Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. Just a note: If you plan on reading The Hunger Games skip this review for now.
As the second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy begins, Katniss Everdeen has settled into the victory village, now neighbors to the still perpetually drunken Haymitch and Hunger Games partner Peet Mellark. Katniss is struggling to forgive her mother for her past mistakes and adjusting to a new life where she has much less to occupy her time. Thanks to winning the Hunger Games she no longer has to scrounge for food to feed her family. Her relationships with both Peeta and her “cousin” Gale are strained as she prepares to embark on the victory tour of all the districts and the Capitol, and she struggles to balance the harsher life and restrictions in District 12 as well as deal with menacing encounters with President Snow.
I loved reading this book. Just like the first one I was into it immediately and couldn’t put it down until I had finished. It was a great mix of bringing back some old characters and learning more about them and their histories and what their motivations were, and at the same time introducing new characters into the thick of things. The story begins to unfold more and I love that Katniss has shown some growth as evidenced by the inroads that she is making in her relationship with her mom, and also see inklings that she is wanting to do something about the increased hostility of the Capitol and President Snow to the residents of the districts. She is starting to realize that her actions have given her a place in the beginnings of a revolution that might take place and has to make decisions about what she wants that place and her responsibilities to entail. This book also sees Katniss reach out for help more, and she is better able to express how she is feeling, particularly in her dealings with Haymitch. I was pleased to see that his history comes to light and that we get to meet some of the survivors of the other Hunger Games. The insidious evil of the Capitol is also more clearly defined throughout the course of the novel. They are really, really bad people.
Something major happens along the way which I expected (not that it was obvious or a given, but I had a feeling that this particular thing would happen, and I wonder if other readers of Catching Fire were expecting it too), that also leads to a whole host of things which were a surprise to me and which completely opens up the book in new ways and leads to the last installment (Oh my,talk about cliffhanger! It’s even better/worse, depending on how you look at it, than in The Hunger Games). Katniss continues to struggle with her feelings for Peeta and Gale and unfortunately to keep the both of them safe she has to hurt them in ways that she never anticipated. No matter what horse you have in this race further revelations are made about both young men and developments come along that up the ante for everyone involved.
The same intensity and suspense that made it impossible to put The Hunger Games down is in full effect and then some here. It’s all about action and things are constantly happening. Suzanne Collins sure knows the way to tell a story and she has you just as soon as you flip open that distinctive front cover and start reading the first words. Set aside the day for this one because once you start you’ll go to great lengths to not be interrupted (and I do mean great lengths- crossing the streets while reading, sneaking to the bathroom at work and reading, not cooking and eating, putting off cleaning- you get the picture!)