In the aftermath of Katniss and Peeta winning the Hunger Games, Katniss must come to terms with the consequences of thwarting the Capitol. Leading up to the Quarter Quell, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the games, she must prove to everyone, including President Snow, that she's head-over-heels in love with Peeta and that her "cousin" Gale means nothing to her. There will be dire consequences for Katniss and the people she loves if she fails.
Reading Catching Fire made me angry, and there's nothing I like better than a dystopian novel making me angry. Down with the President! Chunks of this reminded me of the sweet parts of Nineteen Eighty-four, the middle third in which Winston and Julia have their dalliances in the forest and the room above the shop, talking carelessly and indulging in love-making, a big no-no in Oceania. (I've always rather fancied going to a party dressed in overalls with a red sash tied around my waist like a member of the Anti-Sex League, but I think the reference might be a tad obscure.) I half expected Katniss to spy a microphone hidden in the woods or for a painting to fall down in her house revealing a telescreen inhabited by President Snow sporting a Stalin mo. "TWO MINUTES HATE!!" Unlike in The Hunger Games, I found the romance in Catching Fire to be touching and thoroughly heart-wrenching. The love triangle isn't just about who Katniss thinks is spunky and can play up to the audience with; it becomes a matter of life and death for many people.
The pacing starts off a tad slowly, but it's hardly a disadvantage. It's like the calm before the storm, the ominous quiet before everything "catches fire". Fantastic title, by the way! It works literally and metaphorically on several levels. Where does Collins get her ideas? Such imaginitive ways to kill people. So sadistic and flamboyant! Rather like the thoughtless indulgences of the people of the Capitol. While Collins borrows from your typical grey, stony totalitarian dystopian novels, she also throws in a bit the destructive extravagance of Brave New World and Westerfeld's Uglies as a wonderful contrast between the bleakness of several districts and the frivilousness of the Capitol.
Gale remains a mystery. Peeta I have gained rather more respect for. He's the one to watch in book three I think. Gale needs to really pick up his game or he's going to fall off the radar for good! So have I picked a team? You bet I have!
Yep. The boys just pale into comparison to Katniss's awesomeness. This girl rocks. I don't think I've ever adored a female protagonist so much. I love hearing what's going on in her head, the way she pieces things together. Her voice (and Collins' writing) is thoroughly readable. And boy is she feisty when she's angry. I think I feel a girl crush coming on.
It's the people that really make Catching Fire, and not only the main cast of characters. There's a real sense of the masses, how people are reacting to this or that bit of footage; the unrest; the partying. Every bit character has a personality sketched in just a few short sentences, and they all have a purpose in Collins' grand scheme. (I had to look up who Seneca Crane was, but the bit with the dummy was genius!) Those who called The Hunger Games "simple" can't do the same for book two.
Catching Fire goes off with a bang. I adore it.
If you've reviewed Catching Fire or know someone who has, leave a link in my comments as I've been avoiding them all like the plague until I could read the book myself!