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Catching Fire (The Hunger Games) Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Gr 7 Up--Every year in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the U.S. used to be, the Capitol holds a televised tournament in which two teen "tributes" from each of the surrounding districts fight a gruesome battle to the death. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the tributes from impoverished District Twelve, thwarted the Gamemakers, forcing them to let both teens survive. In this rabidly anticipated sequel, Katniss, again the narrator, returns home to find herself more the center of attention than ever. The sinister President Snow surprises her with a visit, and Katniss’s fear when Snow meets with her alone is both palpable and justified. Catching Fire is divided into three parts: Katniss and Peeta’s mandatory Victory Tour through the districts, preparations for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, and a truncated version of the Games themselves. Slower paced than its predecessor, this sequel explores the nation of Panem: its power structure, rumors of a secret district, and a spreading rebellion, ignited by Katniss and Peeta’s subversive victory. Katniss also deepens as a character. Though initially bewildered by the attention paid to her, she comes almost to embrace her status as the rebels’ symbolic leader. Though more of the story takes place outside the arena than within, this sequel has enough action to please Hunger Games fans and leaves enough questions tantalizingly unanswered for readers to be desperate for the next installment.
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Reviewers were happy to report that the Hunger Games trilogy is alive and well, and all looked forward to the third book in the series after this one's stunning conclusion. But they disagreed over whether Catching Fire was as good as the original book Hunger Games or should be viewed as somewhat of a "sophomore slump." Several critics who remained unconvinced by Katniss's romantic dilemma made unfavorable comparisons to the human-vampire-werewolf love triangle in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. But most reviewers felt that Catching Fire was still a thrill because Collins replicated her initial success at balancing action, violence, and heroism in a way that will enthrall young readers without giving them (too many) nightmares.
Top customer reviews
The Capitol becomes increasingly more aware and even afraid of a very real possibility of a major uprising, the likes of which have not been seen in nearly 75 years. After a visit from President Snow, Katniss is made quite aware of the dire consequences that will await her, Peeta, and all of those they hold dear to them if they do not put on an extremely convincing display of love for each other during the Victory Tour.
Soon after the Victory Tour, preparations for the 75th annual Hunger Games are made. However, these hunger games will allow the Capitol to introduce a little bit of a twist with it being the third Quarter Quell. Every 25 years, a Quarter Quell takes place in which the lucky contestants all happen to be previous winners of the Hunger Games and have varying ages from 14 to even 80 years old. There are some very intriguing bits of information in the second part of the book as there are even rumors of a secret district and the intrigue for the reader only gets better from there.
The third part of Catching Fire deals with the 75th Hunger Games. Per usual, there are no shortage of surprises that Collins draws up for her readers. Surprise alliances are formed, romantic relationships deepen, and all new stops from the game makers are introduced. It becomes clear that Capitol will stop at nothing to have one tribute alive yet again and even then that doesn't appear to be a guarantee.
What I liked most about Catching Fire was the coming of age for Katniss as a much deeper and stronger character. I also liked the fact that this book was so much more than just the first book re-hashed. The reader is filled in with a tremendous amount of backdrop information as the power structure of Panem and the people of the 12 districts are explored in much more detail than the previous book in the series. Arguably, there is a case for stating that waiting nearly two-thirds of the book is too long for the real action to start, but as the reader goes along it's clear to see why the book was laid out this way.
As I said before, I couldn't quite give this book 5 stars (even though I did with ratings of 4.5 stars not existing). It's a solid 4.5 stars though mainly because it just didn't have the same shock value and freshness that the first book did. That often can be the case when the first book is great and then the second one doesn't quite measure up. That being said, Catching Fire is no slouch of a sequel and I really enjoyed reading it. I can only hope the finale holds up to the first two!
Suzanne Collins is a good, clear writer. Her main characters are sympathetic, and we know who the villains are and why we despise them. Although a teen series, this book serves up entertainment and themes that will keep the adult reader interested. "Catching Fire" continues to explore themes of the individual versus the all-powerful state and what it means to contemplate and take action that moves toward freedom. The heroine Katness Everdeen, and her male cohorts Peeta and Gale, add personal dilemmas that make this a multi-dimensional story.
Like "The Hunger Games," the larger issues are the backdrop for a good action packed story that moves. Think of "Indiana Jones" (Ms. Indiana Jones) being inserted as the lead character in George Orwell's "1984" and you get an idea of the flavor of this book and the series.
Aside: I can't help thinking millions of soon to be and newly registered voters are reading a book that clearly places a large and omnipresent state as the enemy of liberty. It will be interesting to see if this series - given the polarization in our country over the role of government and the individual - will have any impact on the philosophy of young voters.
Of course the major downside of reading a book early is that now I have to wait even longer for the 3rd book to come out!