It seems rather silly to add my two cents of praise to a book that's been 1) acclaimed by Stephenie Meyer and Stephen King, not to mention a whole lot of other book reviewers; 2) snatched up by Lionsgate to be made into a movie, written by its very author; and 3) sitting in the New York Times best-seller list for 48 weeks. I'll just say that if you haven't yet read Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games," then I'm kind of jealous of you. You get to discover the dark, post-apocalyptic world of Katniss Everdeen and then jump right into "Catching Fire," the second book in the trilogy, as soon as it comes out on September 1.
Just a quick primer: Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living in Panem, a country (which used to be North America) made up of 12 districts under the dictatorial rule of the very Big Brother-like Capitol. Since the death of their fathers in a mining accident, she and best friend Gale have been supporting their mothers and younger siblings by sneaking out of the electric fence that surrounds the district and hunting, trapping and gathering food to eat and trade on the black market. Since the districts' failed rebellion decades before, the Capitol has held the annual Hunger Games, a sadistic reality-TV show in which a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district is selected via lottery and sent into an arena to fight to the death (against "natural" obstacles created by the game makers and against each other). The last kid standing earns a lifetime of wealth and fame. When her little sister, Prim, is selected from the lottery, Katniss doesn't think twice before offering to go in her place.
This story has just about everything: a love triangle, a dark political intrigue, commentary on reality TV, heart-pounding action and even a bit of sci-fi/fantasy. But best of all is its badass heroine with her deadly archery skills and fierce will to survive.
If you, too, have been counting down the days until "Catching Fire" is released, you can head over to publisher Scholastic's "Hunger Games" page, where you can download a countdown clock for your own site, watch a trailer or just listen to an audio excerpt of both books read by the author. I'll have a review of the book ready for you on September 1 (and it'll be full of spoilers of book one, so read up now).
And while we wait, let's play a round of fantasy casting. Who would you want to see in the roles of Katniss, Gale and Peeta?