on July 7, 2009
If you thought the Capitol couldn't get any more twisted... you were wrong.
The highly-anticipated sequel to The Hunger Games is the kind of novel that has you pulling back to take a breath and go, "How did the author think of this?" (if you can stop turning the pages long enough to breathe)
Catching Fire picks up right where Hunger Games left off. Unrest in the Districts is growing at an alarming pace and Katniss unwittingly finds herself the figurehead for the movement against the Capitol. The characters you loved return for the sequel and the reader must endure each indignity the Capitol inflicts upon them. It is painful, tortuous, imaginative and motivating. It is everything The Hunger Games was and more. It both answers your lingering questions and creates so many new ones. It challenges you to think and creates such feelings of empathy for the characters that whenever I had to put the book down, I was genuinely worried for leaving the characters hanging and couldn't wait to pick it back up just so they could continue fighting for their lives and freedoms.
Everything I loved about The Hunger Games is present in Catching Fire: the unique and engrossing storyline; characters so thoroughly and beautifully described they start to feel like friends; a fantastical setting that is both real and sad; and language that is easy to read and yet conveys such a profound meaning. It has action, romance, horror, hope, despair and, most of all, humanity. It has sci-fi and politics yet, unlike a lot of books on the market, they are not "in your face" and are completely approachable.
Due to elements of violence and some light romantic scenes, I would recommend it for 13+. That being said, I would recommend it for ANYONE 13+ of any reading taste or background: as a bookseller and a recent library school graduate, these are the books I find easiest to recommend to anyone I meet.
I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the third and final book to come out. After reading Catching Fire, I know you will be too.
on July 9, 2009
When I read the Hunger Games, I read it straight through the night, from 1AM til 5AM. Couldn't stop reading even though I had to pee badly. After I finished it, I was dying for the sequel. DYING!!!! When I found out the ARC would be available in the spring, I bribed everyone I could think of to get me one. And yes, I got it. The day I got it, I couldn't look at it until 1AM again. This time, I promised myself, I would only look at the first chapter and then put it down. Riiiiight. It was 4:30AM when I finished reading and immediately began plotting to find out when the next book ARC would be available.
I thought the first one was fantastic. In the back of my mind I felt that the sequel just couldn't be as good. How could it? Boy was I wrong! It was even better! My heart was racing the whole time I was reading it and I simply couldn't put it down. I believe Ms. Collins is the MASTER of the pageturner. Every chapter ends with almost a cliffhanger feeling. It compels you to keep reading. It physically traps you into the book so that you just can't put it down. If you can't read this book in one sitting, then I urge you not to even look at it until you can. Like the first one, you will not be able to put it down. The house could have been on fire and I doubt I would have noticed.
Since we got to know Peeta and Katniss so well from the first one, what the sequel does is invest us even more deeply into their emotional well being. I won't give any other spoilers than what has already been said. So the book starts with Katniss as the face of the rebellion because of her act of defiance in the first book. As rebellion grows, the President sets up his revenge - and when I found out what it was, I literally sat up in bed and shouted "Oh NO! I can't believe they are doing this to them!!!" Yes I was talking to my book. That's how deeply this book sucks you into this amazing and disturbing dystopian world. It makes you want to grab up a weapon and join the rebellion.
One thing I have to say, I was deeply satisfied with the ending of this book. The first book ended in such a way that I was bothered by it and itchy for the next book. With the end of Catching Fire, I felt it was absolutely right and thrilled with the conclusion. But I'm still DYING for the third and final book of this amazing book series.
. . . is that darn book in the middle! You know how it goes - the first book is dynamite, because it's all new and there's so much to discover. The last book is explosive too, since we find out what happens "in the end." But the book in the middle . . . well, it's sort of like treading water. It's a place holder, filler maybe, a way to stall the reader until the good stuff can start.
