I finally picked up The Hunger Games recently after being unsure if I wanted to read the books for a while. I would have started right in on Catching Fire if I had when I finished the first book.
Some of what I mention in this review could be spoilers for the first book. Proceed with caution.
Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The trilogy is set in a future when the United States no longer exists. Panem, the new country, has the Capitol and twelve districts. The Capitol is in control and will do anything to keep the districts in line. When there was an attempt at rebellion, district thirteen was obliterated and the Hunger Games were started. The Games are held once a year. Two tributes - one male and one female teenager - from each district are chosen to compete in a fight to the death that is televised. The Games are a way for the Capitol to continue to punish the districts for the attempted rebellion. During the first book, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the Games. Against the odds, she and Peeta, the boy tribute from district twelve, survive the Games.
Katniss and Peeta are back home in district twelve, but things are different. They aren’t as close as they became during the Games. Katniss’s relationship with her friend Gale is changed as well. She can’t fully leave the Games behind because she and Peeta must go on a tour of all the districts. Katniss learns that her actions during the Games have gotten some of the districts stirred up. She is supposed to settle things back down by making everyone believe that she and Peeta are hopelessly in love. The tour doesn’t stop the rumblings of rebellion and things are drastically changed in district twelve once Katniss and Peeta return. Katniss and Peeta expect to have to be mentors in the next Hunger Games. It is the 75th Games, something called the Quarter Quell, and it is announced that the tributes will be chosen from the living victors from each district. As the only female victor from district twelve, Katniss must return to the Games with either Peeta or Haymitch.
Catching Fire picks up about six months after the end of the first book. Things have changed for Katniss as a victor. She has a huge new house and she no longer has to worry about feeding her mother and sister. Others in the district also benefit since more supplies are sent. When President Snow decides that Katniss is not doing what he wants, the entire district is punished, with new security and the rations mysteriously being damaged. It is interesting to see how things have changed for Katniss and continue to change until she ends up competing again. This book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so the book doesn’t have the finished feeling the first one does. I wasn’t overly happy with that, though part of it may have been because I didn’t like one development at all.
Government control played a big part in the first book and it continues to play a big part in Catching Fire. The Capitol has ruled for years, and implemented the Hunger Games as a way to keep the districts in line after a failed rebellion attempt. When they go on the victory tour, Peeta and Katniss see just how different life is in the other districts and then have to deal with stricter enforcement once they are back home. Katniss learns that there is talk of rebellion in some of the districts, and even sees signs of it in some places. Once the other victors that are being sent back to the Games are introduced, it becomes clear that many of them aren’t happy about the development. It is interesting to learn how different the other districts are. It is said that the twists for the Quarter Quells were established back when the Games first started and kept in sealed envelopes. I have my doubts about that since this twist guarantees that Katniss will have to compete again. I think there is even more manipulation going on then is clearly shown.
Katniss spends a lot of Catching Fire feeling torn between Gale and Peeta. She and Gale first met when they were both out hunting. They gradually became friends and started working together to bring in more food for their families. By the time this book starts, Gale has started working in the mines and they don’t see each other as often. He does make it clear that he is interested in more from Katniss. For me, it really didn’t seem like Katniss loved Gale the same way he loved her. It seems more like strong friendship to me, at least as far as she is concerned. I think her confusion over her feelings for Peeta makes more sense, at least as long as Gale isn’t thrown in as well. Katniss and Peeta have a good connection and I think they balance each other out well. There isn’t that type of balance between Katniss and Gale. I don’t really like the love triangle thing in any book - it is done entirely too much - and I don’t think it was needed in this series at all. Having Katniss be confused about her growing and changing feelings for Peeta would have been enough.
Katniss remains the main character and the book is written in first person from her point of view. She isn’t perfect and she has flaws, but that helps to make her a more believable character. I did get a little annoyed with her at times, but overall I still like her. Her mother and sister aren’t featured as much and remain mostly flat. Gale is around a little more, though he didn’t seem to do a lot. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t like him that much. Peeta is a bit more assertive at times while remaining as kind as he was in the first book.
Haymitch is around a little more since it takes longer for the Games to start. More about him comes out, including things from the Games he won. He struggles with different things at times. Effie, Cinna, and the other stylists are back briefly as well, though none of them do that much. They are all upset by Katniss having to compete again. Many of the other victors are only briefly mentioned or involved. Only a few of them, which Katniss ends up spending more time with, stand out in any way. I liked Finnick the most, the victor from district four who won at only fourteen.
Catching Fire is a good second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I didn’t like one or two things, but I really enjoyed the book overall. I started in on the final book as soon as I finished it. People who liked the first book will probably like this one as well.
The Hunger Games ~ Catching Fire ~ Mockingjay ~
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