This is book one in a phenomenally popular series and is about to be released as a movie. This review is of this book alone, not of the series.
From a stylistic view, this book reminds me a lot of Matthew Reilly’s Contest. Humans being asked to “fight to the death” for the ones they love. THis book is essentially a two-parter, the set-up and the fight. Both are completely different in tone and activity level. Much has been made about the violence in this book, but like some of that listed in Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight, the violence adds a sense of realism to the story. It is not over the top, it is in context, it is indeed what you would expect to occur in those situations. It is the Young Adult novels that show this level of realism; it is adult novels that all to often pull back from describing the reality or go to ridiculous lengths to save a character. A good YA novel knows that if a character would die at this juncture of the story then the character dies.
Suzanne Collins follows this level of realism which gives us the reader that much more reason to care about the characters. We know the violence is there. We know the tyranny is there. We know the characters are not sheltered from it. We are rooting for them to win anyway. That is where this book gets five stars from me.