Hunger Games was exiting and compelling; we found out about Katniss's world slowly, which drew us into it completely. My guess is, the final book will be equally engaging - after all, we'll learn all about District 13, we'll find out which of her two suitors Katniss will finally choose, and we'll get a glimpse of what lies in store for the Capitol and its totalitarian government. But Catching Fire is a disappointment. Nothing much happens. The plot can be summed up very succinctly - unrest grows slowly in the aftermath of Katniss and Peeta's Hunger Games victory. That's it. Katniss can't make her mind up about Peeta and Gale, she can't make her mind up about whether or not to rebel, and she can't make her mind up about who to really trust. In the end, not only is there no resolution, but little progress has been made toward one.
The biggest problem with Catching Fire is its pacing. The first third of the novel is really told in summary - Katniss explains what happened when she and Peeta came home, what happened on their tour of the Districts, what happened when she talked to Gale, etc. By telling it all in long paragraphs of summary, Collins removes the reader from the immediacy of the action - and it's both disappointing and disengaging. I wanted to experience Katniss's first meeting with Gale after she returned from the Games. I wanted be part of her trying to get her life together after her horrific experiences. But that's not the way this story is told. [***SPOILERS AHEAD***] Then, about midway through the novel, things start to feel very much like Hunger Games revisited. From the moment it's announced that Katniss will be thrown back into the arena it all starts to feel very much like a re-run. What was exciting and new in the first book, is expected and redundant in the second book. It's not that the final section isn't exciting - it is. There's plenty of action in the last chapters of the novel. But it just wasn't as gripping. I found myself reading to get to the end, rather than to find out what was going to happen. [***END SPOILERS***]
As with most "middle books," Catching Fire was written to set up the final part of its trilogy. There will be a rebellion. And there will be a love triangle. The sparks of the rebellion are there, although the reader is kept away from the actual embers. Collins put more time into Katniss's confusion over which boyfriend to pick - I found myself wishing for something, anything to happen to make that rather silly conflict moot. Katniss, as written by Collins, seems very, very young. It's hard to imagine her actually "torn between two lovers." Additionally, Gale plays such a peripheral role in this novel that it's hard to really know him. Peeta is present in almost every chapter - the sweet, loving, doting boyfriend who will be eternally true to Katniss. Gale, however, appears in only a few brief scenes, and never says more than a few words. Book 3 may give us a better picture of what these two young men really meant to Katniss; Catching Fire does not.
Actually, I think the title accurately reflects what this novel is all about - things in Katniss's world begin to catch fire. They don't actually CATCH fire - it just begins; it's "catching," so to speak. The conflict was set up in Hunger Games. The actual conflagration will play out in the third and final installment. Here, in Catching Fire, we just see the striking of the match. It's not a bad read, and fans of the first novel will enjoy this one. I just found myself wishing for more - more of an understanding of Katniss, Gale, and Peeta; more of an understanding of the totalitarian government they live under; and more of a connection to a story that won me over brilliantly in Hunger Games. This time, I felt a little lost.
on March 30, 2011
Where the Hunger Games was a dystopian, nail-biter replete with a good balance of wish-fulfillment, action, romance, and drama that even the Greeks would be proud of, Catching Fire rests on Hunger Games' laurels and takes a huge bite of soap to fill in the gaps.
There are chapters and chapters of Katniss tearing her hair out, asking herself the same questions over and over, flip-flopping between love interests, dressing up, all the while lamely disinterested and loathful of everything in the process. It wears thin, and after a while the anguish is infectious in the worst possible way. After pages and pages of question marks, we finally get to the action and what Katniss does best: surviving... and it's short, thin on descriptions, and, at this point, lugging around the love triangle like a dead weight.
It's almost as if towards the ending of the first book, the editors ordered up two more books so long as author Suzanne Collins inserts more Twilight into the sequels -- you know, to take a piece of that prized demographic -- and she complied, and complied, and then Katniss wanted to scream and wondered if she will ever see a question mark again?
