It seems that any discussion regarding The Hungers Games is footnoted with a reference to Battle Royale. Beyond the theme of kids killing kids, there are enough differences to enjoy these books as very separate works. Though it should be noted that Battle Royale is an adult novel, I would not classify it as YA.
Battle Royale takes place in the dystopian state of the Republic of Greater East Asia, the citizens have been ruled by a totalitarian government for the past three generations. Throughout the novel we come to understand that communication with other nations is strictly prohibited, rock music is prohibited, the internet is a joke. The Republic is a silent, unknown terror to the remainder of the globe.
Our story opens with the students of Shiroiwa Junior High School on a bus en route to an off site "study trip." The bus comes to a stop and slowly the students are gassed. They wake in a classroom, each student sitting at a school desk with a silver collar on their necks. An instructor enters the room (with several armed guards) and explains to them that they have been chosen to participate in "the Program."
The Program began around 60 years prior to the timeline in the story. The gist is that 50 classes of third-year high school students are each taken to a small island off the coast of the once Japan, each school class is sequestered to its own island. The students fight/kill their classmates and the winner is announced on TV, given a lifetime allowance and a card signed by the Dictator.
The 42 students of Shiroiwa Junior High School are told the rules of the game. During this explanation, a young man stands up and asks a question regarding who was informed of his being here, as he is an orphan. The instructor said that he informed the head of his orphanage, a lovely young women, he also mentioned that he raped her. The student became enraged and began to move toward the instructor, he was immediately killed by the guards. It is with this cruel action, that Takami sets the pace and tone of his novel. By the end of the instruction chapter, we understand that each student is given a day pack with includes a weapon - some students have guns, some knives, some forks?? - these are completely random. Before the students are released into the wild of the island, they are given sheets of paper and told to write down the following, "we will kill each other." We also understand that there is no way out of this, the author has thought of all the loopholes and shoots them down (I can imagine him having fun while destroying the readers plans for escape). The largest escape deterrent is the silver collar that was placed on their necks, it tracks location, health stats … oh, and it blows of your head if you try to pry it off.
The main protagonist is Shuya Nanahara, a orphan whose best friend was killed in the classroom before the game officially began. The perspective continually shifts through the remainder of the students. I think this was an excellent way of conveying this story. The author is allowing us to become emotionally involved with all of the students, the good and the bad, so that when the inevitable murder occurs we are moved (and in some cases i-want-to-throw-this-book-out-the-window-outraged!). Shuya teams with Noriko Nakagawa (the girl whom is best friend was in love with), in order to try to stay safe and recruit other students who do not want to kill each other. However, Shuya soon finds out that there are students that are playing this game, and playing it well.
My favorite quote … "Laugh a lot, and at times, cry. And if you find a wonderful girl, then you go for her and love her."
I would recommend this book to … folks who are comfortable with intense violence and gore.