So it was actually released last year, but we got it quite late in Australia, I believe, and it's only just now appearing in paperback.
I'm talking, of course, about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
When Katniss's younger sister gets chosen by ballot to represent District Twelve in the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Competing means almost certain death: twenty-four teenagers are pitted against each other and must fight to the death. There can only be one winner. It's a world where reality TV has taken a menacing turn and is used by the government to remind those who rebelled just who is in charge.
I love a good dystopian adventure, and I love a bit of romance along the way. Katniss is a strong and likeable character, and charmingly naive when it comes to boys. The build-up is very effective--the games don't start until halfway through the book, and by then the reader is thoroughly invested in Katniss. Collins doesn't pull any punches when it comes to violence. Teenagers get killed, often in highly unpleasant ways. She really knows how to set a scene. I can see this book in my head like a film.
Many of the scenes are quite harrowing even when not a lot is actually happening. Katniss standing alone waiting to be thrust into the games arena brought tears to my eyes and anger at a government that would exploit its youth in such a way.
Another book I read recently in which teenagers as a demographic are victimised was Unwind by Neal Shusterman.
Again, it was a very thought-provoking and moving (and downright horrific towards the end) book. But, maybe because I'm not a teenager and no longer feel like the whole world is against me, I found myself asking, why this age group? Why not adults in their twenties, or eleven-year-olds? The main reason is, of course, because the books are aimed at teenagers, and teenagers like to read about kids their own age. But I had hoped for a little more reason than this, from both books.
AND BEWARE! Nowhere on the cover of The Hunger Games is it mentioned that this is the first book in a series. I raced towards the end anticipating a huge pay-off, but was left high and dry by the four little words, 'End of Book One'. I was SO FRUSTRATED and wanted to smack the blurbing editor around the head with my hard copy edition.
That aside, The Hunger Games is definitely one to file under Books I Wish I Had Written. I can't wait for Catching Fire.