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. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol. Catching Fire maintains the adrenaline rush of Suzanne Collins's series launch.
** SPOILERS for ‘The Hunger Games’ **
Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the Hunger Games. . . at the expense of the Capitol. Katniss made the grave error of making the Gamemakers and the Capitol look bad – with a handful of berries she effectively ignited a district-uprising. And now the Capitol wants revenge.
Outright killing Katniss could potentially add fuel to the rebellion’s flames. So the Capitol go one step better. . . under the banner of the Hunger Games ‘Quarter Quell’ they announce that the 75th Hunger Games will include only previous reaping winners. That means Katniss and Peeta are back in the arena. . . and this time, they won’t win.
A good portion of ‘Catching Fire’ is devoted to creating big overarching bad guys for the whole series. In ‘The Hunger Games’ Katniss’s focus was on the immediate threat of her fellow tributes, as opposed to the larger threat of the Capitol. In that first book the real bad guys weren’t really seen, only heard. Because Katniss was in the reaping arena, the most interaction she and Peeta had with the Capitol villains was via the booming voice of Claudius Templesmith or Caesar Flickerman, the games interviewer.
In ‘Catching Fire’ Collins gives face and substance to the true villains of ‘Hunger Games’ – and the head-honcho baddie is President Snow, who ultimately orchestrates the reaping and ensures that the district never forget the meaning behind the massacres. President Snow is a wonderfully sinister bad-guy. His physical description is spot-on perfection – everything from the smell of roses and blood to his cosmetically-enhanced, puffy lips. He’s a bad-guy for the books, and utterly despicable.
I went into ‘Catching Fire’ unsure of what to expect. Collins left ‘The Hunger Games’ off on such an emotional cliff-hanger between Katniss and Peeta and their orchestrated, honest romance. . . but as for the plot substance of ‘Catching Fire’, I really didn’t know where Collins would go next. Well, my jaw well and truly dropped in this second book. From the ‘Quarter Quell’ to President Snow’s threats – I spent a good portion of ‘Catching Fire’ simply muttering “omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod!”
I loved reading about the fallout from Katniss and Peeta’s win – the small hints of their survivors-guilt and fractured lives in the aftermath of the reaping. I also loved reading about Katniss’s renewed vigour – like a phoenix rising from the flames (for a second time);
Life in District 12 isn’t really so different from life in the arena. At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.I also loved the romantic focus in ‘Catching Fire’. Katniss is caught between Peeta (the boy with the bread) and her best friend, Gale. Katniss and Gale have been hunting partners for years – and that’s all Katniss thought they were. But her pretend relationship with Peeta in the arena had Katniss questioning her feelings for both boys. . . and upon returning home, Katniss discovers that Gale was deeply wounded having to watch her and Peeta’s ‘romance’ play out on the small screen.
I love how deliciously complicated Collins’s romance is. It’s as edge-of-your-seat as what happens in the Games arena – and like the nuts-and-bolts plot I never knew what to expect with the love triangle. I don’t even know who I’m hoping Katniss ends up with. . . Gale or Peeta. Baker or Hunter? I just don’t know! But for what it’s worth, I loved how much more complicated Katniss and Peeta’s relationship got when they went into the arena for a second time;
“Peeta, how come I never know when you’re having a nightmare?” I say.‘The Hunger Games’ is an epic young adult trilogy. It’s such an amalgamation of brilliance – at once a complicated exploration of modern media, darn good thrill-ride complete with an intense love triangle. I am well and truly addicted.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I cry out or thrash around or anything. I just come to, paralysed with terror,” he says.
“You should wake me,” I say, thinking about how I can interrupt his sleep two or three times on a bad night. About how long it can take to calm me down.
“It’s not necessary. My nightmares are usually about losing you,” he says. “I’m OK once I realize you’re here.”
I have to admit, any regret I was feeling over not starting this series back in 2008 was quickly quenched when I read the final page of ‘Catching Fire’. . . even knowing that ‘Mockingjay’ was waiting for me on my bookshelf, I could not crack that final book open quick enough to quell the suspense that Collins leaves us with at the end of ‘Catching Fire’.