I would be completely disappointed if it weren't for the great concept, scenes, and characters that keep me reading. Although, the strength and hunger in Katniss' character in the first book is drowned in woeful, overtheatrical nonsense in this one. Apparently those hits she took in the arena aren't enough to knock some sense in her. She is so teetering on the edge of neuroses all the time, cowering in fear and doubt, I can't help but spend my time wondering whether this mockingjay will ever fly again.
on August 30, 2009
So many of the reviews posted give SO much of the story away and I'm glad I didn't read any of them before I started the book... Mine doesn't at all, so you are safe here. :-)
In the second book of the Hunger Games triology, Collins has solidified her world and her vision. We get to know more about the characters, and a bit more about the history of Panem. Foundationally, the story sort of all came together.
I'm still blown away by the harshness in these books. Perhaps being the mother of a teen makes me a tinge sensitive to the subject matter, but somehow it doesn't detract from the story.
This book was exciting from the start, and darned near impossible to put down. I worried that there would be "more of the same" in terms of what went on in the book, but Collins's creative juices were in high gear, and there was plenty to keep the story fresh.
I found this better than book one, but that may just be because I was getting used the concept in book one. I can't wait for book three ...
Highly entertaining and not to be missed! (But for sure read The Hunger Games first)
on July 17, 2015
A fantastic sequel to the first book, The Hunger Games. For many books, the second book does not live up to the first book. For me, this one did. Now I am going to keep my points short on this. I figure most people have either read or seen the movies or at least hear about the books by this point. So getting opinions and thoughts on it are easy so I will just stick to the main points
The hardships of district 12 are nicely described without taking away from the pace and focus of the story. It really adds to the world building of the story and more depth and purpose to the series.
I love Katniss' conflicts between running and fighting and her feelings on Gale and Peeta. It is very easy to get where she is coming from. I know some people complained about her actions but once you stop and think that she is just a teenage girl it all comes nicely into perspective. She has strengths and flaws and I appreciate that. Books have enough "perfect" heroes.
The Game: Nice twists on the game arena. This concept enthralled me and really shows Suzanne Collins creative side. From how it is played to the challenges they face. I was quite impressed.
The ending comes up very fast at a point that demanded I read the third book right away. So just a warning you may want to have it ready.
on March 9, 2012
Reviewed by Suz & posted at Under The Covers Book Blog
'When Katniss and Peeta pick up the berries in The Hunger Games, they don't realize what they have started. They are the spark that has ignited a revolution. A revolution that the Capitol will go to brutal and ruthless extremes to suppress and end the way they did 75 years ago when District 13 rebelled. But Katniss didn't do this on purpose; she and her mockingjay have become unwitting figureheads in the fight against their oppression. But the Capitol has a trick up its sleeve and no one Katniss and Peeta hold dear are safe.
This book was again brilliant, I couldn't put it down once I started it I got so caught up that I stayed up late into the night reading it and came into work tired and a bit melancholy the next day. If you are looking for a feel good read this is not the book for you. However, if you are looking for a fantastic, emotional and heartrending story with characters that come off the page and remain with you, then this is definitely the book for you.
Although I didn't think this book was as good as The Hunger Games (the first in the trilogy) this book deserved all 5 feathers. It showed the characters getting growing up maturing from frightened children in the first book, to more mature young adults in this one. Just like The Hunger Games the writing sucks you in, it is first person POV through Katniss's eyes, but that just means you are closer to what's happening and get to feel all her highs and lows with her.
I think the reason I preferred The Hunger Games> was because the time she spends through the games are so intense and you are learning everything for the first time, experiencing the brutality and the injustice up close and personal. And Rue, the scene when she dies in the first book was so heartbreaking, so emotional, I still get a bit teary eyes when I think about it. But, when they have to go back into the games for the Quarter Quell, it just doesn't have that impact anymore and although there are plenty of times when this book is truly sad, nothing quite comes close to the pointless, brutal and sad murder of Rue, and Katniss's reaction.
Now the Peeta and Gale conflict, I am firmly on Team Peeta. He is just...perfect and they have been through so much together. He is kind, loving, tough, and completely devoted to Katniss, he would literally die for her, and equally she would die for him, though not for the same reasons, I am really hoping that it ends with them as a couple. Although at this point I am doubting the likelihood of any kind of conventional happy ending. I feel however, that I must put in a few words for Gale as well because I do like him, but we just don't see as much of him he is always on the periphery, so we don't actually get that much page time for him to state his case. Maybe the next book will change that, but for now I am rooting for Peeta.
