Sunday, February 12, 2012

Catching Fire

At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.

When faced with the threat of danger, our first instinct is to run. We turn and bolt from it almost without thinking, our only goal being to outrun whatever is after us. That, or to outrun someone else and let the danger catch them first. And yet, many times we also feel compelled to stop and sacrifice ourselves for the safety of those we care about. In this second novel of the Hunger Games Trilogy, our heroine must make the hard choices and decide whether a life without the people she loves is one worth living at all.

The Plot:

After winning the 74th Hunger Games together, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark should be returning home to a life of ease. Not only will they and their families have plenty of food, but as celebrities they will also have many privileges and favors bestowed on them by the Capitol. But things don't quite work out that way. Katniss is informed that her actions in the games have caused rebellion to begin rising in the Districts. The Capitol does not intend for this to go unchecked, and Katniss must find a way to stop it if she wants to protect those around her. Fire is not easy to put out, and Katniss soon finds that her biggest efforts do nothing to cool the flames. Just when she is contemplating running away, the Capitol cracks down by sending in more Peacekeepers and harshly punishing petty crimes.

As things get worse in the Districts, Katniss learns that District 13 (which was supposedly wiped out by the Capitol) may still be alive and able to offer help to the others. But before she can act on this information, Katniss learns that, in a cruel twist of fate, she and Peeta will be heading back to the arena to face past winning tributes. She must now decide how she will once again protect herself and Peeta from the enemy, and also just who exactly that enemy is.

My Review (Caution-Spoilers):

After having been completely sucked into this series by the first book, I had high hopes for this one. Ultimately it did not disappoint, and once again Collins kept me transfixed. I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out.

As in the first book, Collins addresses many issues throughout the story. One of these is the idea of independence versus interdependence. In the first book, Katniss' only goal was to survive. If that meant taking out a few people, even Peeta to a point, then so be it. In these games, that idea kind of turns on its head for her. She goes into it with the idea that she must protect Peeta at all costs, hoping to accomplish this much the same way as in the previous games by separating off from the main group and then taking things as they come. But Haymitch has other ideas and persuades her to make alliances, which makes her dependent on other for her own survival. This ultimately changes her perspective. Haymitch had asked her to remember who the real enemy is, and as the games progress she realizes that it is not the other tributes inside the arena that she must conquer, but rather the Capitol who controls the games.

Collins also continues to hold up a mirror to our own society. I think one of the most telling moments in the book is when Katniss and Peeta witness the true decadence of the Capitol. While they are at a large party, it is revealed that in order to continue indulging in the overabundance of rich foods available, the guests make themselves vomit every so often. This is as convicting as it is disturbing. How often does our society overindulge in this manner? Not just in food, but in
toys, homes, clothes, entertainment, etc. We clamor for more and more than we can stand, only to turn a blind eye to those around us who would almost kill for a tenth of the things we posses. It is a very stark picture and one that would behoove us to change.

All in all, Catching Fire is a wonderful sequel. Katniss is allowed to grow as a charcacter, we are given a deeper and more mature glimpse into the world of Panem, and Collins isn't afraid to take risks when it come to the plot (though I'm not sure I'll forgive her for killing off Cinna). If I have any real complaints for this book, it is the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. To me, it really didn't deserve the number of pages that Collins devoted to it. Not only are Gale and Peeta so similar that the choice is almost moot, but it is not really the point of the stories at all. Beyond that, I really enjoyed this book and couldn't wait to pick up the next and final one.

Note: Due to the dark subject matter and the heavy violence in this story, I would definitely use some discretion before recommending it to anyone under the age of 14 or so.

The Movie:

The film version of Catching Fire is due to come out in November of 2013 as a sequel to the film version of the first book coming out this March.

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