Saturday, February 11, 2012

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - Fueling the Flames of Rebellion

Pros: Engaging, characters you care about, a Capitol you hate
Cons: None now that all three books are out.

The Bottom Line: It's exciting, hard to put down, and contains plenty of twists with an ending that leaves you hanging like a climber without a rope.

I read The Hunger Games well over a year ago. After letting its excitement settle a little, I fully intended to read this next. Then I thought perhaps I would wait until the third and final book, Mockingjay was out before I dove in so there wouldn’t be any additional gaps. Ha. Guess it didn’t matter because I just got done finishing Catching Fire today – an additional three days after I actually decided to read it (I got distracted by Beth Revis’s A Million Suns). By the way, you’ll need to read the first book if this one is to make any sense.

Katniss has survived The Hunger Games along with her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta. Now they get to go on a Victory Tour of the other Districts. Except Katniss soon realizes that she’s started something she never intended to start. The potential for rebellion. By saving Peeta and allowing two people to survive the Games instead of one, the people of the Districts see her as a symbol of hope and defiance. Katniss just wants her friends and family safe. But it’s not so simple. Even the President of the Capitol will make her pay if she can’t help quell the sense of rebellion flowing through the Districts. But no matter what she tries to do, it seems as though she only makes things worse. And this is the year she and Peeta will have to face down the Quell – a very special and extra deadly version of The Hunger Games.

At first I thought this might be mostly a repeat of the first book, but found out that I was completely wrong. The vast majority of this book is Katniss dealing with the repercussions of her actions from the first book. Some she manages to handle, though many of them she cannot. And who could blame her? I certainly don’t. That’s a lot to thrust upon a teenage girl. No wonder her mentor Haymitch is drunk all the time. Katniss tries as hard as she can and as best she can to convince everyone – especially President Snow – that she’s just a girl in love with Peeta. She never intends to start an uprising and she certainly doesn’t know how to be the leader of one should things get to that point. She’s too busy worrying about the safety of her friends and family.

There is that thin romantic line that gets played here and there – the triangle of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, but it’s not all that prevalent. Just enough to keep us reminded of it and interested, although ultimately this isn’t Twilight (and anyone who makes that comparison is deranged to say the least). Katniss even comes right out and says that now is not the time to make such decisions. Frankly the fact that the boys are so into her making a choice is ridiculous considering the conditions everyone is living under. They’re lucky Katniss doesn’t freak out and tell them both to back off – except even then with constant monitoring by the Capitol, she wouldn’t even be able to do that. Poor girl.

I zipped through this. I had those reading moments where I’d have to get back to work and carry my book to my locker to see if I could squeeze in just a few more words. Or at night when I thought, “I’ll finish this chapter” and then end up reading three before finally going to bed.

The author, Suzanne Collins, has done an excellent job of painting a world that readers will be both intrigued with and despise. The array of characters will have you alternately cheering for some and eagerly awaiting the death of others. Her description is right on par for me – enough that I can see exactly what she wants (or what works for me) and without going so overboard so that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to imagine. There are several surprises and still other things that you’ll be surprised Katniss doesn’t pick up on (though they seem painfully obvious).

The book ends on a sharp cliffhanger with some characters missing, others gone for good, and several secrets revealed. Makes one wonder just how so much will be wrapped up in the final book. Also makes me wonder just how Collins managed to fit that wrap up in a book the same size as the first two (as you normally don’t see that. Must say, I’m impressed). I look forward to reading Mockingjay – and this time there won’t be a year-long gap.


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "Still Alive" by GLaDOS

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