Monday, May 16, 2011

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book Jacket

Sparks are igniting.  Flames are spreading.  And the Capitol wants revenge.

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 her 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.

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.


Few books make me as crazy as the Hunger Games series.  My mom bought Catching Fire when it first came out, and I made her promise to finish it before I came home for Labor Day Weekend.  I drove the seven hours home, walked into my house, said hello to my parents, and promptly locked myself in my room for the next five hours.  I only came out to run downstairs to where my mom was on the computer and shout, "THEY'RE GOING BACK!!!!" and then dash back to my room to find out what would happen next.  And at the death fake-out?  I threw myself to the side in emotional turmoil, and accidentally tipped my armchair over.  This series makes me feeeel things, and I feel them strongly.

One of the things I love about Suzanne Collins is that she never does what I expect.  I had guesses as to how Katniss would continue after winning the Hunger Games, and I had ideas as to how the Quarter Quell would reach new levels of horror (it would have involved Prim as tribute and Katniss as her mentor).  But Collins did the unthinkable, and made it awesome!

Another thing I love about Collins is that she writes realistic characters.  In stereotypical books like this, District 12 would rise to the occasion and win an against-all-odds rebellion.  Katniss would realize her role as the Mockingjay and do everything in her power to fan the flames of discontent and rebellion.  But real life?  Would look a lot like what actually plays out.  If I found out that my actions had led to a rebellion, and that if I continued to support it, my friends and family would be murdered?  Um, yeah, I would definitely try to placate the masses and please the evil overlord.  I don't know too many people willing to risk their loved one's lives the sake of the greater good.  The fact that Katniss is dragged into her role as figurehead makes me love her so much more, because now I understand her and can relate to her.

I have to admit, I did not understand the ending of Catching Fire the first time I read it.  The second time I had a bit of an "ooooh, that makes sense" moment.  This third time reading it, I understood it all so well that I saw the brilliance of Collins' hints and military planning.  What is astounding about this is that the confusion is not the result of sloppy writing.  It is because we have an unreliable narrator in Katniss Everdeen.  As readers, we see what she sees and think what she thinks.  So when she is wrong (her impressions of Finnick, for example), we believe her opinion until she realizes she's wrong.  This makes everything more dramatic and suspenseful!  And it makes rereads SO FANTASTIC.

Five out of five bread rolls from District 3.

Release Date:  September 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL COL

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Catching Fire:

Forever Young Adult
Book Smugglers

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