Review: Catching Fire
In the second installment of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen must deal with the implications of surviving a gladiator-style fight to the death. Having defied the Capitol, she must prove that her actions in the arena were an act of love, not of defiance. The fate of her friends and family, and of Panem, rest on young Katniss’ shoulders. Catching Fire is a thriller at heart, action-packed and imaginative, though bursting with a bit more emotion than the first.
Well, let’s get down the business. If you’ve not read the book or series, I suggest reading it immediately. Oh, wait, you say you’re an adult and don’t like books for teenagers? Well, imagine Lord of the Flies on high-octane crack funneled through the perspective of George Orwell- now go read it. Once I finish the third and final book (why did it take me so long to pick these up?), I’ll post another review.
Major Spoilers Ahead. Go read the book, then come back to read my thoughts. All you need to know is, read it.
Katniss: She’s stubborn and brave and practical. The perfect heroine. Except she gripes a lot. “I’m hungry.” “My family is going hungry.” “They tortured my best friend.” Really, Katniss? The way she complains makes it seem like she lives in a totalitarian, brutal society.
The Love Triangle: This is where the book fails the most. Not that the book isn’t good, but it definitely does not have good romance. This is why the love triangle does not work: Peeta and Gale are the same person. They’re both fiercely in love with Katniss, slightly jealous of each other, willing to do anything for her, handsome, have great chemistry. Sure, one”s a baker’s son and the other works in a mine. One is rebellious and one is pretty much chill. I felt that in the first book, Collins didn’t give Gale enough face time to constitute any reader devotion toward him. Fortunately, in book two, the conflict was a bit more balanced. She kept flip-flopping. The problem is, she doesn’t even like Peeta. They’re friends who make out and marry and have a fake baby. While she is secretly in love with Gale, who acts basically exactly like Peeta with a few temper tantrums. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter who she ends up with. The best we can hope for is that one dies.
The Quarter Quell: If you’ve read the book, then you know that the characters return to the Hunger Games again, but this time one that feels very vapid. Almost lackluster. Not really that much fighting involved. Instead, dangers include rabid monkeys and force fields. The book focuses very little on the games, which I’m okay with. It might have seemed a little redundant. Although the games panned out differently because these included past victors, there was not much fighting. None of that bloody awesomness from the first book. No one starved or died too horrifically. And then of course it ended abruptly.
The characters: I like Finnick, who I feel is another of Collin’s hastily formed characters. That’s what Collins achieves at, taking minor characters and making them feel very real. Even Prim, who just sort of bumbles about and milks goats. I like Haymitch as well and believe that Katniss isn’t fully appreciative of how smart he is by the end of the Games.
Ethos: This book is quieter than the first. Finally, things began to set into motion. The huge problem is that Katniss rarely does much to fix her problems. Instead, things happen to her. Like the Quarter Quell. She begins to run away, but changes her mind. Because things must force Katniss into action, the book feels slower. Which was good, because you got to know characters beyond their skills in the arena. We learn more about Haymitch. Mrs. Everdeen emerges fully formed. Even the other contenders seem realer to me. Those moments of quiet meditation, those are nearly the best of all.
Overall: The plot was not what I expected, always a good thing. The end was actually… well, I expected all of that to happen. I admit, I thought she’d kill off either Finnick or Peeta. They both survived! Peeta, however, has an uncertain future as prisoner to the capitol. The cliffhanger did not bother me as it did other people because once I put down the second book, I picked up the third. Basically, the sequel lived up to the original suspense-wise and writing-wise. Despite Katniss being so ungrateful for being saved. I would probably be pretty stoked to not be dead. Stoked.
Collins has improved as a writer since her first series The Underlander Chronicles. I enjoyed those when I was about 13 years old, but I think that anyone of any age will appreciate The Hunger Games. This tale reaches far beyond conventional genre-limits.