Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

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Author’s website
Publication date – September 1, 2009

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull’s-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol.

Thoughts: This amazing follow-up to The Hunger Games did many things, but leaving me disappointed was certainly not one of them. Catching Fire continues the story of Katniss, winner of the last Hunger Games. But the ordeal she suffered in the arena is far from behind her. Even discounting the nightmares of killing and seeing others killed, a twist of fate that may not be so accidental lands her back in the Games for a second year running. And this time, it’s not only the people in the arena who might want her dead. President Snow is outraged that Katniss’s defiance of Game protocol has started to incite rebellion in the Districts, and he wants to see her dead as an example to others, that even the strongest can be defeated and that there is no hope of anything beyond Capitol opression.

The themes in this novel run strong and deep, and are in no way dumbed down for a young adult audience. Death, deceit, trust issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s all right here, along with a healthy dose of lying to those you love in order to try to save them, and not knowing who your allies really are. You couldn’t pay me enough to go through what Katniss does!

Katniss is an interesting sort of reluctant hero, in many ways being little more than a catalyst for larger things, a pawn in somebody else’s game. She’s manipulated in all sorts of ways while at the same time being a figurehead for resistance and independence. People are making her into what they want her to be, while she’s trying to do the exact opposite and go along with what they’re all doing.

This is also the point where I think most people split off into “teams” according to who they thing Katniss should hook up with. Peeta or Gale. Personally, I don’t have an opinion on that one, since I’d rather find out how it all turns out than spend time debating with others about how it “should” turn out. But Katniss’s interest in Gale often seems to overshadowed by Peeta’s interest in Katniss that it’s very easy to see how the pairing wars get started, or at least have major fuel added to each fire.

Katniss’s second trip into the arena ends up far more eventful than her first, in spite of spending much less time there. Where The Hunger Games was really mostly survivalist fiction, Catching Fire explores more of the political and personal elements of the situation, saving the Games for near the end of the book. A fascinating and disturbing look at a potential future, executed brilliantly by Suzanne Collins to leave both hope and a chill in your heart. Long live the Mockingjay!

(Book borrowed via Lendle.)

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