The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, was the wildly popular dystopia novel released last year. Catching Fire, the eagerly awaited sequel, was equally as riveting—full of extraordinary twists and turns as well as further fleshing of conflicts introduced in its predecessor.
For those unfamiliar with The Hunger Games, the story centers around Katniss Everdeen, who takes her young sister’s place in the The Hunger Games. The Games consist of twenty-four “tributes,” or teenage citizens, who are put in an arena and forced to kill each other off in the hopes of being the last one standing. The book finishes with the end of the Games, and Catching Fire picks up a few weeks after it is all over.
I received this book in early summer as an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) from Scholastic, and positively gobbled it up. The second installment is just as fast-paced and riveting as the first, with even more surprise twists and deeper exploration of the legend of District 13. Katniss grapples with more ethical issues and discovers that whatever she started with the berries in the arena is far from over. A rebellion is stirring, and Katniss finds herself, willing or not, the rallying point of a revolution.
Catching Fire was wonderful. The characters were genuine, and the alternate universe was just as thrilling as it was the first time around. There is the constant, looming threat of the Capitol, and this not-quite-fake charade of love that must be kept up at all times. There is the uncertainty of which boy Katniss should choose, and this whispered revolution that is putting everyone Katniss cares about in danger.
The first half focuses on Katniss’s life in District 12, as well as the victory tour that she and Peeta must go on. There is one massive twist that dictates the second half of the novel so I dare not describe it further, though I will say that the book ends with a huge cliffhanger.
One aspect of this book that did not flow as smoothly as it might have, was that the twists seem a little forced and deliberate—like the novel was so keen on making startling twists that it failed to have the effect of a change that is unexpected.
All in all, however, I think Catching Fire will live up to expectations. There is still the horrifying presence of a “game” in which children are encouraged to kill one another; something I still find difficult to think about. Both books provide originality in a genre that is prone to clichés, and both are well written with genuine characters who suffer real human dilemmas. Five evil daggers, without a doubt.