This was a really addictive and compelling book with suspense and action at every turn, the kind of book that demands your attention but doesn't actually require much thought. It's violent and horrific but it doesn't feel entirely real to me because there is hardly ever a lull in the action and everything just seems so ridiculously exaggerated. Catastrophes (and chapter-ending cliffhangers!) are thrown at the protagonist one after the other as if readers won't pay attention otherwise. Maybe this is just because the Games are broadcast on live television by the Capitol, they have to make it exciting for people to watch-- but as a book, there is little space for any sort of reflection on the part of the characters. It reads exactly like the tv shows/entertainment culture that the author seems to be making social commentary about. I am not sure if this is effective/a good thing, although I did find interesting how Katniss behaved for the cameras, knowing that everyone was watching her.
The ending was predictable early on, right down to Katniss's confused emotions about Peeta and Gale. Why is it that such a smart girl is so obtuse when it comes to a boy's feelings for her? She's described as insightful and observant, understanding immediately Foxface's personality and strategy, and intuitively knows that Rue is an ally, yet she can't see all the things Peeta has done for her and how he continually saves her? The book, along with Katniss's believability and likability as a character, suffers due to the romantic angle (even if it's one-sided). However, Katniss is overall a good main character-- she's strong and brave, a true heroine who does not wait around for others to save her. The other characters, unfortunately, are rather flat and underdeveloped, defined mostly by only one or two characteristics.
I think the best part of the book is the first 100 or so pages introducing the world Katniss lives in and unraveling exactly what the Hunger Games are about. The author is at her best here when she's describing the world she created and I'm left wanting more information about how North America becomes Panem, with its controlling Capitol and outlying districts. Unfortunately when the Games start, the book focuses solely on the action, and the "End of Book One" is rather disappointing as very little has been resolved. I suppose that is what the next two books are for, but I haven't been entirely convinced enough to feel the need to read the rest of the series.