I'll say, this was a lot better then I expected and because of all the adoring fans of this series I expected quite a bit. Collins writing blew me away and that's really what did it for me. Never before have I been so distressed while reading, yet so determined to finish. The way the story comes together was amazing! Needless to say, I had some idea coming into this what I should expect. I'm so late to catch this bus, I was almost sure it had already left the station and been well on it's way by the time I finally started. Surprisingly however, the time I've spent on tumblr did not give away all that I thought it did. Having a general idea of the story and actually reading Collins' words were two very different things. If you've seen my status updates throughout The Hunger Games, then you've seen a girl who is both tiredly staying up all night and freaking out at almost every turn. None of that was exaggerated. This is what happens when someone who has anxiety in the real world, gets much to attached to a bunch of fictional characters. There was much freaking out to be had. I don't know what I expected on that front, knowing the subject matter, but I didn't nearly prepare myself enough for just how suspenseful/stressful the book was. Sure, there was a lot of times I knew what was going to happen next, but while reading Collins is the Gamemaker and nothing should be trusted. When it came to the romance, with all this Peeta VS Gale business, I knew that I was going to try my best to squash my inner fangirl and not pair Katniss up with either of the boys. She is an amazing heroine, with everything she does and experiences that it didn't feel fair for me to automaticly try to give her a romantic connection. No one can deny that the way Katniss is written is pure mastery. So many authors have tried and failed to create that natural balance of a strong female and a average female. Someone who is both relatable and extraordinary, both desirable and loved, and yet not quite in love. A girl who has men in her life, but also has priorities. The inability to have all these traits fully encapsulated in a female is the key reason why there are so few remarkably written female superheroes. It's just something that's not easy to do, despite the fact that it's what we all want. So when it came to the romance, I tried to approach it differently then I normally do. When there is more then one love interest, I normally like to pick my favoured love interest within the first 30 seconds of meeting him/her. However, this time I kept a level head and didn't go into fangirl mode, although there were some very close calls.I love Peeta, just as a character. Everything from his personality to his motivations interests me. What I didn't expect though, was so little Gale. I didn't really get a chance to see as much of him as I thought I would. There is a definite conflict between the boys, but it was created more though Collins inserting Gale into Katniss's thoughts every so often, sometimes rather clumsily. There was never any sort of real contention between the boys and from the passion I've seen displayed between these two shipper groups I expected more. I didn't think it would be so Peeta centric and as a result, even though I never made Peeta and Katniss my primary focus while reading, the book did all of that for me. There wasn't much of a choice in the matter. Now I'm really curious to see how this plays out for the next two books. Once everyone is on equal ground, then I think I can start to judge a romantic pairing. Right now this is just a trio of really interesting characters, of which unfortunately Gale is the least developed. There were a lot of great things that really took hold of me while I was reading, one of which most worth mention are the District 11 tributes. Coming into this I already knew Rue's fate due to all the buzzing after the movie came out, but even without that context you could tell how things were going to take place. It was heart-wrenching and the way the mockingjays play into the event only made it more sad and yet equally wonderful. I should also mention that I felt the same thing when it came to District 11's male tribute, Thresh. His involvement in the book was a pleasant surprise and although he was a character that didn't get a lot of focus his presence was a big deal for me, especially when it came to the ending.Once everything was starting to come to a close I was starting to get very twitchy. The ending was coming closer and closer and I was starting to really wonder how things would all wrap up. The Hunger Games is part of a series, so I didn't know if this would be the type of story to end in a cliffhanger. I was worried, I really didn't know if this would all end never telling me who won the games. Thankfully that doesn't happen, but the cliffhanger (which isn't really all that cliffhanger-y, but still has a certain amount of tension to it) was pretty perfect in my opinion. I'm happy to report when it comes to books two and three I barely know anything about what will happen next. (don't spoil it bitches) I just don't know how this will effect my reading experience. Part of the fun of The Hunger Games was that as I was freaking out I had the assurance that I knew where things were heading. If my anxious spirit interferes with my enjoyment while I read the next book I might find myself asking for spoilers. I just don't know how things are going to go down, but that is a possibility. Either way I will be working very hard to get my hands on the next books ASAP. I am a lot more excited about this series then I thought I would be! This book was all about expectations exceeded, under the pretence of what I knew was coming. It'll be interesting to see if the next books are as effected by my ignorance as I think they might be. I just loved this so much, hopefully the series will hold up under such remarkable pressure!