Some time ago I started reading a manga called "Battle Royale", which had a very similar premise with "The Hunger Games". A class of 42 students goes on a field trip, but wake up on a deserted island, where they are forced to participate in a horrible reality show. The rules are simple - kill or be killed. If you refuse to fight, you get your head blown off. I didn't get much far - the drawing style put me off, but it did a good job of showing how a bunch of civilized teenagers can turn into a bunch of blood-thirsty monsters focused on survival. The series has everything - gore, blood, sex, and not the pretty kind either. Cheating, manipulating, back-stabbing - nothing was beneath them. It is, as Benzaie said, a slap in the face of Japanese society.Now, this concept is the same in "The Hunger Games", with the slight difference that it is considerably mellowed down to accomodate the younger audience (duh!). There is still a lot of killing and gore, but it's certainly not as graphic as the manga. I'm not sure if that was a disappointment or a relief - I certainly didn't like the crazy turns that manga took, and I actually grew to like some of the characters that were later killed off. I was kind of relieved, actually, that some got to retain their purity of spirit even in death.But as all good things go, something must be given away, and in this case, I think the author gave up on a lot of opportunities for character development when she chose to forgo most of the killing scenes. I guess that we couldn't see everything that happened given that the book is narrated from Katniss' point of view, but still, there is a lot of edge lost.That is not to say that the characters are one-dimensional or boring. Katniss in particular is an extremely believable heroine. Her portrayal is really spot-on, and even if she is old for her years, it is not without justification. Even if she is thrown in the Hugner Games, a tool of Panem to control its subjects by sucking children on each other, she manages to retain a piece of herself and win, even if she admits to not being very pure of heart. And let's not forget Peeta, who, if Marcus Flutie somehow loses the literary crush-a-thon, I will support until the end. Finally a male character that is good without being in my face! Also, the whole concept of Panem and the Hunger Games is really well explored and yet there are enough questions to leave us hanging.Five stars, well deserved.