Friday, September 11, 2009

Catching Fire

Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. Hunger Games Trilogy. 2. New York: Scholastic Press, 2009.
[Book cover credit:]

"Even if you pull it off, they'll be back in another few months to take us all to the Games. You and Peeta, you'll be mentors now, every year from here on out. And every year they'll revisit the romance and broadcast the details of your private life, and you'll never, ever be able to do anything but live happily ever after with that boy."
p. 44
Now that they're not at war, they must pretend to be in love. After Katniss's stunt with the berries at the end of the Games, the eyes of all of Panem are on Katniss and Peeta, especially their lovesick fans in the Capitol. The show must go on or there will be consequences, as President Snow wastes no time in making clear.

It seems the non-lovesick (non-Capitol) residents of Panem have seen through Katniss's act and are ready to pull some stunts of their own.

There has been a lot of talk about the tug of war between Peeta and Gale, with Katniss in the middle. Put that way, this plot theme is very reminiscent of another recent YA hit, as EW has so astutely noticed. Unfortunately the wise writers at EW failed to notice that this triangle is not a lover's spat. Neither Gale or Peeta seem to be fighting very hard for Katniss's affection. (Peeta has the advantage of not needing to fight as everyone in Panem thinks he's already won and Gale has the advantage of looking angsty yet grown-up when displaying his righteous indignation over Katniss's new found "true love.") Katniss still feels she must choose. But is she choosing between Peeta and Gale? Or is she choosing between the one person in all of District 12 (besides drunk Haymitch, who is, delightfully as always, around a lot more in this installment) who understands what she went through in the arena and the one person who understands what she went through when her father died and she assumed the role of head of household?

This internal struggle is uber-important in beginning of the book, but it is quickly knocked out of both the limelight and Katniss's head by a BUNCH of other stuff that is too mind-blowingly spoilerish to reveal here. Ignore the lovey-dovey reviews and trust that there is another great action novel in Catching Fire that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

That said, this is a Second Book, but it happily does not suffer from Second Book Syndrome (you know, when you can really really tell that nothing important is going to happen because this second book is just a vehicle to get the reader from book 1 to book 3). It does open with a lot of "here's the fallout from everything that happened in The Hunger Games, hence the love triangle fixation. But then the plot really gets going.

The Victory Tour is a big fake love fest, but is also affords Katniss and Peeta the chance to see and be seen in every district, which makes President Snow very nervous, and he's not very nice when he's nervous.

And then, of course, there's another reaping.

And the story goes on. Catching Fire definitely takes us from The Hunger Games' pretty self-centered look at the Games with a touch of we-hate-the-Capitol-for-what-it-makes-us-do to whatever we're going to get in the third book. In the meantime, this book offers it's own excitement as well as Katniss's widening awareness of what's going on around her.

But it does leave us with a cliff-hanger, waiting for Book 3, where many loose ends (many from the last 10 pages in which most of Catching Fire is revealed to be a plot that Katniss, and therefore we readers, knew nothing about) will need to be untangled before they can even begin to be tied up.

Book 1: The Hunger Games
Book Source: I bought it.

1 comment:

Laughing Stars said...

I am looking forward to reading both the books in this series. I am bummed to hear the second one ends wih a cliffhanger, though. :-)