Plot Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
This book is the second in a trilogy, the first being THE HUNGER GAMES. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a comparison between HUNGER GAMES and BATTLE ROYALE, two similar books that sparked many discussions about whether HUNGER GAMES was a rip off of BATTLE ROYALE. Surprisingly, the comments on that post are still going.
But we are here to talk about CATCHING FIRE.
There is no question that Suzanne Collins knows how to write a fast-paced, can't-put-it-down-even-though-it's-3am kind of story. I read the book in one sitting, which I didn't intend to do when I sat down with it. Also, she is incredibly creative and comes up with great devices with which to torture her characters. That said, I am beginning to wonder at her ability to shift a premise into something truly unique and original – though that doesn't mean I think HG is a rip off of BR. :)
But I did think several of the elements in CATCHING FIRE were too similar to HUNGER GAMES.
As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below. Big ones.
I think the reader knows from the beginning that Katniss will go back to the games, but as a mentor instead of a participant. I thought she’d have to mentor both Gale and Prim. But Collins throws us a twist and sends Katniss back to the games as a participant. Peeta, too.
I understand why she did what she did, and I like the way she resolved it. But it just didn't have as big an impact on me the second time around. Even with Katniss's changed attitude and goal of keeping Peeta alive, it still felt the same. So, to me, the second Hunger Games felt like filler in order to get to the real stuff, which will be in book 3. I kind of wish she'd spent less time in the arena and instead gotten to the real story: the uprising.
Plus, I just didn't buy that the other players in the game were also trying to keep Peeta alive. It seemed so obvious that Katniss was the real goal. And there were other aspects of the story where I thought Katniss should have caught on easily, like the games director’s watch. It gets frustrating when I, the reader, figure things out before the main character does.
I wish Collins had played the games differently this time around, and let Katniss figure out what was going on with the other champions. It would have heightened suspense, because they are constantly monitored and the Capitol could expose them at any time. And it would have given an entirely new flavor to the games themselves, rather than the same old same old of trying to figure out how to stay alive. That was incredibly compelling the first time around, but the second? Not so much.
I also had trouble with her connections to both Gale and Peeta. About halfway through the book, she seems to have made a choice. Then, at the end, she seems to go back on that choice. Why? We don't know because she never tells us. She doesn't even think twice about it, which doesn't make sense. Based on her personality, I think she would have.
Still, I enjoyed the adventure, and will read the final book when it comes out. But I’m not dying for it.