So, this is a really great book in a fantastic trilogy and I can't wait to see how it ends. Anyone who hasn't read these books really needs to give them a try, I am not normally a fan of YA, but these books are so good that they seem to ascend the usual annoyances I find with the genre.
It's been about two and a half days since I picked up The Hunger Games and became completely consumed with these books. In that span, I have rabidly read both the first and the second novels and, were it possible to do so, I would already be starting on the third. I'm glad that I came into the series a bit late as I only have to wait until August to find out how the story concludes.
Catching Fire is something of a bridge and, as such, contains perhaps a bit less spark (pun intended) than the first. In all fairness, I'd rate it at 4.5 stars as I enjoyed it nearly as much as the first book, but just not quite. I have no desire to give the book away, so I'll speak in what are hopefully broad terms here when I say that I thought the biggest problem with this book is that the Capitol just gets too sadistic. Now, that's not to say that they weren't sadistic in the first, just that their extreme reaction to Katniss and Peeta's subversive victory seems designed to promote their own downfall. When insurrection is a-brewing, it's perhaps not the best time to be bringing out all of your heavy weapons. This made me lose faith in the books just a bit because it seems as though President Snow and, by extension, the Capitol are suffering a bit from stupid villainitis, which is an illness that I find particularly vexing. But maybe that's Collins's intent. At any rate, it did create some ripples in my suspension of disbelief.
However, what I do really like about this novel is that it is more reflective than the first. While the first certainly makes you think, it also had something of a lurid quality. I'm not necessarily knocking it as I think that the basic premise called for at least some degree of luridness. In fact, this in and of itself is enough to make the reader pause and think about the incomprehensible nature of brutal regimes like that of the Capitol.
But I digress a bit. While I was very, very impressed by the first novel, I did find that the violence and savagery of the games got to me after a bit. It made sense to me that the tributes would more or less break down into a very basic kill or be killed mentality, but it didn't give the reader a very big picture of the world of Panem in and of itself. This book, on the contrary, does so. There are particular passages in the book that I found very striking, such as Katniss's reaction to a stylish Capitol liqueur, her encounter with some refugees from another district, and her growing awareness that her own district perhaps enjoyed something of a lack of the sheer brutality experienced by the people in other districts. There are hints of all of these things in the first novel, but I found them to be much more fleshed out here. By contrasting the terrible things that are happening in the districts with the attitudes of the people who live in the Capitol, I felt Collins actually did a better job of showing how indifference and ignorance can be almost more offensive than outright brutality. After all, isn't this a reflection of our own world? When we're so caught up in what's happening in our own house, it's easy to ignore the atrocities right outside of our door. This book makes Panem more of a character, which I think is to the series's benefit.
As for the love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta, I'm actually pretty convinced by it. It's important to remember that Katniss has some very, very good reasons for insisting on not falling in love. As I read, I often found myself wondering why other people don't think more like her and do their best to avoid bringing children into such a horrifying world. However, as Katniss shows, sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. But what is it that her heart wants? I can pretty easily see how someone of Katniss's mentality, someone who has been through so much trauma it's a wonder she can get out of bed in the morning might have some trouble disentangling her emotions. That Gale is her friend cannot be questioned. But what, exactly, is the nature of her love for him? That Peeta has been her savior is equally unquestionable. But does she care for him so deeply because the intense trauma that they survived has engendered a sense of debt in her, or does she love him because he is so clearly a kind and noble person? These aren't easy questions to answer, and it doesn't surprise me that Katniss seems entirely incapable of answering them at this point in the series.
In the meantime, I'll need to try to find something to keep myself occupied until I can finally read the conclusion to this compelling, disturbing, and deeply layered tale. Collins has crafted a really impressive work of literature and it is one I will definitely be recommending to friends.
