reprisals as long as they kept out of the picture. In order to reinforce the message that Capitol was in power and could do as it wished, every year they host the "Hunger Games", two children (aged between 12 & 18) from each district are chosen by a lottery system to fight to the death in an arena fabricated by Capitol where they face not just each other but also the twisted imaginations of the Capitol "games masters". Only one person can leave the arena alive.
The story centres around Katniss, aged 16 and a born survivor although not necessarily a born killer. I think it is Katniss's character that makes this trilogy so readable and unputdownable. She is by no means infallible, she has huge self doubt and she gets injured like any other human does. She also questions her motives, debating internally whether she is being driven by selfish motives and she is not perfect.
Written in the first person it's clear from the outset that somehow or other Katniss will make it through whatever Capitol can throw at her (I think I've only ever read one book written in the first person where that character dies) so I'm not plot spoiling by telling you that the 1st of the trilogy deals with the 74th Hunger Games, the 2nd deals with the fallout from Katniss's success and the Quarter Quell games that she is suddenly forced to take part in, and the final book is the fight for freedom from Capitol.
After starting the first book, I was only part way in when I was struck by the thought that the books would make a great film. I expressed this to a friend who had finished all three, only to be informed that the film is due for release later this year - can't wait, although I shall have to, probably until it comes out on DVD, because unless it's a huge hit there's little chance of watching it in the original language here in Germany.
In summary, a great series, just wish there was more!