So this my review/thoughts on "The Hunger Games" trilogy.
Good story and well told. I found the characters to be flawed and believable. There are plenty of discussion points on politics, remembering history, tyranny, right and wrong, basic decency. Some of the scenarios are probably too much for the 10 y/o crowd I'd recommend it for 13+. I read through the book very fast and for a few days neglected the anklebiters too much. It is an addictive story through all three books.
The setting is a post civil war nation with a central capital region (rich) and 12 subordinate districts that are forced to send their children to compete in a deathmatch. A friend called it the Running Man meets Lord of the Flies. Pretty close.
Discussion - Spoilers from here on out.
This will be full of spoilers. I want to discuss it fully so I don't plan on shying away from any details.
I found the culture/world believable. A culture high on the power of conquest and seeking to continue to show it's dominance (and preserve it's power) would allow a Hunger Games and celebrate it. I didn't find that a stretch at all. It was depressing but believable.
The continued use of Katniss as a political pawn was not surprising. I didn't feel the story let off at all in the third book. It uncovered layers of frustration by the common people, and then how other power structures are ready to capitalize on that. I already have that feeling so I wasn't disappointed by a "turn" in the third book, I thought it was a continuation. I found it easy to draw parallels to politics today (democrat/republican seeking to label or coerce the occupy/tea party). It is all a game for the camera, and there is a thin thread that keeps the power class there.
Peeta and Gale
Suzanne Collins does well at setting up a tough love interest for Katniss. I have not read Twilight but from what I gather there is a similar triangle except Katniss isn't a whiny, brooding teenager. She's a fighter and a survivor.
I think Katniss was right to pick Peeta. At first I liked Gale but that was before the calculated cold bombs.
At one point I wondered about comparing Gale/Peeta to Cain and Able. A hunter and a maker of grain offerings. Of course Gale didn't kill Peeta. Even in this struggle their great love Katniss led them to sacrifice for each other for her sake.
The twists and turns I didn't see:
Double winners of the "The Hunger Games". I knew it would happen but did not see how.
Finnick getting killed. I liked him.
Peeta choking Katniss. I knew there were many pages left so something had to happen.
There were many human elements that make the characters have depth. Sacrifice is throughout the book. Making tough choices. The breakdown and recovery of Mrs. Everdeen was a great story element.
"Nothing is important except the fate of the soul; and literature is only redeemed from an utter triviality, surpassing that of naughts and crosses, by the fact that it describes not the world around us, or the things on the retina of the eye, or the enormous irrelevancy of encyclopedias, but some condition to which the human spirit can come" - GK Chesterton