Hands down, the most memorable book I've read within the past few years is Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. CATCHING FIRE is the sequel, and it right away plonks you into all the things that made THE HUNGER GAMES such a terrific, terrific read. Suzanne Collins' meticulous world-building introduced us to a post-apocalyptic future in which North America has ceased to exist. Its remnants came to be called Panem, a nation comprising of twelve districts governed with an iron fist by the Capitol city. The Hunger Games is an annually held event which pits lottery-selected children (called "tributes") drawn from each district and compelled to kill each other until only one is left standing. The Hunger Games, established to commemorate the Capitol's ruthless stamping down of an uprising many years ago, is broadcast to all twelve districts with their residents forced to watch as their youths are slaughtered one by one. It's intended as punishment and as a lesson.
*** Serious SPOILERS from here on out ***
Against all odds, young Katniss Everdeen from impoverished District 12 has survived the harrowing Hunger Games and, along the way, won the hearts of the twelve Districts. As reigning champion Katniss's lot in life has improved drastically, and she no longer has to forage and illegally hunt in the woods to feed herself and her mother and little sister Prim. Months have elapsed since the Hunger Games, but Katniss, now seventeen, finds herself still having to be on guard. The Capitol, it seems, hasn't forgotten her tiny acts of rebellion. One strategy Katniss had employed was to pretend to a romance with fellow tribute Peeta, a baker's son also from District 12. This got the audience on their side and was instrumental in Katniss and Peeta's both making it thru the Hunger Games.
But, even months later, with the Capitol's eyes ever on her, Katniss and Peeta must continue to act mutually smitten - and, horrifyingly for Katniss, they may have to maintain the act for the rest of their lives. Except, for Peeta, it was never an act. I have to say, by the way, that I was pretty indifferent to Peeta in THE HUNGER GAMES, but that I warmed up to him in CATCHING FIRE. He is, after all, a pretty likeable dude, even if he's so noble it's almost unbelievable. And, for Katniss, there's the added dilemma of her childhood friend Gale barely talking to her ever since she returned home. Romantic triangle? Without a doubt. Katniss and Peeta eventually embark on the traditional Victory Tour of the Districts, and, in Katniss and Peeta's travels, you can sense the story arc Collins is building up to, the tiny cracks in the Capitol's ironclad rule. Particularly poignant and dangerous is District 11's reaction to Katniss's appearance.
In reading THE HUNGER GAMES I was very curious about Katniss's home, so it's gratifying that Collins spends some time exploring it. Things get really desperate for the destitute mining community of District 12 as the Capitol even more relentlessly exerts its influence over the districts, and again this perhaps ties into what Katniss may have unwittingly sparked in her time in the Hunger Games. I was wondering where Suzanne Collins was going to go with the sequel, although I figured it would have to involve her branching out into the bigger picture. Katniss's defiance during the Games very much did not go unnoticed and, in fact, may have fostered seeds of unrest within the oppressed people of Panem. Beneath the skin of the districts, something angry is simmering.
The Victory Tour marches along, and then it's time again for the annual Hunger Games. Except that the upcoming Hunger Games marks its 75th year, and that's all kinds of ominous. The Quarter Quell is nigh, taking place every 25 years and notorious for introducing vicious twists into the Games' rules. This time, the Capitol arrives at sort of an all-star version of the Hunger Games, bringing back all the previous survivors to compete. For the alarmed and very frightened Katniss, it's time to go back to the arena.
THE HUNGER GAMES is one of the best, most moving novels I've ever read and, in her writing the rest of the trilogy, my thought was that Suzanne Collins would've had to make a deal with the devil to match the emotional richness and impact and sheer readability of that novel. And CATCHING FIRE comes close. It's not quite as up there in packing that strong emotional punch, but Collins weaves in enough indelible moments to make this a very worthwhile sequel. Katniss continues to be an awesome character, vulnerable and sad but very capable and an absolute deadeye with the bow and arrow.
