Catching Fire

Thursday, November 29, 2012

**I want to discuss the book, not really review it, so there are SPOILERS**

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen returns to District 12 after winning the Hunger Games with Peeta Mellark. They are quickly learning that despite their elevated status, not too much has changed. The people in the district are barely scrapping by and they never have enough food. Katniss and her friend Gale are trying to figure out their feelings for each other. During the games Katniss and Peeta used the story of a romance to try and keep themselves alive.

I first read this in 2009 and I loved it. As I re-read it this month I noticed more details and themes that resonant through the whole trilogy and it made my love of the book deepen. The reason this is my favorite of the books is because of the political plot that becomes much bigger in this installment. The first book is mainly about the games themselves and just trying to survive. In this book we learn so much more about the history of the uprising and the power the Capitol holds over all of Panem.

From the beginning when Katniss walks in on President Snow in her home, we realize that the government views her as a threat. Snow’s quiet manipulation is so disturbing. He threatens her, but in the most casual of ways and she’s knows he’s deadly serious. The games are celebrating the Quarter Quell (75 years) this year and they’ve decided all of the tributes will be drawn from the existing pool of winners. Because of this Katniss and Peeta must return to fight in the arena once more.

In this book we learn that the mockingjay pin that Katniss’ friend Madge gives her once belonged to Madge’s Aunt Maysilee who was killed in the games the same year that Haymitch won. The weight and power of the pin was so magnified once we realize the fate of its former owner. We also learn that Katniss’ mother was close friends with Maysilee and so when her daughter was called as a tribute she’d already watched one person she loved be sent off to the games, never to return.

There were a few things I’d forgotten since I first read the book. Katniss works hard to mend her relationship with her mother. After surviving the Hunger Games she realizes that sometimes grief cuts so deep that you can’t function. She’s able to forgive her mother for the depression she fell into after her father’s death. Katniss, along with the other winning tributes, struggles with PTSD after surviving the war-like conditions of the games.

There one moment where we learn that the Head Peacekeeper in the village has been paying young girls for sex. Instead of judging those girls, Katniss understands that they were doing what they could to put food on the table for their families. She knew that she would have been one of them if she’d been unable to hunt. She has such a straight-forward and realistic way of looking at the world. It’s a hard attitude to take, but the life she leads has forced her to become like this. There are only a few moments when we really see her loose control over her emotions, once when she finds out she’s returning to the games and once at the end when she learns Peeta wasn’t rescued with her.

I’d also forgotten how much Katniss dreaded the thought of marrying Peeta. It really had nothing to do with Peeta; she hated the thought of being forced into a marriage by the Capitol. She wanted the freedom to choose her own life. Her fear of marriage and having children was connected to the future she knew was in store for them. She didn’t want to watch her own children head off to the Hunger Games.

I’m so impressed with the handling of minor characters in this series. Ever person plays an important part. The former peacekeeper (Darius) who stands up for Gale when he is being whipped is later seen in the Capitol, he’s been turned into a voiceless Avox as a punishment. His presence is a clear message from President Snow to Katniss and she is heartbroken to see his fate. We meet a few new characters in this book, including Beetee, Wiress, Mags, Finnick, Johanna and Plutarch Heavensbee. Each one adds another layer to the plot and plays an important role in the story.

I always thought the prep team was one of the most interesting elements in the story. Katniss looks at them almost as pets; they are sweet but also completely oblivious to the gravity of the situation. They are products of their environment, but they are also willfully choosing to ignore the reality around them and focus only on the frivolous things. Cinna is from the same world, but he chooses to take a stand against it.

BOTTOM LINE: I love this series, but this remains my favorite book of the three. In Catching Fire we really see the birth of the revolution and the choice of a leader to step up and fight instead of running away. It’s a story about an oppressed people finding their voice and finding the courage to fight back and regain their freedom. 

Image from here


Sandy Nawrot said...

I think I liked the first one and this one pretty equally. (It is always hard to compete with the first just because it is new.) The kids and I were pretty delighted with such an exciting, thought-provoking second installment. It was the last one that we hated.

annieb said...

I just read them this year and I liked them all. I'm a big fan of series because I really get invested in the characters and for me that is what reading is all about. You have made me want to read them all again. Maybe I will when I am through with my Neil Gaiman marathon (who I also discovered through this blog). Thanks!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I just finished re-reading the final one over Thanksgivign weekend. I didn't hate it, it's just so different. I think that because it focused on the political game and heartbreak of war it lost a lot of fans.

annieb - I re-read all 3 this year and I think they realy held up on a second read. I'm so glad you're enjoying Gaiman! He's one of my favorites.

Care said...

I didn't read this review because I know I will be reading it for the What's In A Name Challenge for the Fire category. :)

Jenners said...

Gosh … there is a whole lot that you mention that I don't remember at all. perhaps I should read this again too. I still liked the first book the best though.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - That's a perfect choice!

Jenners - I had forgotten quite a bit of it!

nomadreader said...

Catching Fire was by far my favorite in this series too! I might re-read it before the film comes out:-)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

nomadreader - I started re-reading the series just to read The Hunger Games before the movie came out, but then I couldn't stop there!