In the futuristic world of The Hunger Games, the Capitol forces each district in the country to offer up one boy and one girl. And then they take these children into an arena. And then these children must kill each other until only one survives.
Let the Hunger Games begin.
(And did I mention the Games are televised? Yes, this is entertainment, folks.)
The above was pretty much the extent of my knowledge, and if that is enough to whet your interest, just stop reading this post now and start reading the books. You'll thank me later, after you curse me for your inability to do ANYTHING ELSE BUT READ THESE BOOKS.)
Oh, yes, this is a capslock-y series. Is. It. Ever. The story is told in first-person present tense by Katniss Everdeen, a badass archer who has a heart but is not very in touch with her emotions, which is probably good since she's about to have to either kill a bunch of teenagers or be killed by them. Some people don't like first-person present tense, but I love it, as it puts you right in the character's head as things are happening. You are experiencing everything with her. She doesn't know what's going to happen, so neither do you. It makes the action scenes that much more visceral and immediate, especially since Katniss is literally fighting for her goddamn life.
Collins's prose is not extraordinary, but it's easy to read and gets the job done. Where she really shines is her ability to continue raising the stakes higher when you didn't even think they could go any higher. Her cliffhangers are fucking evil, but they're not cheap: the danger they portend is real and continues into the next chapter. There are surprises at every turn, making the books nigh impossible to put down. There's practically as much HOLY SHIT and WHAT THE FUCK and SHIT JUST GOT REAL packed into these three books as into all six seasons of Lost.
There is an element of romance in the books: the inevitable love triangle. I was prepared not to care, but Collins cleverly weaves the romance into the plot such that it becomes integral without being sappy. In fact, it's pretty fucked-up, as one of her love interests is in the arena with her...which means she's going to have to kill him at some point. That tends to put a damper on a relationship. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Collins adds several fucked-up layers to the romance in this story, which made it far more interesting.
Plus, you get the social commentary about reality television and our media- and fashion-obsessed culture and the political commentary inherent in stories about oppressive dystopias. I grew to really love the Capitol, and by love I mean they are AWESOMELY TERRIBLE.
I hesitate to give any indication of what happens in Catching Fire and Mockingjay, as I had no idea whether they still took place during the Hunger Games or whether the Games were only in the first book and there was more story afterward. I will say that there is more to the series than the Hunger Games. There is the dystopia to address, after all. And one thing I love about the series is that Katniss, like Buffy, like Aang, like Harry, like so many before her, is a Chosen One, but it is because of who she is and what she does, not just a twist of fate.
I will also remind you of my comment about stakes. The books get progressively darker, more hardcore, and more grim. You may think you know what you're in for. YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW, YOU GUYS. YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW. Collins so often defies expectations, rarely taking the easy way out. This is not a "safe" narrative at all.
Finally, you should really be reading these books if only to follow Mark Reads The Hunger Games. Mark is foolishly reading one chapter at a time and posting his thoughts, and it's almost as fun reading his reactions. Also, it's funny every time he declares that SHIT JUST GOT REAL because shit gets real, like, every chapter. This one time he said he was finally prepared, and we all laughed at him. YOU WILL BE UNPREPARED.
This is it! Now is the time for you read the Hunger Games books! Ask for them for Christmas! Or buy them for someone else but read them before you give them to her, like I did! Or you can try to get them all from your library, but you may have trouble with all the holds on Mockingjay, and, believe me, you'll want to read these books one after the other. Go, buy, reserve, read! And may the odds...