One minor quibble with her return to the Games and partnering up with other tributes is that less attention seems to be focused on Katniss (although it's Katniss telling the story in first person narrative). Also, these other tributes aren't as memorable or as wistful as the little girl Rue, the appealing District 11 tribute from the first book. I still marvel at just how moving that passage was when Katniss said her final goodbye to Rue with flowers and then saluted her with a traditional gesture from home. Katniss wasn't thinking of it, but that act smacked of being fairly subversive. No wonder the Capitol grew concerned.
As CATCHING FIRE expands its storyline, I think we're all waiting for Katniss to take on a more involved role in the coming rebellion. Although, for now, it's perhaps understandable that she's more concerned about what's going on around her on a personal scale. But, hopefully, she sheds her passiveness. As it is, she's treated more as a figurehead for the revolt. If the ending is any indication, Katniss Everdeen is about to get really involved. And the third books also looks to have Gale more in the center of things.
In terms of sheer adventure and thrills, Suzanne Collins really knows how to step it up, especially once Katniss re-enters the arena. The author comes up with some really messed up perils for the tributes, plus there's the added nuance of the contestants all being past champions. This time, Katniss isn't contending with inexperienced children.
I do have a problem with the way the book ends. There were signposts along the way, so it's not like it came out of left field, but still I feel that the plot switcheroo comes along too abruptly and feels rushed, and so there's a jarring whiplash effect.
But, above all, CATCHING FIRE is splendid stuff and a riveting read. Tautly paced, with Collins making you feel that things are about to explode on a larger scale, even as Katniss tries her best to fend for her own little corner. There are moments which are poignant and uplifting, but then these are followed promptly by moments of horror and heartbreak and sudden chilling violence, and these turnarounds leave you sort of twisting in the wind. There's no denying, though, that one quietly powerful moment when, Katniss, who had been thinking hard of taking her family and friends and skedaddling, decides to stay and tough it out. I felt like cheering when she declares: "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay right here and cause all kinds of trouble." That's the girl on fire.
on July 31, 2015
All too often, I find that sequels just don't provide a worthy follow up to the original or that sometimes the original story is just so incomplete that I hardly have any desire to move forward for fear of never receiving a satisfying conclusion. For this reason, I often stay away from sequels and even series in general, at least in terms of books. I think this is part of the reason it took me so long to pick up Suzanne Collins' CATCHING FIRE (The Hunger Games Book 2) despite having read the original and seen both of the respective movies a long while ago. The CATCHING FIRE movie adaptation was one of the few movie sequels that I ever thought to be drastically better than the previous film in every way possible. That's not to say that it made me like the first any less, just that I felt it had improved in all aspects. And so I went into this book with timid excitement, hoping I would feel the same way.
The book version of this story impressed me exactly as I hoped it would. It is an improvement on Collin's already fantastic narrative that feels fresh and more mature while also allowing readers to spend more time with her fantastic characters, world, and story.
Katniss and Peeta are back for another adventure. They've done the impossible together and now they have returned home, but things will never be the same. They are locked into a false romance where Peeta now realizes that his affections towards Katniss are only reciprocated when the pair are in front of a camera. He is made to feel even more alone than he did at the start of the games while Katniss deals with her own set of issues. Gale is now referred to as her cousin despite that being far from the truth. On one hand, this makes it easier for Katniss to be seen with him, but it also means they will never be together since it is ultimately her destiny to marry Peeta, whether her feelings for him are true or not. She and Gale come to the realization that there is something between them and Katniss realizes that Gale is another boy in her life that she has been hurting.
Then there's the fractured relationship between the Capitol and the Districts which she is also forced to acknowledge when President snow appears in her home and threatens her loved ones if she doesn't play along with what he wants. Despite her surviving the Hunger Games tournament, the "games" aren't really over at all. She's still fighting for her and Peeta's lives, but now she has the lives of her mother, Prim, Gale, Gale's family, Haymich, and probably Peeta's family to worry about. She may also very well be fighting for the lives of every District in Panem. President Snow's role is quite big here which is a nice change of pace since he remained largely unseen in the first book. Then there's Plutarch Heavensbee, the new head gamemaker who is a bit more removed, but what parts he is in are quite good. Katniss also meets up with a variety of previous victors like the flamboyantly handsome Finnick, the aggressive Joanna, the clever Beetee, and deranged Wirress. Those who have already seen the movie know what circumstances Katniss meets these other victors under, but I won't spoil that part of the story since it is far more of a surprise in the book. The only other thing that can really be said is that each of these new faces is a wonderful addition to the cast and that they all have a lot to add to the story as a whole.
