Page name: Catching Fire review [Logged in view] [RSS]
2013-05-06 20:42:32
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Catching Fire Review

Catching Fire, book II in The Hunger Games Series, is a hard one to review without giving any spoilers, especially for those who have not read or seen the ending of the first book/movie. Therefore, there will be a very short review for those who don't want spoilers, and for those who do, simply click "show content" when it appears. The same will go for my review of the third book.

Catching Fire takes place after The Hunger Games have ended. The surviving Tribute(s) must find a way to fit into their world again after being used by the Capitol and President Snow to kill other tributes from the other twelve districts. Fitting back into an unraveling society proves to be extremely difficult after having become so mentally and emotionally disturbed since The Games. Since The Hunger Games was the 74th year of the Games, Catching Fire takes place during a "Quarter Quell"; every twenty-fifth year, the Games are changed to be more brutal just for that specific year.

As the winning tribute(s) make their way through the Victory Tour, it is clear that the people of the districts are no longer dying silently in the streets; an uprising has begun and the Capitol is using any force necessary to keep it at bay as long as possible.

I liked this book much better than the first one. The things I took away from it had much more to do with standing up for what is good and right, and protecting those who need it. I feel like that's all I can say without giving any spoilers away.

Seriously, not censoring myself here. Don't read this if you haven't read Catching Fire because it will ruin it for you!

Show content

Katniss and Peeta have won the games, and go back to a District 12 that is just as downtrodden as it was when they left it. As the winners of the Games, they are expected to parade around on the Victory Tour; visiting each district in order to receive praise from the people and give short speeches designed to keep the people in line.

Katniss is able to move her mother and Prim into their very own Victor's house on the side of District 12 reserved for the winner's houses. Peeta and Haymitch also have their own houses there. Haymitch continues his very heavy drinking while Peeta and Katniss generally avoid one another after Katniss informed him that she didn't really love him the way he loves her. However, for the Victory Tour, they must keep up their charade. To reinforce this, President Snow makes a surprise visit to Katniss' home, threatening her, her family, and Gale if Katniss does not convince him and the Capitol that she is still very much in love with Peeta. President Snow feels that he has been made a fool of by Katniss, and senses the uprising in the Districts. He knows that she is the symbol they will rally around, so he tries to keep her as much in his control as he can.

While this is all going on, Katniss sneaks out into the woods as she used to do, and stumbles upon two runaways from District 8. They are off in search of District 13, a District that shouldn't exist, since the Capitol destroyed it in the last war. These two claim that the people of 13 still live underground, and that the Capitol leaves them alone because 13 was producing nuclear weapons. Katniss isn't sure if she believes them, but later mentions it to Haymitch, who completely denies it, stating that there is no District 13 and there is no rebellion.

Katniss freaks out that even though she won the games, she is now forced to still be a pawn in the Capitol's game. She must marry Peeta, despite not really loving him. She wonders if the Capitol will force her to have children with him. She can never be with Gale, she will have to live a lie for the rest of her life.

She, Gale, and Peeta talk about running away, but it doesn't happen. As Peeta and Katniss begin their Tour, they notice the brutality of the Peacekeepers in the other districts, especially District 11 (Rue's District), where an elderly man is beaten to death publicly for whistling a familiar tune. Katniss, too senses the rebellion is something very close to being present.

Upon arriving back at District 12 after accidentally inciting riots in the other districts, it is almost immediately clear that the somewhat friendly Peacekeepers of 12 have been replaced with much more cruel ones straight from the Capitol. These ones have no problem with killing or beating citizens, and really land it home while publicly whipping Gale for having shot a wild turkey. Katniss jumps in to save him, taking a lash across the face.

Peeta proposes to Katniss. The date for their wedding is set, and they go through the motions, engagement photos, designing dresses for the wedding, and so on. Despite all of this, President Snow lets Katniss know that he still is not satisfied. She fears the worst, knowing that he could have everyone she loves killed. Katniss meets the new Gamemaker at a party, and he appears to be very friendly, though a bit odd.

As it is the Quarter Quell, the terrorized population watches to see the President's announcement on television. He announces that for the 75th Hunger Games, a male and female will be chosen from each district. However, instead of choosing from the general population, they will only choose from the names of previous victors. Katniss is going back into the Games.

Haymitch's name is drawn along with Katniss', but Peeta volunteers to go for him in order to better protect her. All three train vigorously, agreeing to be like the Careers from the last year. They head off to the Capitol and their training is brief. They shock the potential sponsors with their actions in their private sessions. They make friendly talk with some of the other victors. They decide to make allies this time, instead of fending for themselves in the arena.

Right before the Games begin, Katniss watches as Cinna is murdered before her eyes. It shocks her even though she realized it was coming after his anti-Capitol actions. She is thrown into the arena and makes it through the initial killing spree intact, teaming up with Peeta, whom she and Haymitch have agreed to help to survive this Game, Finnick, a victor from District 4, and Mags, Finnick's 80-year old mentor.

These Games go quickly but terrifyingly, as the arena they've been thrown into is essentially a clockface with new horrors waiting for them at each hour. Mockingjays that scream like their family members were they being tortured. Fog that burns like acid. Orange Mutts that kill in packs. Eventually, the Games come down to a small handful of tributes, and Katniss' group decide to try to blow up the arena. During the most critical moment of this, Katniss is wounded and separated from Peeta, and is picked up out of the water.

When she wakes up, she learns that she is headed to District 13, where the rebels are waiting for her. The new Gamemaker, Haymitch, and others were all working together to steal her out of the Games in order to keep her as the face of the rebellion. Despite her efforts and her agreement with Haymitch, Peeta has been taken by the Capitol, though Finnick and other allies did make it out with Katniss.

On their way to 13, Katniss learns that District 12, her home, has been bombed and destroyed.

This book was much better than the first one. Not focusing as much on Katniss, despite it being read through her perspective, was refreshing. Much of the story is about how she is trying so hard to protect Peeta the way he has always protected her, because he is a good person and a kind soul. When she is eventually unable to save Peeta and he is taken by the Capitol, she completely disconnects. I much preferred this story, as story of fighting for the common good, preserving that which needs and deserves it, over the previous story of self-preservation.

Katniss isn't portrayed as quite so heartless and arrogant in this book. She forgives her mother, takes better care of her family, truly begins to care for Peeta, and attempts to do what is right.

We begin to see that the people of the Capitol aren't as horrible as they were made out to be in the first book. They are not as cruel as they are ignorant, and they are just as much puppets of President Snow's as Katniss is, despite how much better they are treated.

This story had a much wider perspective. The Hunger Games was singularly focused on the one bratty girl, whereas Catching Fire broadens our understanding of the Capitol, the Districts, and the many people working towards a change in a crumbling society.

I was surprised that these books are all so short. I can't believe they're making the last book into two movies, since it's barely longer than the first two books, which again, are short. Overall, it's a good story, not a great story. So if you want a good story that won't take long to read, suffer through the first book, enjoy most of the second one, and once you've finished the third one, you may feel as unsatisfied with a moderately enjoyable (short) series as I feel now that I've finished it.

The Hunger Games Review
Mockingjay Review
Nioniel's Reading List 2013

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