Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
With every trilogy, the second book always has the tough job of continuing the story but not finishing it. Catching Fire being the second in the Hunger Games Trilogy had to keep the momentum but stop before the story can truly come to a rest. The second book picks up where The Hunger Games left off. The first book had a relatively easy job. It introduced us to the characters, the world, and had the actual Hunger Games to drive the story. In the second book, Catching Fire had to expand the story and progress beyond the Hunger Games.
I'm NOT going to try and make this spoiler free, so read at your own risk from here on out.
I have only just finished reading the book and have to return it tomorrow to the library so I’m rushing myself a bit with this review, but on the whole, I liked the story. Katniss continues to struggle with understanding people, but in the first book, she struggled with who to trust and everyone who was clearly trustworthy we could silently root for her to accept. In the second book, the rug gets pulled out from under her, and she finds herself a pawn in a new game and with no one to trust.
This time around, the events feel a bit rushed and some feel a bit too drawn out. Having not read the third in the series, I don’t know if some of the scenes and characters that I thought were a bit superfluous will pay off later. But I did begin to wonder at this world and how practical it was. It is an awful totalitarian place with cruel traditions that have no regard for human life. Instead of fully going with the story, I felt myself begin to be a little incredulous of it. My suspension of disbelief began to waiver. I began to wonder what’s the point of all of this? The Capital lives in luxury completely uncaring of the harsh, deadly conditions of the districts. It appears clear that the district inhabitants out number the capital and even if all official communication was cut between districts, it’s just hard to imagine this sort of world existing. In many ways, it seems too stylized to exist. (I mean how much money do those Games cost every year? They build special arenas every year! And all just to kill 23 kids annually? I can’t see how the psychological terrorism can justify the very real monetary cost.)
So in the second book, I began to consciously question the reality while I was reading, which is never a good thing. Katniss and Peeta get pulled into a second Hunger Games a little too easily. I know it’s supposed to be by machinations of the President, but still, did we need to go down this route again? I was still drawn in to Katniss’ struggles with her feelings and trust issues, but I also began to be too aware that she is fictional and thus I did not need to worry too much about her. I became detached.
I will of course read the third book, but I’m afraid a wariness will be present in me when I begin. I won’t fall into the text like I did with the first book. I will wonder what Collins will do to Katniss next instead of hoping Katniss can get out of her next predicament.
Lots and lots of spoilers follow…
I admit that when I began the second book, I expected to watch Katniss become a mentor to another poor tribute, and I was curious about how that would affect her. But having her put into another Hunger Games stretched my credulity a little too far. I was okay up through the part with her speaking engagements, but once President Snow drew that envelope I was like, “Really, we’re doing this again?” I know it was orchestrated by the bad guys, but it felt too orchestrated, and on a side note, why hasn’t anyone done a pregnancy test on Katniss? That seems like priority one and then leak that it’s false. Or why not leak the kissing incident with Gale? That would’ve put a nail in her and Peeta’s romance pretty quick. Events just seem to be a little heavy handed. How is killing Katniss in a new Hunger Games going to destroy her as a revolutionary symbol? Better to get her hooked on that morphling stuff and let everyone see her as a druggie. Better to keep her alive as a strung out addict than martyr her in a contrived death pool.
I’m curious where the story will go from here. I would like it to be about how Katniss is an unwilling revolutionary symbol, but since I got the plot for the second book wrong, I don’t know if that will be the case. I just really hope there isn’t yet another Hunger Games in the story.
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