Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Catching Fire: Book Review

WARNING: The following contains lots of SPOILERS. Only continue if you have read the Hunger Games trilogy.

Continued from my Hunger Games review.

Most people thought that The Hunger Games was the best book in the trilogy. While I really enjoyed the Hunger Games, I personally felt that Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, was the best. I took a break from reading during the semester, but when I picked it up at the start of Christmas break, I couldn't put it down. I finished the whole book in its entirety in three days. And if you know me, you will know that that's really impressive.

In Catching Fire, we get a little bit of a calming down period to start things off after the dramatic ending of the first book and the action in the second book. This differs quite a bit from the transition from book two and book three as Catching Fire and Mockingjay essentially act as if they were one book. The big drama in Catching Fire comes with the 75th annual Hunger Games, or the Quarter Quell as it is called, so its almost a year between the ending of the first book and the big events of the second. But we start out by setting the tone. First off Katniss gives to live a normal victor's life for a few months. She gets a new home in District 12 and gets spoiled with food and riches, something she's never been accustomed to. She gets to settle things with Gale, explaining to him that it was all an act between her and Peeta. The love triangle officially starts as Gale expresses his love for Katniss. Katniss is a somewhat typical teenage girl in this aspect in the sense that she needs attention from all her male friends but doesn't want to even think about marriage. Relationships are also out of the question, which does make her quite different at the same time. She is also experiencing nightmares from the Hunger Games, which is excellent because the element of realism starts to set in. If you went through what Katniss went through, you would have nightmares and other PTSD-like symptoms which is an element that most movies or stories just brush right over.

While not the ultimate conflict of the story, the Victory Tour is the first major event in the book and that is when Katniss gets her first glimpse into what she has unintentionally started. That conflict that is started that puts Katniss in a pretty big conundrum and that is what makes this a brilliant book. President Snow gives Katniss a personal visit, telling her that she's sparked a rebellion and that she needs to stop it or else he is going to kill everyone she cares about. How to do this? Convince everyone on the Victory Tour that her controversial actions were all for love. Katniss attempts such a feat and fails miserably. Now she decides that she has officially given up the "mend her actions" goal, but what is she going to do instead? Is she going to run away with Gale? No, especially not after he finds out there is an uprising? So what does she do? Well, put her plans on pause and jump to the Quarter Quell because her and Peeta are going back into the arena as the competitors are chosen from a pool of previous victors.

When I first read this, I was a little disappointed as the book had such a great start and now appeared that it was just going to duplicate the same plot of the first one. Turns out that it doesn't really. I mean it kinda does at first, but the arena they get put into is quite ingenious as it is a clock shape and there is a different threat for each hour that they have to work through. Also new characters Finnick and Johanna have been suspiciously teamed up with Peeta and Katniss which puts them in a much different position then previously. But through all of this, the reminder by Haymitch rings through the mind of Katniss and the reader as well. Remember who the real enemy is. That remains a theme throughout this book and into the last one as well. Who is the real enemy? Right now its the capitol and at the end of this book when Katniss has the opportunity to kill the other competitors in the Quarter Quell she remembers this and pulls off quite the feat that leads to a fantastic ending. Through a complicated series of events mainly led by inventor victor Beetee, she destroys the arena, halting the games and throwing the already rampant revolution into full force.

Then all at once we as the readers get clued in on what in the heck has been happening at the same time Katniss does after being rescued on a hovercraft of rebels led new head gamemaker Plutarch and Haymitch. Rebellion is in full force. Plutarch has been the head of a secret rebellion alliance for quite some time. A lot of the victors knew parts of this plan and agreed to protect Katniss and Peeta. District 13 exists and will be key to the rebels overthrowing the capital. Peeta and Johanna are two that have been captured by the capitol now. How does Katniss respond to all of this? She acts like a 17 year old teenage girl and throws a tizzy fit. Only person that can calm her down is Gale, who tells her that although her mom and Prim are among those who are safe, District 12 has been blown up.

All of this equates to a book that it quite suspensful, dramatic, and action packed, with a touch of romantic tension/confusion. Excellent beginning, excellent body of the book, and absolutely fantastic ending. Once again, my favorite of the three.

Continue with my Mockingjay review.

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