Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CBR III Review #5 - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

"In that one slight motion, I see the end of hope, the beginning of the destruction of everything I hold dear in the world. I can't guess what form my punishment will take, how wide the net will be cast, but when it is finished, there will most likely be nothing left."


I’ll ask that you kindly refer to my review of Hunger Games to catch up on summary of the series as a whole.  As I warned before, to review this book at all requires me to spoil Hunger Games.  Otherwise all I can do is write vague generalities about writing style.

Catching Fire starts about a month after Hunger Games leaves off.  Katniss is living with her family in Victor’s Village.  She and Peeta have developed an incredibly cold relationship after her confession on the train at the end of Hunger Games.  Katniss keeps sneaking into the woods to hunt, even though she no longer needs to in order to survive.  Most of what she catches she gives to Gale’s family, as he is now working in the mines 6 days a week.  The only time they spend together is hunting on Sundays, but their relationship has been greatly altered by the romance Katniss and Peeta played up in the Games.  Katniss is miserable, trying to determine her feelings for each boy as well as her place in this new world where she no longer has to want for anything.

Soon after, the Victory Tour is set to begin.  After a terrifying visit from President Snow, Katniss realizes this has all gotten much more complicated than she realized.  There are rumblings of dissent and uprisings in the Districts, and it’s possible her romance with Peeta may have no discernible end.  The tour, however, brings many things to light that I won’t spoil here.  Katniss and Peeta prepare for their future, which includes the 75 Games, also known as the Quarter Quell.  The Quarter Quell brings more surprises than they could ever anticipate, and the embers of revolution blossom into flames.

This is a harder book to review at length, because so much of the content has to be left out in order to keep spoiler free.  I’ve read some reviews that label this as a sophomore slump, but I could not disagree more.  I believe the writing matures, the characters deepen, and the pace quickens still further.  I burned through this book faster than its predecessor because I found myself more invested in every twist and turn involved this time around.  Peeta grows from someone I found a little too saccharine to a truly interesting, three dimensional character.  Katniss starts to get a better handle on how this world works, how fucked up the government really is, and her part to play in it all.  And the way the rebellion starts to grow is both natural and engaging.

This book also introduces some wonderful new faces with the fabulous old, many of whom we will follow into Mockingjay.  This book has the first death that really got to me, which I also won’t spoil.  Finnich and Beetee are probably my favorite new characters, and neither of them ends up who you expect them to be.  This makes more sense knowing that the book is from Katniss’s perspective – if she doesn’t have them totally figured out, you shouldn’t either.

I think that’s part of what I like most about this series.  The way Katniss handles her situation feels frustratingly real.  She’s a 17 year old girl, completely unprepared for a lot of what comes her way.  In a lot of lit, this leads to an immediate rise to the occasion, taking on challenges with maturity and intelligence.  Katniss doesn’t really do that.  She fights what she has to do, and doesn’t understand things the way other people thinks she should.  She is, above all things, a kid who has had all of this thrust upon her.  Does this make her annoying from time to time?  You bet your ass. But what 17 year old isn’t?  How she reacts to things feels very real, and I enjoy watching her grow up and mature from the girl who has to endure to the woman who chooses to lead.

Again, totally recommend this whole series.  Will get Mockingjay’s review up once I finally finish it!

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