Series: The Hunger Games #2
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia, Sci-Fi
Published: September 2009
The Blurb: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. The Capitol is very, very angry ... and wants revenge.
So… after dying to find out what would happen next to Katniss, Peeta, Gale and the others I threw myself into ‘Catching Fire’, practically starved. In some ways the book satisfied me, in other ways not even remotely. In retrospective, it was somewhat disappointing even. Which is why I kept postponing this review.
The structure of this book is almost similar to the one of the first book, where the first part is merely an introduction of sorts. At first, things develop slowly. Very slowly. Nothing seems to have changed, even when everything has. Katniss and Peeta still live their lives separately and despite Katniss’ riches, she still hunts whenever she can. Not to provide for her own family though, but for Gale’s family, since he won’t accept her money.
The strongly written characters are interesting enough. Even the new side-characters are interesting and developed sufficiently to be more than just background noise. Katniss definitely grew further in this instalment but surprised me by still being insecure (maybe even dimwitted) about so many things. Like her feelings regarding Peeta and Gale. It’s refreshing to read a book not entirely focused on romance, but on real emotions and doubts. Not the standard formula.
I love Katniss’ (self-)wits and her interactions with Peeta, for example. The humour is a welcome change in the (mostly) heavy story.
The consequences of Katniss’ actions during The Hunger Games -and the sign she gave off with those actions- dawn on Katniss. At first she’s convinced she will have to keep up the charade of the romance she and Peeta have, up until the point of marriage even. Soon she realises it’s not about her own future or happiness, it’s about the lives of everyone she loves. It’s about the entire country even. It takes a LOT of time until she realises her true worth though.
‘I am the Mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of rebellion.’
I like the artistic way Peeta deals with the events that happened, the way he tries to right his wrongs, not aware that his good deeds will backfire. I love how Katniss starts developing feelings for him once again because of his kindness. How he’s the one person whose presence helps her sleep when every single night she is haunted by nightmares. But Gale feels so right for her, according to her own thoughts and feelings. She and Gale trust each other with their lives, and I know this sounds weird: in a totally different way than Katniss and Peeta do. Born from something entirely different, not forced in any way, naturally.
Everyday life gets more gruesome in ‘Catching Fire’. Punishments had been lacking until now, starvation was the District 12 inhabitant’s greatest enemy, instead of whippings when one was caught hunting. How heart wrenching it was to read this cruel scene. But the realisation Katniss has then, is kind of worth it. Sadly this incident is only the beginning of a totally reinforced District 12 where nothing illegal is tolerated anymore, making life so much harder for everyone. Which only makes the people eager to revolt more.
Of course the question that must be playing on many people’s minds is whether or not District 13, once brutally destroyed by the government to stop its rebellion, still exists or not.
I was as shocked as Katniss herself was at the turn the story took at the announcement of the third Quarter Quell rules. Shocked at the cruel, too coincidental, concocted crime conveniently cooked up by the Capitol. I had not seen this coming at all and kept thinking maybe it wouldn’t happen. But it did. Obviously, since there is still another sequel, it was clear Katniss would survive once more, but whose lives would have to end this time?
Actually, after finding out this twist, the disappointment part kicked in. It felt less creative and original, because I had been there already. No matter how different the surroundings were this time. It felt like a break in the actual story, the actual plot. I wanted to get ON with the rest of the story and not be stuck in this part again!
Which is why this book appealed less to me than its predecessor. Also, I assume it is why I haven’t yearned to read ‘Mockingjay’ yet. I will though, soon. Don’t get me wrong. This was still a very good read, yet not quite what I had expected. I guess it’s hard to be the middle book in a trilogy.
The pace of this book is something Suzanne Collins seems to struggle with. There are pages full of information only covering hours, then months are skimmed over just as easily within mere paragraphs. Overall it was written very well again though, very vivid. I will leave you with some of my favourite quotes, powerful words in my opinion, expressing feelings with heavy mental imagery.
‘I breath in the smell of snow-dampened leather and smoke and apples, the smell of all those wintry days we shared before the Games.’
‘And I’m left staring out of the window, watching District 12 disappear, with all my goodbyes still hanging on my lips.’