It was actually a last minute decision for this to be the book that I take a look at. This review was also delayed due to poor health, for which I apologise.
Title: Catching Fire
Series: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published: Scholastic, 2009
My Rating: ★★★★
Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.
Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
I’ve spoken before about how I like The Hunger Games, and wished that I loved it. It’s true that I enjoyed the series, but it never quite managed to grab me as much as it did many of my friends, and I think that some unfortunate experiences surrounding my reading of the first book will prevent me from loving the series.
But I want to.
It’s true that I no longer put much stock in that style of review that’s all “Plot holes! Look at the plot holes!!” I don’t think that it’s particularly helpful criticism. My joking rage at the first book, which unfortunately is now largely indistinguishable from my actual criticism, was largely along those lines and I chuckle at myself.
Now, my stance on The Hunger Games plot holes is pretty much: Eh. There’s more enjoyment to be found in the story than there are cracks to be found in its foundation.
This second book is something of a different story, though. And I’ll get to that.
Catching Fire follows Katniss on a tour that she and Peeta, as victors, must take around the districts. She knows that she’s in trouble for the stunt that she pulled at the end of the Games, and she’s desperately trying to prove to President Snow that she isn’t a threat.
It so happens that this year is a Quarter Quell. Every twenty-five years, there’s a twist on the Games to make them more brutal. For example, Haymitch won a Quell that took four tributes from every district.
While this is an interesting way to spice things up, I’m going to be honest and say that I found the cat and mouse game with President Snow to be far more interesting and full of tension. A return to the Games would have been fine, but normally, Katniss’s job would be to mentor the female tribute. Imagine how tense it would be if she thought Snow had a bone to pick with her … and by extension the tribute she was mentoring.
You could even make the tribute Prim, or Madge. Ramp up the soap opera angle. I’ll go for it.
Catching Fire also meant the return of the … the romance. Look, I’m all for a bit of smooching (TEAM. DORIAN.) but the sheer volume of awkward romance in The Hunger Games is like getting repeatedly punched in the face by Superman. And it’s probably at its worse in this second instalment.
Look, while I understand the whole “Oh, who do I choose?” angle, it’s excessive. Katniss has way more important things to worry about, and we as an audience do too! Do you really think in the great game of stopping the government from murdering your family, your prospective love life is a high priority?
I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite.
— Katniss Everdeen
Live your truth, girl.
Honestly, I think a romantic subplot is fine, but as Gale is absent for most of The Hunger Games, and Peeta for much of Mockingjay, it reads like Collins is trying to stuff the whole conflict in while she has time, and we don’t really want that.
But all of this aside, there is one issue about this book which must be addressed.
Oh, look. I’ve gotten to the “I’ll get to that” part of the review.
Prepare to accuse me of shouting “Plot holes!” in a crowded theatre.
Throughout the entire book, there is an undercurrent of the plan the rebels have to make Katniss the symbol of the revolution and transport her to safety. It’s why the story goes the way it does, much as it frustrates me.
The problem with the plan—which I’m not going to divulge in its entirety here—is that it basically amounts to them controlling as much as they can around Katniss. And do they tell Katniss? No, of course they don’t. And they have their reasons, sure, but it has a side effect regardless.
Pick up Katniss, plop her outside the plot, same shit happens. In this book at least, our protagonist is somewhat surplus to requirement.
And in the end, it’s up to you to decide whether your enjoyment of the story outweighs annoyance at how dumb the rebels’ plan is. In my case, it does. But I wish that it did a little more. And I wish someone would tell Katniss to stop blaming herself for shit that ain’t her fault.
Normally, I would end with an impactful quote. But I have a better one.
The idea of being strong for someone else having never entered their heads, I find myself in the position of having to console them. Since I’m the person going in to be slaughtered, this is somewhat annoying.
— Katniss Everdeen