It was long overdue, but I finally got around to reading Catching Fire, the second in the Hunger Games series. Truthfully, I was in no hurry because, though I really enjoyed the first book, I wasn’t bucking at the chance to move on to part two. Then, after some convincing on my part, my best friend bought the whole series. And read them in less than a week. Suddenly she was obsessed and a day didn’t go by where she wasn’t pushing me to read book 2. And I have to say, this is the one that has made me a fan.
Fair warning, THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS.
Catching Fire starts off about six months after the end of Hunger Games and our heroine and hero are busy parading around Panem, as is apparently tradition for victors between games. It’s during this time that Katniss realizes, after seeing the rest of the nation for the first time, how much unrest there is toward the Capitol and the Games. Unfortunately, it’s up to her to try and diffuse this possible revolution, but only because the lives of her loved ones are threatened by the powers that be. It’s only after the a “shocking revelation,” which I saw coming since the halfway point of book one, that Katniss and Peeta find themselves back inside the game arena, ready to ignite a war of change in Panem.
Now let’s cut to the chase. Did anyone NOT see their forced return to the arena coming a long way off? I mean, the moment the author reveals the concept of the Quarter Quell, an event that only happens every 25 years in the Games, my first thought was, “And THERE’S our deus ex machina.” I’m not saying this was a bad decision, I’m just saying it was completely predictable and at no point was I ever lulled into a false sense of security for the characters.
That being said, Catching Fire was so enthralling (once you get past the first 1/3 of the book) that I found myself staying up late to read it. The tone of the book is decidedly darker than the first, exposing the reader to more turmoil and violence, although it never comes off as gratuitous. Where the theme of The Hunger Games was survival, this is a book about sparking a revolution, and its timing couldn’t be more apt in this current world climate.
What I’m finding amazing about this series is how it stands to finally teach young readers (after so many years of drivel involving weak-willed girls and magical dudes with frat boy rapist mentalities) that they may possess a strength of will they never knew they had, much like Katniss, whether that strength comes in the form of taking up for one’s self against a school yard bully or finding the will to protest government corruption. It doesn’t matter, so long as they come to that realization.
Suzanne Collins does a great job of not pandering or playing down to her audience, even while keeping the language clean. And as I’m sure you all know, I love my swears, but with everything going on here I didn’t even miss them. The one thing I take issue with in Catching Fire is the age-old cliche of “Oh, I love this guy, but I may be falling for that guy. Bother, bother, bother. Whom do I choose?” I understand why it’s there, I just think this horse has been trotted around track to death. Sure, it serves as an identifying point for readers, but come on. We can do better than this, can’t we? Shoot the horse, Suzanne.
There was also something that caught my attention when we’re meeting the tributes from other districts. Finnick, the 24 year old hunky slice of sex from District 4, is mentioned as being a favorite of many “people” in the capitol. I say people, because Collins never at any point makes a reference to his many fans and lovers being strictly women. She seems very careful to use they’s and them’s when referring to him. Is this her sly way of possibly hinting that Finnick isn’t finicky about what side of the fence his bedfellows fall on? Intentional or not, I’m taking it that way. Gimme some Finnick!
Now there is one major-ish issue I have with the book, and that’s the ending; it’s too jarring. Here’s my representation of the last 2 pages: wake up, holy shit we’ve escaped, here’s how it happened, this is where we’re going. See you in book 3, bitches!
Read the thing and tell me I’m wrong.
That issue aside, I REALLY enjoyed Catching Fire and give it a higher rating (4 stars) than The Hunger Games (3). If you were like me and wasn’t convinced to immediately start book 2 after finishing 1, just do it. It is so worth the read. Now my only problem is having to wait until payday to get Mockingjay. 2 days left!