I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (historical) - First of all, I totally disagree with the categorization of this book as "Teens Ages 11-13" The main characters in the story are teens, but there are mature themes which make it more appropriate for adults. The main character, "Jacky," is a young orphan girl who must survive on the streets of London until a dear friend is killed, she takes his clothing and sets off in search of a better life disguised as a boy. Her life as a street urchin is pretty dark and depressing. Jacky gets a job as a ship's mate aboard a seagoing vessel, which is where the adventures begin, but there are still some scenes with sexual undertones which I wouldn't consider appropriate for 11-year-olds.
I also think the title is a bit misleading. Jacky gets the nickname "Bloody Jack" because she happens to kill an unworthy individual in self-defense and another in a battle with pirates, but the story is actually a touching coming-of-age story that is mixed with lots of fun and adventure. It's a light, easy listen once Jacky becomes a ship's "boy." The ending is good, but definitely leaves the door open for the rest of the series.
PERFORMANCE - Amazing! Katherine Kellgren is one of my favorite narrators. I was undecided about this series until I noticed she was the narrator. She gives every character a different voice and accent and they're all wonderful. There's even a toothless pirate, and you can literally "see" him when you hear her portrayal. (She also reads the Her Royal Spyness series.) You must hear her to believe how good she is.
OVERALL - (Actual rating 4.5 stars) This is Book 1 of the series, and you should listen to them in order. As I mentioned above, I would recommend this for high school age and above. Guys and gals would probably both enjoy the adventures of Jacky and her crew.
STORY - (young adult suspense) I'm a real chicken when it comes to violence, so I've been shying away from this book because I feared it would be a teenaged version of The Gladiator. I finally gave in to the hype and listened to it, and I'm so glad I did. The violence is very "watered down," so I was totally okay with it. This was probably the hardest book to put down that I've heard so far. Great story, great characters, great action, blah, blah, blah...
PERFORMANCE - Well done, though I agree with other reviewers who suggest that a younger-sounding voice would have been better for Katniss.
OVERALL - Hunger Games is a great 5-star listen which will keep listeners of all ages on the edge of their seats.
STORY - Almost everyone has seen the movies, read the books or heard of the Hunger Games series. This final book does not disappoint. The Capitol and President Snow are under attack and out for revenge, and Katniss has become the figurehead of the rebellion. The characters we've come to love must continue to band together and fight for what they believe in, as opposed to being in the arena. They aren't super-heros. They are young adults who are forced to grow up in lives they didn't chose for themselves, but they are smart, brave and resourceful.
The story has lots of action and violence, so there is loss and sadness. The conclusion doesn't tie everything up with a big, happy pink bow, but it's realistic, positive and very good. It's also hard to predict. With only 45 minutes left to listen, there are still major questions unanswered, so the story is suspenseful to the very end. I wanted things to turn out a little differently, but overall it's the perfect ending to a great series.
PERFORMANCE - Initially I didn't like the narrtor's voice, thinking it sounded too old for Katniss, but I've come to totally accept her and enjoyed her performance.
OVERALL - Recommended for just about everyone but, due to the violence, I wouldn't recommend for below about age 15. Great book, great series. Definitely listen to them in order, and definitely get them!