Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
May Contain Spoilers
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
When it comes to series books, I usually like to take a small break between volumes because I have a tendency to get bored with an author’s writing style. That is not the case with The Hunger Games trilogy. As soon as I finished the first book, I wanted to dive into the second volume. The problem was that I didn’t have it! So I ordered Catching Fire and Mockingjay from Amazon, waited to get them, and packed them away for my vacation. Well, the vacation is here, and I spent every spare moment reading Catching Fire. I stayed up late, even though I knew I had to get up early, just so I could finish it! And guess what? I immediately wanted to dive into Mockingjay. It’s a good thing I brought it, because I wasn’t going to – I didn’t want to lug around a bunch of hardcovers!
Once again, I am one of the last people on the planet to read Catching Fire. Though I thought the book started a bit slowly, it quickly ramped up to can’t-put-down territory. When I finished The Hunger Games, I honestly wondered what if a return trip to Panem would be worth reading. I mean, how can you top the events that took place in the first book? The constant fear of death, the intense character interaction, the stress and suspense of a well-written, engrossing story. What happened if the next installment just wasn’t as good? It would have ruined the reading experience of the first book. My fears were groundless and I think I might have even been more caught up in Catching Fire. I was more invested in the characters’ survival, and I had come to like them. A lot.
Without giving any of the plot away (I wouldn’t even read the synopsis before I read the book!), Catching Fire is an intense, emotional roller coaster. Katniss should be living the life of luxury – she survived the Games, she has secured a comfortable future for herself and her family, and she never has to worry about going hungry again. Then she learns that she has unleashed a growing restlessness that begins to roll rebelliously through the districts. The Capital wants her dead, but because of her sudden fame, they instead start playing a game of cat-and-mouse with her. If she can’t get convince everyone that she and Peeta are truly, deeply in love, the consequences for the people she loves will be dire. And brutal.
Suddenly, a life of security slips further and further from her grasp. I was caught up in Katniss’ sense of helplessness and hopelessness – nothing that she does can tame the beast she has unleashed. The districts are angry and the people are beginning to disobey. The Capital blames Katniss for all of the social unrest, and President Snow promises that she will pay for what she has started. She must end, and quickly, or everything that she holds dear will be destroyed. He’s just not a nice guy.
What I found so fascinating was that regardless of what actions the Capital took to quell the protests, they only made the political environment more tenuous. Katniss and Peeta unwillingly fanned the flames of discord, but the Capital’s cruelty and the brutal crackdowns do nothing to mollify the populace of the Districts. They have been brutalized and downtrodden for so long that they have just had enough. There is no hope for them, they have no expectations that life will ever get any better, so what do they have to lose by fighting back? They are forced to watch their children, the most vulnerable of their numbers, battle each other to the death. What hope could they possibly have that they could ever rise above the subjugation that they suffer? Surely a quick death from a bullet would be less painful than the drawn out suffering they are forced to endure.
Once again, it’s Katniss’ voice that captivates and holds the reader enthralled. As events unfold, she is forced to stand by and watch all of her dreams evaporate. When she tries to tow the line and follow President Snow’s demands, she only makes things worse. Her realization that, no matter what she does, the people she loves will never be safe. That’s when she finally digs in her heels and makes a stand – for herself, for Peeta, and for her family.
Despite a slow beginning, Catching Fire lives up to its name. This book burns with political intrigue and personal sacrifice. Katniss, Peeta, and all of the supporting characters are brave and willing to give up their lives for what they believe in. It is hard to not get caught up in their conflict, to not care about whether or not they will live to see the end of the book. I think I like Katniss so much because even when she knows that it’s futile to fight, she keeps on going. She doesn’t know how to give up, and I really wish I could be more like her in that regard. She doesn’t need the odds to be ever in her favor because she makes her own luck through the forcefulness of her personality.
Okay, I have to run – I have a spanking new copy of Mockingjay to read!
Review copy purchased from Amazon