Catching Fire

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catchingfire.jpg

Suzanne Collins

GENRES:
Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia, Action

SUMMARY:
Katniss Everdeen has beaten all odds and won the Hunger Games, the annual survival contest put on by the elite government officials to remind the outlying districts of its power. She is supposed to now live a life of luxury with her co-winner Peeta. Her life seems to be getting even more complicated though with her continuing nightmares and her pretend romance with Peeta interfering with her other relationships.

A surprise visit from President Snow reveals that Katniss and Peeta have unwittingly planted the seeds of rebellion in many districts. Not long after, a new version of the Hunger Games is announced in which past winners must re-enter the arena to compete again for their survival. Both Katniss and Peeta are again chosen and must rely on their mentor Hamish, as well as potential allies Finnick and Johanna.

RESPONSE:
Catching Fire wastes no time in explaining the storyline of the first book and dives right into the events immediately after The Hunger Games. Katniss is still extremely stubborn, resourceful, and at times amazingly dense. She shows remarkable insight in her own emotions though (even if she's often amazingly dense regarding other people's), and the reader becomes attached to her because of this. The love triangle between her and Peeta and Gale is complicated, difficult, and unresolved, something you rarely see in teen books. In short, Collins' realistic, messy, and complicated characters and their relationships make the story powerful; while the gritty, creative, and often twisted action makes the story exciting.

This second novel is quite formulaic and follows a lot of the same plot elements of the original, including numerous makeover scenes, public appearances, and of course the Hunger Games. This isn't a bad thing, and let's be honest - the suprising designs of the games are such a huge factor in the entertainment of the first book, and Collins provides equally warped and creative ways of testing our heroine in the sequel.

But Catching Fire also really advances the plot of the overall trilogy as well. The characters, games, and even the makeover scenes, although slightly repetitive from the first novel, are more intense in Catching Fire. This serves to continuously heighten the tension, which is after all what the 2nd novel in a trilogy should do. Instead of just designing Katniss a stunning gown, her designer Cinna makes a risky political statement. Instead of gruffly mentoring Katniss, Haymitch guides her to become the unknowing beacon of social reform. Instead of silently loving Katniss, Gale endures tremendous risk and pain to protect her and her family. In Catching Fire the good guys are even more noble, the bad guys are even more unbearable, and those with unknown loyalties keep us turning the page for answers.

Collins really is a master storyteller, balancing characterisation with a page-turning cracking good story. I stayed up too late each night I read this book - just couldn't put it down!

POINT BLANK:
I can only hope that this trilogy replaces Harry Potter and Twilight as the teen series of choice. It's so much meatier, meaningful and entertaining than either - and it's equally exciting for young or older adults.