On the advice of a fellow YA writer, I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. One word--awesome.
Katniss lives in a society that is divided into districts, each defined by the products it provides. She's from District 12--a poor, coal-mining area, and she's from the low end of that. She's forced to hunt illegally to feed her family, alongside her best friend, Gale. Her father has been killed in a coal-mine explosion, her mother is emotionally cut-off, and her little sister is the light of her life.
When her sister's name is chosen for participation in a brutal, fight-to-the-death competition between districts, Katniss volunteers to take her place.
The story is full of action, suspense, and deep emotion. I could not put this book down. I was completely caught up in Katniss's character, and I felt every moment of her experiences. Suzanne Collins' writing is masterful.
There is violence, of course, but it's not overboard. No sex, no cussing. But gobs and gobs of intensity.
Awesome. Really, really. A total must-read.