This review originally appeared at http://bellesbookshelf.blogspot.comHellooooooo, PeeGale!That's right, I finally read The Hunger Games. I finally understand what all the hype is about. I was afraid it wouldn't live up to it - but it did! I've avoided it for so long because this kind of story is not usually my thing. Y'know, the whole dystopian future thing, where the most popular reality TV show is so, so much scarier than Jersey Shore, as the country watches children fight to the death - it just doesn't usually do it for me. Except now I think maybe it does. Or this series does, at least.What really drew me in was the characters. They're brilliantly established with a surprising amount of depth - especially Gale, who barely gets any face time in the book and yet is such a strong presense. I immediately liked the fierce Katniss, and was so happy to meet a protagonist who could put the "hero" in heroine. Collins' prose is well-paced and easy-to-read, and while a half-starved fighter like Katniss isn't exactly someone I have a lot in common with, I was completely immersed in her, feeling everything she felt. To the point where I'm firmly on the fence between Peeta and Gale. Seriously, those guys - wow, who could pick between them? Team PeeGale all the way!I have to admit, initially I was a bit suss about reading yet ANOTHER love triangle, and a couple of times I did think, "Really? The only way to survive is to get all romantic?!" But hey, I'm a sucker for romance, so I guess the citizens of the Capitol must be, too. Plus, Collins has crafted such great characters that it's a very interesting triangle, at least. The only thing I don't like is that Katniss can't choose both... or can she? Does polygamy fly in YA? Probably not - maybe I'll have to check out the fanfic to get my way. Until then, I'm launching straight in to Catching Fire. I'm addicted. It's about time, right?Spoilery Talking Points•Rue, ohmygosh, that was hard to read. •A couple of things I still don't quite get are why Peeta teamed up with the Careers to start with (the only thing I could think of was to keep them away from Katniss?!), and also what the hell was going on with those muttations. Were they just made to look like the dead contestants? Or had they actually been transformed into those wolfie creatures? Huh?•I wanted more Gale - especially at the end. I felt a bit robbed of his reunion with Katniss, and I wanted to know his reaction to everything that went down in the Games.•I felt so bad for Peeta at the end. He's done so much for Katniss and loved her for so long, without her even knowing. Poor guy!