***Spoiler alert! Catching Fire is book two in the Hunger Games Trilogy. If you have not read the first one yet, do not continue reading this. Instead, skip to my Hunger Games review then go out and get your hands on that book as quickly as you can!
Though I loved The Hunger Games, I picked up Catching Fire warily, fully prepared for disappointment. Sequels rarely fulfill my expectations (or warrant a review of their own). But in this case, Suzanne Collins has surpassed her first attempt. I nearly read it straight through, but my eyes closed of their own accord at 2:00 this morning and I had to finish the last twenty pages when I awoke.
Catching Fire picks up a few weeks after Hunger Games lets off, just before Katniss and Peeta must embark on their Victory Tour. It develops more fully the theme of rebellion begun in the first book and provides helpful insights into what Katniss really started when she defied the Capitol with the poison berries. (I felt the first book expected me to go along with these ideas without fully convincing me of them. This has been rectified.) President Snow himself visits Katniss to warn her not to incite the people to further discontent, terrifying her with threats to her family. Though she tries, Katniss is powerless to stop what she has already started. For she has become the Mockingjay, the symbol of defiance.
Revolution simmers all over Panem. To quell the rebellion, the Capitol comes up with an ingenious solution. It will demonstrate control over even the strongest of the strong and remove the rebels’ rallying point with one stroke. There will be a new Games. One played between past champions. Katniss must return to the arena.
I groaned as I read this fate. Surely Ms. Collins knows better than to recreate the first book all over again! Yes, she does know better. Surprise after surprise awaited me as Catching Fire played out, and my only prediction that came true is that both boys, Gale and Peeta survive to carry the love triangle into the last book, but the fate of one remains uncertain. Ms. Collins has left me on pins and needles, and Mockingjay is waiting on my bedside table, within easy reach as soon as I finish this review.
Again I caution parents of tweens. Catching Fire is meant for an older audience. Moments of violence await readers, and book two contains more sexual references. One of the contestants removes her clothes twice, trying to shock Katniss. Mention is made of the head peacekeeper buying favors from desperate, starving women to illustrate how rotten he is. And Katniss and Peeta sleep in the same bed repeatedly, though it’s to guard against nightmares and nothing actually happens. Appropriate, even mild, for older teens, but again, I would advise discretion for parents of readers under thirteen.
Perhaps I have become more accustomed to the world that is Panem, but the few dissatisfactions I held against The Hunger Games have not followed me into Catching Fire. I loved this book and could not put it down. I highly, highly recommend it. And if you’ll excuse me now, I’m off to read book three.
Read my Mockingjay review.
Books available as a box set.