Sunday, March 11, 2012

Catching Fire

by Suzanne Collins
-The Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2-
(New York: Scholastic Books, 2010)
eBook, 404 Pages, 479 KB, Fiction

The sparks are igniting. Flames are spreading. And the Capitol wants revenge. Against all odds Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create. Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the Districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

I am completely blown away by these books. I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to get into them! What Collins has created in this series is nothing short of mind-blowing. Panem is a real and vibrant world that is nothing short of stunning. What was promised in The Hunger Games has been fulfilled in Catching Fire.

The Hunger Games promised a look into a world that was like nothing else that has been seen in young adult fiction in a long time. Honestly, comparisons to Battle Royale aside, the only thing I can think of that comes close to what Collins has created here are Stephen King’s novellas The Long Walk and The Running Man (both of which originally published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman), but even that is not a real comparison (though The Running Man does come awfully damn close) because by creating Katniss Everdeen, what Collins has done is created one of the greatest female characters in literature. She is strong, she is sure of herself, she is intelligent, she is more than capable of handling herself and she is completely badass in every sense of the word. Yes, there is an annoying love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, but that is not the main story here. The main story here deals with Katniss trying to survive in a world that has become increasingly hostile toward her in particular.

In particular what I loved about Catching Fire (I devoured this book) is the inclusion of additional tributes and the twist of the Quarter Quell. Talk about upping the ante! Collins is sadistic in her treatment of the various Tributes trapped in the arena (the deaths here are, if anything, more intense than those in The Hunger Games) and it really is something that such a violent book is marketed to young adults. However, none of the violence is gratuitous or done for the sake of violence, and it is always presented in the context of the rules of Panem, and that lifts these books above the normal fare and that do not descend into some kind of modern Grand Guignol where the imaginative deaths become the centerpiece. This isn’t Saw for the Tween Set, this is a carefully crafted allegory that shows the importance of being socially and politically aware, and all told in one of the greatest damn stories I have ever read.

Oh, and then there is the ending! What an ending! I cannot wait to pick up Mockingjay and see where Collins is going to take this. The stage has been set for big things, and I for one am excited to see how the story of Katniss resolves itself.

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