The Hunger Games — Book #2 “Catching Fire” Review

As the spring semester gears up to begin, I took the opportunity to finish up Catching Fire, the second of three books in The Hunger Games. Normally, I restrict myself to only reading The Hunger Games books between 6:30PM and 9:45PM, which prevents me from finishing an entire book in one day. But, seeing as I’m not sure how that chunk of time will be otherwise occupied with homework during my insanely busy spring semester, I figured I’d better polish off those last twenty-some pages of Catching Fire that I’d been leaving for Monday at 6:30.

So, what did I think? All the people I’ve talked to about The Hunger Games tell me one of the following things:

1. The first book was the best and the other two suck.
2. The second book was okay, but it was just a bridge into the third book so you really want to just get through it.
3. OMG THE THIRD BOOK IS THE BEST! BLARARARAGHGAHAH.

Yeah. That is, in fact, how you spell the noise that these people make.

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So, what did I think of Catching Fire?

Well, in all honesty, it was a solid book, just like the first. Nothing mind-blowing, but certainly not poor. The grammar improved, at least. 😀

And by the way, Peeta died. Owned by a forcefield, no less. Regardless of the fact that Finnick resuscitated him a few minutes later, the fact remains that his heart stopped and therefore I feel validated in my previous “98% chance of death” claim. 😉

I appreciated the deeper characterization that the competitors in the Games (or rather, the Quarter Quell) had when compared with the previous book’s competitors. Mags, Finnick, Johanna, “Nuts” and “Volts,” and even Effie Trinket (not a competitor, but crucial) were more fleshed out into round characters rather than flat ones. Sure, there were still the typical stock characters like Brutus — “Imma swing around ma sword. Please observe my rippling pectorals. Twaha.” But with a name like Brutus, did you expect anything else?

So, Catching Fire succeeds in many departments: grammar (a vast improvement), characterization, and integration of story elements (like giving each district a more prominent, distinctive, and individualized role) all hooked together with Collins’ tight method of writing. Additionally, the actual logistics of the arena, what with it being clock-like, were brilliant. Unfortunately, there are some areas that the book doesn’t do quite so hot with.

Most notably, my main issue with Catching Fire came in the form of a giant man carrying a potato. A flaming potato.

…What?

I’m sitting in my blue squishy desk chair, happily reading this book, when suddenly, a huge, stocky man carrying a flaming potato charges toward me like bull, a look of wide-eyed craziness on his face. He skids to a stop then, quarterback-style, flings the potato right at my face, shouting, “HEY HERE’S THE PLOT!”

And the potato slams into my face, leaving me wondering just where the heck it came from until about two seconds ago. Now, I have absolutely no problem believing that District 13 has always existed, and the notion that it may be a player in these books was introduced very smoothly through Twill early in the novel.

However, I feel like I’ve been lied to. You mean to tell me that everyone except Peeta and Katniss were aware this whole time that the people were plotting a rebellion? Encouraging it, even? Come on.

I don’t know, it just feels out of place. Like Collins needed to find some monumental way to unseat her readers, and this was the only thing she could come up with. Like [BLEACH SPOILER ALERT] Aizen saying that he’s been manipulating Ichigo’s life from the time he was a little kid so that he would end up in exactly this spot 15 years later? Uh huh. I see.

I completely understand Collins’ rationalization that Katniss at least couldn’t have been informed that this was going on, and I predicted as soon as the Quarter Quell was revealed that it would be stopped mid-way and all survivors would escape. I also predicted that District 13 was a player and that Katniss would bring down the forcefield around the arena, although I will admit that I made a mistake in believing that the arena was in District 13 and that Katniss was going to reveal it on global television.

I don’t know, maybe I’m meant to feel just as lied to as Katniss does. But it seems like, even though I always suspected the Gamemaker to be on her side, and I always knew the districts would revolt at some point, it just came about in the wrong way.

I guess, if I had to place what’s unsettling me, it’s that Collins tries to convey the fact that Katniss has been nothing more than a pawn in this rebellion scheme from the very beginning. But that has no effect, because we’ve always known she’s been nothing but a pawn anyway. So Collins was trying to be all dramatic by revealing something that we already knew but that we didn’t know in its specific context.

As I said, though, it’s not that I disliked the book. On the contrary, I found it quite good. I still believe that the first book is better, but I don’t believe that this book was just a “bridge” into the third. And so, with great excitement, I’m happy to say I’m looking forward to the third and final book as well, having read two well-written, well-paced Hunger Games books so far.

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