by Suzanne Collins
published in 2009
Fair warning: I'm going to get a little bit spoilery with this book. Not in a give-away-the-ending way, but basically discuss things that happen in the first half of the book, plus what happened in the first book. Okay? All right, then.
I've done a pretty good job in avoiding the details of Catching Fire and Mockingjay over the last couple of years, which is a bit astonishing considering the ferocity of some people's love for this trilogy. I say some people, but let's face it, I mean YA bloggers. After I read the first book earlier in the year, I was a tad underwhlemed. I enjoyed the story, but felt Catniss was given way too many outs by deus ex machina that miraculously saved her time and again. After she survived the Games, and saved her teammate Peeta in the process, I had to wonder how Suzanne Collins could possibly follow it up. I flippantly thought: Well, I guess she's just going to have to make Catniss go through the Hunger Games again and up the ante.
And that's precisely what she does. She makes Catniss enter the Hunger Games again. Like Jaws 2 was basically the first Jaws with a bigger shark, Catching Fire is the bigger shark equivalent of The Hunger Games. I just worried Suzanne Collins was setting herself up to jump that shark.
Fortunately, I thought this second book wound up being better than the first. Certainly more engaging and more willing to explore the complexities of the situation and each character's motivations.
Catniss and Peeta are heroes at home, but segregated to a degree by being moved into the swankier houses in District 13 (swanky meaning "less dingy"). They have to pretend to be in love still to fool the President and appease the population, which puts a strain on her relationship with Gale. And when she's confronted by the President, who ostensibly tells her he knows it's all a con, but it's keeping a simmering rebellion at bay, Catniss is forced into doubling down on the facade or else face retaliation from those in power. Sufficed to say her efforts are in vain, her relationships with nearly everyone she holds dear is stressed to the breaking point, and a crackdown on District 13 ensues as turmoil builds elsewhere in the colonies. In a last ditch effort by the President to both entertain and punish the masses, the annual Hunger Games are switched up a bit and former winners from each District are forced to enter the Games again.
There came a point in the book where that became plainly obvious, and an audible groan erupted from me. I was not in the mood for a rehash. Thankfully, the dynamics of the Games were entirely different, with different stakes and a political climate irrevocably changed from the previous year's events. Catniss has matured in many respects by this point, but her naivety persists in others and gets a little grating. There's a great build in tension through the book and the payoff at the end, while muddled was satisfying.
After I read The Hunger Games I was in no hurry to read the second, but I must say that I am now eager to read the final installment, Mockingjay, to see how Catniss carries on with a revolution all but setting the colonies alight. If the third can build on the momentum in the same way the second book did, then I should be in for a treat.