Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games #2)

Title: Catching FireBook Review - The Hunger Games Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction

First Publication: 2009

Language: English

Major Characters: Katniss Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Primrose Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, Effie Trinket, Haymitch Abernathy, Cinna, Finnick Odair, Johanna Mason, President Coriolanus Snow, Madge Undersee, Caesar Flickerman, Twill, Cashmere, Gloss, Enobaria, Beetee, Wiress, Mags, Blight, Woof, Cecilia, Chaff, Seeder, Plutarch Heavensbee, Octavia, Portia

Theme: Symbols and Interpretations; Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion; Surveillance and Manipulation; Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control

Setting: Fictional District 12, Panem; Capitol, Panem (United States)

Narrator: First person, Katniss’s perspective

 

Book Summary: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games #2)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. Katniss is about to be tested as never before.

 

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games #2)

Catching Fire starts up not far from where The Hunger Games ended. Katniss is living in the Victors Village with her family. You’d think she could finally be able to relax and live the cushy life. Well that wouldn’t make a good book. There are rumors of rebellion and since Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games in defiance they have become the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol, particularly President Snow, is not happy with them. Now Katniss has to worry about looking as in love with Peeta as possible to quiet down the rebellion, but is that what she really wants?

There are two halves to this second book of The Hunger Games Series. One with Katniss trying to prove she didn’t mean to cause any problem for the Capitol and that all she did in the arena was for love, for Peeta and not all at because she acted on anger. The second half is her trying to reverse her actions of the first half.

“I always channel my emotions into my work. That way, I don’t hurt anyone but myself.”

In Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, we really start to see Katniss’s PTSD from being in the games. One of the things The Hunger Games series does well is depicting how complex people are, including in their handling of trauma. This becomes and even bigger example of that complexity when we meet the other victors. Haymitch has his drinking, the Morphlings turn to drugs, Finnick has his swagger, Johanna is angry, and on it goes. They are all dealing with the fallout of the Games in their own ways, but you understand and feel for all of them.

The brilliant, awful thing about the Games is how they are constructed to victimize the participants over and over again. From selection to actively participating in your pre-slaughter with training and interviews and makeup and parades, to the actual murdering and dying. And if you are lucky or unlucky enough to survive, a victory tour to face down the families of all the people you killed. And after that, mentoring for the rest of your life, at the whim of the Capitol.

Suzanne Collins is very good at laying the groundwork of her The Hunger Games trilogy in each book. This is one of the best paced trilogies I’ve ever read. You would think that how things play out here, it would feel repetitive or redundant, but it doesn’t. It’s another heartbreak in a long line for Katniss and the games are just as awful and thrilling.

“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”

We really start to see Katniss’s character progress here as well. She’s such a survivor, but she also cares deeply for people. As her world opens up, as she moves out of District 12 and onto bigger stages, and meets more people, the more you see both those sides of her also develop and shine: the ultimate survivor who would also protect everyone if she could.

One of the strengths of Catching Fire is also it’s weakness: The close first person narration. It makes it incredibly readable and being in Katniss’s head is a fantastic way to process and view this world. However, this means Katniss is not always where the important things are happening, especially here and in Book 3, where she becomes a tool in larger plots.

It’s challenging to take the same format and mix it up enough to keep it exciting, but Suzanne Collins is an excellent story teller and she does a good job keeping the plot exciting. She makes you feel more invested in the tributes, more angry at the capital, and more fearful for the districts, which made the book more intense.


 

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