Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction, Young Adult
Series: The Hunger Games Book Two
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(Spoilers for The Hunger Games are below).
Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Continuing directly after the concluding events in The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen finds that she is in more danger than she could have possibly imagined. Not only is her life being threatened, but the life of her friends and family are now in jeopardy due to the way she and Peeta outsmarted the Capitol.
Like the previous book, Catching Fire continues to explore the psychological effects of violence and the methods of oppression used by the government to keep people subdued. The methods of control used by the government in Catching Fire reach new levels of unethical evil, which helps to darken the story-lines and increase the tension.
Unfortunately, Catching Fire mostly recycles the plot from the previous book. Although it has a strong ending, it doesn’t make up for the fact that this book seems to be telling the same story again, only this time the stakes are a little higher and the explosions are a little bigger.
The Katniss and Peeta relationship grows increasingly complicated after Katniss reveals to Peeta that she was only pretending to be in love with him so that they could survive the Hunger Games. Peeta, however, was genuinely in love with Katniss, and this creates an emotional split between the two when they both need to appear to be in love in order to please the furious government.
The relationship between Peeta and Katniss also strains Katniss’s relationship with Gale who…surprise, surprise… had feelings for Katniss. Meanwhile, unrest continues to grow, which is believed to largely have been inspired by the fact that Katniss and Peeta outsmarted The Hunger Games. Their resistance to the Capitol is inspiring others to resist.
Meanwhile the Capitol plans a new Hunger Games to stifle the unrest, and it involves placing every previous living Hunger Games champion back into the Hunger Games for another battle to the death.
The tour of champions done by Katniss and Peeta serves as an interesting way to explore the other districts and what their significance is to the Capitol. The government’s increased use of force becomes more and more unethical as they begin to fear their control and power over the people is slipping. It is the exploration of what people in power will do to stay in power that is one of the most fascinating ideas explored in Catching Fire.
The psychological effects of surviving The Hunger Games on both Peeta and Katniss creates a lot of pathos in the story. The experience endured by each of them in the Hunger Games is traumatizing, and this has changed who Peeta and Katniss are as characters. The Hunger Games is also what unites them with each other, not only because they survived, but because how they survived was unique to the history of the games. This adds believable credibility to their romantic interest in one another.
Overall, Catching Fire moves at a much faster pace than The Hunger Games. The action is suspenseful, and the plot still moves forward and continues to thicken. Unfortunately the plot recycles the plot from the previous book. Meaning, readers are subjected to another round of Hunger Games with Katniss and Peeta.
This is one of the weakest parts of the book as we’ve already seen a round of the Hunger Games played previously. Doing it again does not do much to help grow the characters or to enhance the conflict between the oppressed and the power hungry government. Creating a new conflict between the oppressed and the government would have helped grow the characters and provided a new and engaging plot. But that doesn’t happened, and readers are subjected to another round of Hunger Games.
The other tremendously weak part of the novel is the developing love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. The relationship between Katniss and Peeta for the most part makes sense, although at times it can be distracting to the story. The Gale and Katniss relationship though, just acts as a poor foil for the Peeta and Katniss relationship. Gale is a poorly developed character. His character has very few differences from Peeta’s, and his personality lacks originality. His inability to standout as a character makes his appearance in this book nothing more than a non-threat pretending to be a threat to the Peeta and Katniss relationship. The love triangle wastes a lot of time and ends up lessening the seriousness of the story with all of its melodramatic teen angst.
Catching Fire is not as good as The Hunger Games, and it was quite honestly a disappointing sequel. The only thing saving it from a worse grade was its strong ending, which sets the reader up with eager anticipation for the final book of the series.