Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)

Summary

After surviving the Hunger Games, tributes Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have returned home to District 12 and are looking forward to the privileged life previous victors have enjoyed. Katniss soon learns, though, that by saving both her and Peeta’s lives in the arena, she may have threatened her own. Oh, and her mother and sister’s life as well. It seems she and Peeta have sparked something of a revolution in Panem, and President Snow isn’t happy.  In fact, he visits her and orders her to quell the rebellions on her upcoming Victory Tour.  And if she and Peeta can’t put out the sparks of revolution? President Snow has assured Katniss the consequences will be dire.

Review

While Catching Fire picks up almost exactly where the Hunger Games left off, the pace is decidedly slower.  Indeed, I found myself speeding through this book only to get on to Mockingjay. But you shouldn’t do this! The book is good in its own right, and shouldn’t be missed.

This time, Katniss and Peeta must convince all of Panem – including President Snow – that they are really in love.  But this isn’t that easy for Katniss who is struggling with her feelings for Gale.  Or rather, she is still struggling with knowing what to feel at all. At the heart of this love triangle is The age-old battle of love and forgiveness against hatred and revenge.

Peeta remains the boy we love to love. He continues to make the right decisions and is always searching to put the darkness behind him – in as much as he is able – in order to preserve himself.  We begin to see in Gale a predisposition to believe that the ends justify the means. And that, if possible, revenge is the best way. Katniss struggles between the two, knowing that Peeta is beautiful but Gale is more attractive.

As the 75th annual Hunger Games find both Peeta and Katniss in the arena and battling against the victorious tributes of the past, we see a wiser Katniss, now trying to show that she is “more than just a piece in their games” (242).  And even as we hear her tell this to Peeta, we can’t help but wonder if she is somehow becoming the piece in someone else’s game.

A final cautionary reminder: The Hunger Games Trilogy is dystopian. My opinion hasn’t changed since I reviewed The Hunger Games in that I still don’t believe the series is appropriate for the younger crowd, or even the more sensitive older children.  Those that do read it will most certainly need to discuss and process the contents of the book.

Details

  • Author: Suzanne Collins
  • Publisher: Scholastic; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Hardback: 391 pages
  • Reading Age: Ages 13 and up

What You Need to Know

  • Role Models/Authority Figures - Katniss remains a relatable character. Peeta remains good.
  • Violence - Revolutions are rising and the Peacekeepers must…keep peace. This of course, is accomplished through rather violent means: shootings, whippings, crowd “submissions”. Another Hunger Games.
  • Sexual Content - former Head Peacekeeper of District 12, Cray, lures “starving young women into his bed for money” (114), more cuddling, kissing. Finnick is described as a “ladies man” with vague details (210). Katniss kisses Peeta with more passion (352)
  • Language - None.
  • Consumerism – Panem is still the epitome of consumerism, still a statement against it.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs - Haymitch is still a drunk.
  • Religion – There is no God in Panem.
  • Other -
  • Awards – Booklist Editor’s Choice (2009), ALA Top Ten Books for Young Adults (), Kirkus Best Book (2009), Indie’s Choice Award (2010)