The world that Katniss returns to is not the same one that she left. She's a victor now which means she gets a fancy new home in a special section of District 12 and she must be part of the victory tour where the victor of the games visits each district and honors the fallen tributes before attending a lavish dinner party. It also means she will have to become a mentor to the future tributes of District 12. At least those are all of the things that would happen to a typical victor.
This year is different, this year there are two victors because of Katniss's defiance to the Capitol. Her refusal to play by their rules means that she has Peeta to go through all of this with, but it has also sets into motion events beyond what she would ever be able to predict. Uprisings have sprung up in several districts in the spirit of following Katniss's example. District 12 sees a stronger security presence which imposes brutal restrictions upon the citizen's way of life. Nothing Katniss does seems to be right and nothing she says can quell the anger that builds up against the Capitol. She finds herself in an impossible situation where the world of the games and the real world are now largely one in the same. Katniss never escaped the arena, only set it loose upon the world and now she is the symbol of a rebellion that threatens to bring end to Panem.
Although everything is different now, this book brings readers to a variety of places within Panem and introduces us to locations that were previously only mentioned. Collins paints each with simple, yet vibrant descriptions which will probably make you both happy and remorseful that they are on the brink of destruction. The destitution of 12 no longer seems as bad when other districts are portrayed as mammoth prisons where inmates are born into servitude of an unforgiving Capitol.
The overall content and tone of this narrative is a few shades darker than the previous installment which probably says a lot considering the first one explored a gladiatorial tournament in which children fought to the death. Minor details aside, things are a lot more serious now since the stakes are so much higher. Before, readers worried about the lives of twenty four young tributes, but now they are presented with an entire world whose continued existence seems highly in question. Katniss, our once empowered heroine somehow seems so small now that the conflict involves forces far beyond her control. To be fair, they are beyond anyone's control, but Katniss finds herself especially vulnerable since she is the catalyst for all the terrifying changes going on around her.
Katniss also can't just fake it till she makes it anymore. Peeta and her have to face the consequences of their lovers routine in the arena and try to come to an understanding, if not a salvaged friendship. Gale's involvement adds further complication for Katniss's already overwhelmed set of teenage emotions. All the other characters are also a bit worse off this time around which adds an additional layer of edginess to it all. Some characters are more in the dark than others about the events happening around them which leads readers into an ever-spinning web of secrets, lies, and manipulation. Even having already seen the film, I felt delightfully in suspense the entire way through this book, partially in thanks to being able to experience the events through Katniss's point of view which offers a fresh take on things. Again, there are a number of really wonderful surprises in store and if you haven't already seen this movie, then I won't spoil them for you here. If you're already familiar with this story, then I can promise that this ride won't be any less enjoyable a second time around.
As a kind of aside to all this, it is worth noting that this book felt far less like a true YA novel than the first one did. There is significantly more nudity, stronger language and sexual references, and the depictions of violence are far more graphic this time around. Even the overall language and writing style that Collins employs feels quite a bit more grown up than her last book. Not that this series has ever really been known as kid-friendly, but parents might want to know that this one definitely pushes the limits of what can/should go into a YA novel.
I really do think this is a series that no reader should pass up on. If the first book didn't quite sell you, then I'd strongly urge you give this one a shot. If you loved the first, then it really only gets better here and I can honestly say that I am extremely excited to dive into the third and final book of this trilogy, though I may try and savor it a bit more whereas I kind of tore through CATCHING FIRE as though there was no tomorrow.
The plot is more serious, the writing style and content are more adult, the new characters are a win all around, and this is just a book that I will probably love forever.