Since it probably pays to have Katniss Everdeen teach you the rules of survival in a post apocalyptic world (once the Don has inevitably makes a hash of things), I read the Hunger Games series.
In a dystopian version of the US (or maybe a version of Ancient Rome), a tyrannical government picks teenagers from the twelve poorest districts and make them fight to the death as some kind of punishment for a rebellion that no-one remembers. Katniss Everdeen lives in the Seam (the 12th, and poorest district), where she supports her family by hunting and trading stuff on the blackmarket.
There’s plenty of ideas in here that Collins explores, but what makes it most appealing is how morally complex the whole thing is – Katniss has to build a version of herself for the audience that she thinks will help her survive, whether that means faking a relationship to get sponsors, or making alliances with team members that you’ll eventually have to kill. In the end, what would you do to keep yourself and your family alive?
Collins’s writing style is about as economic as it gets – there’s hardly a poetic flourish in all 450 pages – but that’s a strength here. It’s just action all the way – and it is perfectly paced to, the whole thing zips along. There are a few flaws in in this (the Hunger Games is supposed to keep the poorest districts in line? How on earth would it do that?), but you get over them quick enough, and before you know it, you’re enjoying every second.
So, nothing left except to grab a bow and arrow, right? Right?