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675 of 816 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Biggest Problem with Trilogies . . ., September 7, 2009
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This review is from: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2) (Hardcover)
. . . 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.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 68 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 22, 2009 8:16:01 AM PDT
hydro says:
What an excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2009 12:57:21 PM PDT
Caro says:
I think maybe you didn't read enough into this book.... Because what you're describing is totally different than what I interpreted Catching Fire to be!

Posted on Nov 12, 2009 4:07:37 PM PST
Well said. Couldn't agree more.

Posted on Dec 17, 2009 2:23:04 PM PST
CatsMeow says:
The problems of a middle book--my thoughts exactly! I enjoyed the book, but wished there could have been something other than another Hunger Games. But I look forward to the last one.

Posted on Jan 22, 2010 7:27:55 AM PST
Jake says:
I think you wrote an excellent review. I totally agree with your view of this middle book. One other thing that bothered me about the book was that Katniss seems so dense. When is she going to wake up and decide that she must fight the Capitol. She is great at getting herself out of jams but she never seems to see the big picture that the reader obviously sees. It's frustrating.

Posted on Mar 26, 2010 6:41:43 PM PDT
Little Mom says:
I agree wholeheartedly. I found myself wishing for the original charm of the first book but I feel like I must excuse the lull because after all, it is that middle book! Still - I felt like I became less invested in the characters, as the romance definitely stagnated. I thought that she might use this book to familiarize us with Gale more, but not only did she fail to do that, nothing even reshuffled or strengthened the dynamic between Katniss and Peeta. Anyways, great review - you definitely summed up the vibe I got from Catching Fire. Cheers to the final installment!

Posted on Mar 26, 2010 6:41:46 PM PDT
Little Mom says:
I agree wholeheartedly. I found myself wishing for the original charm of the first book but I feel like I must excuse the lull because after all, it is that middle book! Still - I felt like I became less invested in the characters, as the romance definitely stagnated. I thought that she might use this book to familiarize us with Gale more, but not only did she fail to do that, nothing even reshuffled or strengthened the dynamic between Katniss and Peeta. Anyways, great review - you definitely summed up the vibe I got from Catching Fire. Cheers to the final installment!

Posted on Mar 29, 2010 10:58:22 AM PDT
TMC says:
I have to agree that I was slightly dissappointed and irritated with this book. Katniss' inability to make up her mind on any of the major plot points (the rebellion, the love triangle) grated on my nerves towards the end of the book. I tried to let it go, convincing myself that a 17-year old girl could be that wishy washy, but I feel like it really doesn't fit her roll as a quick-witted survivor.

I felt that it was a bit cheesy sending them back to the arena again. I suppose it was a good method to introduce all the allies that Katniss now has from multiple districts, and it leaves us with many questions as to what will happen next... In all reality, the plot did not advance at all during the 2nd book.

Finally, the whole pregnancy thing really irritated me. I realize that Peeta was trying to sway the crowds emotions in Katniss' favor, but SERIOUSLY?!?!?! It was stupid, and I felt like it was just kind of thrown out there and then...nothing. It was only mentioned maybe twice through out the rest of the book. I could have done without that.

What the book did do for me was leave me wanting more in the 3rd book. I sincerely hope that SC doesn't dissappoint.

Posted on Aug 18, 2010 5:50:43 PM PDT
jill wassong says:
I too agree with your assessment --especially about Katniss and how she seems pretty young. I wish the book didn't try to focus quite so much on this love triangle with her being so woefully un-selfaware. It's interesting that the two young men seem to be more in touch with their feelings than the girl. Despite this, I did enjoy this book and I look forwatd to the next one.

Posted on Sep 19, 2010 3:47:13 PM PDT
I disagree. I found "Catching Fire" just as exciting as the "Hunger Games." At every turn, Katniss' efforts to return to her former life are stymied. Her efforts to stay alive just anger the Capitol more and are interpreted as defiance, making her a symbol of the Resistance that she didn't want to become. Its ironic and inevitable that the Capital's efforts to control the populace becomes the very reason for them to revolt.

One has to sympathize with Katniss' dilema. In love, she grew up with Gale. He represents safety and familarity. He's her friend, her refuge. But she's shared an experience with Peeta that no one else can understand. They are comrades in arms. They've saved each others lives. Gayle will never, can never understand that part of her. Is that enough to base a relatationship on? Katniss has a choice between two decent wonderful men, but each is missing just one small but crucial element.

When the supposed security of being a victor is yanked away, its shocking both to Katniss and the reader. Its a fixed game and she's the loser. How can she survive? How can she save her family and friends and town? Again, in its effort to contain the situation, the Capitol is pushing Katniss into actions against the State. (Really, if they had just ignored her and let her fade into obscurity, they would have contained Katniss more effectively).

This is just a totally absorbing novel and as well thought out as the original. I've torn through the first two novels in two nights each. Its been a long time since I've been as fascinated with a new and original distopian world. This series easily stands with "1984". Can't wait for "MorningJay."
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