I really don’t need to tell you to read this. Most likely, you already have. I’m coming to the games a bit late, myself.

What the hell took you so long, Renner? Well, I was afraid it might be another Twilight. I recognized a similar fervor from my younger sisters centered around this series of novels and avoided it like the plaque for a bit. But then adults I knew started talking about it. The same ones who trashed Twilight (for good reason) were singing four-note praises for The Hunger Games. Still, it wasn’t until I watched the trailer for the movie, featuring Jennifer Lawrence (who I’ve been in love with since Winter’s Bone), that I finally jumped in.

The book is like butter. Smooth writing all the way through. Tight without being condescending. Epic without being self-important. There are simply no narrative mistakes. It’s a master work.

The story, itself, seems both familiar and new: in a post-apocalyptic world, children fight to the death in a televised game to win food and fame. We see the world through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen, a young woman from District 12, who volunteers to participate in the games in place of her younger sister. It’s a stark distopian tale, in the vein of Logan’s Run and The Running Man. But it’s also a love story (natch) and a commentary on our reality-TV and social networking-obsessed culture. It’s told in the present tense, which I normally hate with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns, but it works well, here, as if Katniss has invited us along for the journey and is simply narrating the action for us.

If I have one critique, it’s that too many of the deaths occur off stage. This is, after all, a violent game and by constantly averting our eyes, the thematic punch is pulled a bit. But the book is marketed toward teens, so I guess that’s forgivable.

Whatever. I loved it. And I can’t wait to finish the series!