Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
Finished book 2 of the Hunger Games trilogy over the holidays. I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum; but some details will come out.
<short plot summary with spoilers – so don’t read if you don’t want any idea of what happens>
So, this book takes off right after the end of the first book. Katniss and Peeta are taking their victory tours around the different districts and then return home. All throughout the districts, unrest is beginning to grow and they see Katniss as something of a touchstone or symbol for this rebellion despite the fact that she’s not trying to appear or play into these ideas. She returns home to her district and begins life in the victors village. Meanwhile, every 25 years, the Capitol unveils another Hunger games called the ‘quarter quell’. This being the 75th year since the rebellion, so it’s a quell year and quell years have special rules. This year, the combatants in the arena don’t come from tributes – but from the roster of previous victors. This means that Katniss has to come back to the arena. She does so, and the ending sees a dramatic end to the games that results in disruption of them and the survivors being yanked from them either by the capitol or the rebel forces.
I found this book an organic continuation of the previous book. Style and voice were nearly identical. So, if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one too – maybe more so. I did find that the Hunger games that occurs in this episode to be unique in its challenges and style. Very creative and imaginative – and maybe even better than the first one really. But don’t expect any differences in how it’s told or develops from a story reading or style of character point of view. It will feel just like reading the first one.
If I had any gripes at this point – it would be about Katniss character development. I had hope we’d get more answers after the first book and become more emotionally attached to her as she struggles with this adult-making decisions. Instead, I found myself becoming increasingly bored/frustrated/irritated with her at times. She waffles continually between her feelings for Peeta and Gale, between obeying the Capitol to joining the rebellion, about what she was even doing with the berries in the arena, about ….every major plot point. In the end, she doesn’t even choose/make decisive or clear decisions on most of these really important points in this book. In the ones she does choose, it feels more like a decision between what externally looks better to downright ‘flip of the coin’ type of deciding than anything else. I just wasn’t convinced by the logic behind the choices she made or believed the inner dialog as she worked it out. She questions her own motivations so much at times that it doesn’t sound like any choice is made at all. There were times that it seemed kind of obvious why she had made certain decisions – but she just wouldn’t admit them to herself. And the author didn’t either. Maybe this is what being a teenage girl is about; but it makes for some tedious reading and makes her appear to be a much less ‘likeable’ character who is making a real stand for something or growing markedly to adulthood by having to mature through them. Maybe someone could enlighten me, but maybe this is just because the book is suffering from ‘middle-trilogy book’ syndrome in which you want to keep things going, but make sure you have enough for the last book.
Overall, I’d give the book a solid C+/B- for being a good, quick read and having good arena scenes. At 9 discs, it made for about a week and a half of commute-time listening.
I’ve already started on the final book, Mockingjay – and we’ll see where that goes.