Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I didn’t even pause between The Hunger Games and this book 2 in the series. Hmm… I don’t guess I can do this without spoilers from book 1, but I’ll keep them general. (No spoilers for book 2.) Stop here if you want to read these books blind (which you should, if you’ve avoided them this long).

Katniss and Peeta have returned home from the Games to find what every big-time lottery winner knows: fame and fortune do not, in fact, solve everything. And they have their decidedly unclear relationship to navigate. Katniss, unsurprisingly, just opts out of that complicated task and avoids Peeta entirely; she’d like to patch things up with Gale somehow but hasn’t the first clue where to begin. Meantime, the districts are likewise grumbling and unsettled; it seems that without meaning to, Katniss stirred up some tendencies toward rebellion with the way she finished the Games. Now she’s got some bigwigs out to get her if she can’t figure out how to put things back together. As a hero, Katniss is both impressive and frustrating; she’s a badass, but not very self-aware, and she’s a typical teen in that she can’t begin to see herself as others see her, let alone boys. Her bluster and bumbling can be trying, but we love her, and we clearly have no choice but to root for her. Because, yes, the Games are back – she and Peeta end up back in a new arena with other past victors in an unprecedented all-star-game event. Strange to say, because they’re always a fight to the death, but somehow the stakes are even higher this time.

I noted, again, the importance of appearances, of playing to the camera, and therefore (especially for someone like Katniss, for whom motives and desires were already muddied by adolescence), it’s really difficult to tell what anyone really thinks or feels, to figure out their truest emotions and motivations. What is truth and what is a lie? Which of several versions is the true one? For me, the most important metaphor of these books is the idea of duplicity and deception and performance for an invisible but all-important audience. It’s quite disturbing – which is a compliment to these novels.

This installment did feel like a sequel, and in fact like the middle book in a trilogy: it relies heavily on what came before and leads directly into whatever it is that comes after. I appreciated a little bit of character development (particularly with Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta’s drunken mentor and former Games victor), and the details and complexity of the arena were cool. But this book had nothing amazing to contribute that wasn’t there in book 1; it’s really just a continuation.

That said, I do appreciate the zooming-out of focus. Where The Hunger Games centered on Katniss, her own survival, and her budding romance(s) and love triangle, Catching Fire widens the lens angle to take in the plight of all 12 districts (or are there 13?) in relation to the Capitol. Katniss has more to worry about than her boyfriends now. As we head into book 3, I’m looking forward to more of this wider world and the idea of revolution.

Rating: 7 o’clock.

One Response

  1. […] the events of Catching Fire, Katniss learns that District 12 was burned by the Capitol, and the surviving residents – […]

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