As someone who has never read The Hunger Games I can't really compare the two. Which I guess is a good thing considering I didn't already have it in my mind that THG would be better. I'm really not sure what I can possibly say about this book without there being a wave of spoilers, but I'm going to try.
This book is gory. If this makes you squeamish I really suggest you not pick this one up. The deaths are described in vivid detail. I mean one kid getting a hatchet to the face, pretty gruesome right? But that being said, I think there's a lot you can take away from this book. You can see what happens when a government gains too much power and can pretty much force a group of junior high kids to kill each other. You also really get to delve into the friendships behind these characters and just how much it will take to really discover who your true friends are, considering they may snap and end up taking you out when put under the pressure of the "game".
I honestly thought I would have a hard time keeping track of 42 different characters (just the students, not to mention the numerous other characters that were behind the program) but I was surprised when I could actually tell them apart. Sure I had my couple favorites, namely Shuya and Shogo, but I could appreciate the view points of every single character.
I really do think this book deserves to be read at least once. It's gruesome and horrifying yet there are the few characters who manage to retain hope in their situation. Don't let the blood and violence scare you off, once you get to the end you will be extremely glad you decided to take the chance.