Gushy review ahead.
First off, Katniss is awesome. My favorite thing about her is that she talks like a teenage girl. The things she actually talks about aren't, she's damaged even before the book events, but she's still seventeen; she's snarky, she takes silly things to heart, easy to self-loathing, she's awkward and in the lighter moments I can see a few of my friends in her - intimidating and a force of nature, but you feel better for knowing her.
This series has a talent for making you like characters almost instantly. All the better to stab you in the heart when they're broken or killed. The main boy is Peeta, who could have easily been one of those Nice Guys, the obsessed kind who you're meant to root for but just end up being skeevy, but he's warm and sweet. The other is Gale, brave, broken and protective of his surrogate sister.
I loved that the boys never really hated each other, or fought for Kat's love. They were jealous, but that's understandable given the places they were forced into by the media and I was relieved when there was no Twilight-esque hissyfits. And speaking of, I'm still scratching my head as to where the Twilight comparisons came from, but then I just make myself smile by imagining Katniss flinging an arrow into Bella's eye.
Speaking of the media, I never got tired of that angle. The descriptions of the clothes were gorgeous, the star-crossed romance plot given a new twist by a real love forming out something originally just for show, the cosmetic surgery comments so meaninglessly chucked around and the idea that the pretty victors are used as whores both chilled me to the bone.
The morality is very dark and bleak, course it would be, but there are enough moments of sweetness or humor to make you still care.
There are flaws. There is a tendency to have a page or two where a revelation will be told through exposition. The other flaw is that it can get quite anvilly with the decadence of the Capitol. Yes, we know the Capitol is rich and the districts are poor, did you have to trigger bulimia memories to get that in?
To end, I'll say the fact that this is marketed to teenagers gains it a lot of points. It doesn't treat them like idiots, it carries the suspense of who you can trust. It doesn't shy away from any horror or grief, and I saw a lot of my own battles with PTSD in the narration. I'm grateful for that.