Thursday, March 1, 2012

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

About the book

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create. 

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. 

In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before... and surprising readers at every turn.

391 pages (hardcover)
Published on: September 1, 2009
Author’s webpage


I wasn’t quite as enamored with The Hunger Games as many other people seem to be. While I found the book highly enjoyable, and the writing was wonderful, I had issues with believability that really affected the book as a whole. Catching Fire, the second book in the series, was a book I was meaning to read for quite some time but never found my way around to it, until now. I wasn’t expecting much besides some measure of enjoyment and for that it delivered. While Catching Fire was stronger than The Hunger Games, I still found myself shy of reaching the level of enjoyment that many other people seem to be finding with the series.

Before I continue, I should say that it is nearly impossible for me to write this review without spoilers, so if you haven’t read this book in the series you might want to skip reading this review. I’ll try to be vague, but it’s going to be pretty hard to accomplish that as some of my complaints hinge on specific plot points.

Catching Fire takes place several months after the events in The Hunger Games. Katniss struggles with her new role in District Twelve, and in the country as a whole. While she has gained a lot, she’s rather miserable. Winning The Hunger Games has affected her relationships with nearly everyone, which seems to make her seem rather isolated. As with the first book in the series, the overall tone of Catching Fire is incredibly dark, bordering on hopeless. Collins does a great job at setting a serious, dark tone and carrying it throughout the book. After reading the first book in the series most readers will expect the dark tone and dismal atmosphere, however, the overwhelming sense of hopelessness might seem oppressive to some.

Catching Fire has a cleaner, more ironed out feel to it than its predecessor. Events seem to be a bit more planned out and executed nicely. The writing style is descriptive, and never redundant with those descriptions. Collins really improved between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. My overall reading experience with the second book was much more enjoyable than the first. Perhaps these improvements allowed me to really absorb the story fully whereas with the first book I felt more like an observer of the events than anything else.

While there is plenty for readers to enjoy with Catching Fire, and in many ways I feel it is much stronger and more enjoyable then The Hunger Games, it was the plot that actually hindered my enjoyment of the novel the most. Once I got used to the protagonists current situation, absolutely none of the events that followed surprised me at all. I was rather disappointed that more time wasn’t spent discussing Peeta and Katniss’ journey to the capitol. It seemed odd to me that, after the president put so much stress on Katniss proving her love of Peeta, that so much of that important journey was basically breezed over. Furthermore, I found myself rolling my eyes repeatedly at the second journey through the Games.

It felt like a stretch to me that they’d be called back to the Games in the first place, and even more of a stretch regarding how the characters acted toward Katniss and Peeta during those Games. Furthermore, the Games themselves lacked the brutality and raw emotion of the Games in the first book. Once they figured out how the arena worked, I wondered what the big deal was, as they could figure out how to stay ahead of the events. There was suddenly absolutely no tension, and if anyone in their party ended up getting injured, it was their own fault for being dumb enough to go into an area of the arena they shouldn’t have been in.

The Games had a “been there, done that” feel to them. I really felt that Collins lacked some creativity by inserting them (again) into a book that could have been something completely new and different. Instead, the new and different was breezed over in favor for regurgitated events from The Hunger Games. It just didn’t work for me, and after so much promise in the first half of the book, and so many improvements; the second half really let me down.

All in all, Catching Fire was cleaner, better written and the plot seemed to flow naturally. However, this is all tempered by plot elements that just didn’t work. The second half of the book felt very tired and lacked a unique quality I was hoping to find. Some elements of the plot that could have been drawn out longer were glossed over. Thus, the natural flow of the plot was limited by awkward events that really lacked the creative umph I was expecting from Collins. I was expecting a lot, and probably because of my high expectations, I felt really let down.

3.5/5 stars

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