Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Catching FireAs the victors in the most recent Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are feted throughout Panem – at least by the populace. But President Snow has threatened Katniss. If she does anything to disrupt the governing of the country or upsets the people, the people she loves will be hurt or killed. She must continue the charade of being in love with Peeta despite her conflicted feelings between Peeta and Gale.
Katniss and Peeta take a victory journey through all the Districts. Almost immediately they unknowingly stir up trouble, witnessing an execution they were not supposed to see. Haymitch, their mentor and trainer, has to pull them away and explain more of the politics of the Capitol. From then on they see more than they are supposed to – the unrest in the different Districts.
As the time comes closer for the Hunger Games, an announcement is made. As a 75th anniversary reminder, this year’s participants of the Games will be chosen from previous winners in each district. Since Katniss is the only female from District 12 who has won, she knows she is automatically back in the Games. She is sure the Capitol is behind this move, but there is no way to prove it. Once again, Peeta becomes the male participant, not allowing the much older Haymitch to go into that carnage. Their training starts again.
My first recommendation while reading Catching Fire is to have Mockingjay close at hand. While the story of the 25th games is finished, Katniss’ story takes a new turn at the end of the novel. Suzanne Collins’ cliffhanger leaves the reader breathless.
The pacing and tone of Catching Fire is somewhat uneven. It is slow in the beginning, enough that I put it down for a couple months before picking it up again. Collins uses that portion to examine the politics of Panem and the Capitol. President Snow (who will forever look like Donald Sutherland in my head) is malevolent. It is quickly apparent that the Capitol’s hold is pervasive, more than realized in The Hunger Games. The unrest in Panem is increasing and the Capitol is trying to quash rebellions. Snow sees Katniss as a catalyst because of her solution in The Hunger Games. The government control becomes more chilling as the book continues.
Catching Fire is a warning of what can happen when a government seizes control. Yet it is a bridge book to (probably) break that control in Mockingjay. Because of the nature of the games – 24 people go in, only one emerges alive – the book gets violent. It is toned down some for the age group – eleven and older. The twisted ideas used against the combatants in the games are horrific. At the same time, Katniss, a warrior in herself, starts to learn the value of trusted allies.
Although Catching Fire starts slow, it builds. By the end the reader is caught up in the action, wondering how the Game will resolve.
Notice: Graphic violence