Catching Fire: A Review

Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsKatniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, has survived the Hunger Games saving not only herself but also her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark.

But there can only be one victor in the Games and her desperate move has made Katniss a target not only of the Capitol’s anger but also of the fledgling rebellion. Saving herself and Peeta set off a spark that is spreading quickly through the other districts. A spark that the girl on fire is not sure she wants to put out.

Everything is spinning out of control.

Katniss’ only hope to protect her loved ones is to convince all of Panem that she was mad with love, not rebellion. But is that true? Months after the Games, Katniss still can’t unravel her true feelings for Peeta anymore than she can admit that their relationship is an elaborate act for the cameras.

It’s hard enough traveling from district to district pretending to be madly in love without knowing if any of it is real. But the reaping is approaching and with it the time for Katniss and Peeta to return to the Capitol as mentors for the 75th Hunger Games–a special year for the Games which never means anything good for the districts.

Good or bad, the spark has been lit and there’s no turning back in Catching Fire (2009) by Suzanne Collins.

Find it on Bookshop.

Being the second book in a trilogy, this one has an understandably slower start than The Hunger Games. Collins spends a fair bit of time recapping plot points and reintroducing characters. Even with those details, readers will be hard pressed to follow Catching Fire without its predecessor (hint: read this trilogy in order).

That said, I might actually prefer this one to the first.

Readers have already been inside the Hunger Games seeing life in the arena and understanding the spectacle in all of its authoritarian gore. Catching Fire, by contrast, takes readers behind the scenes. Collins spends a lot more time building up the politics of Panem and introducing readers to the other districts. Add to that the fledgling seeds of revolution and you have some of my favorite literary tropes.

Catching Fire also adds past victors into the mix along with more of Panem’s past. Then there’s the whole massive-twist-that-changes-everything in the middle of the story (that some people very irresponsibly add to their booktalks or reviews even though it’s totally a spoiler).

On top of that, this book spends a lot more time looking at the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. Is it love? Peeta knows what he thinks while Katniss is less certain. She knows  she doesn’t want to get married or have children and she isn’t sure if that means she also doesn’t want to love anyone even though she wants to do everything in her power to keep Peeta safe (my own thoughts: it’s love–and I will be so pissed if Collins disagrees with that).

If The Hunger Games was a loud, free-spirited book, Catching Fire is its more introverted, creative counterpart. Everything readers love from the first book is here, but at the same time more space is given to character development and world building (two things I always want to see in my dystopian adventure novels).

Possible Pairings: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston,, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Legend by Marie Lu, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Exclusive Bonus Content: The cover here is huge because I want to you take a minute to admire it. Take it in. Ostensibly it’s the same cover as the first book in a different color scheme. But not quite. I love the subtle twists book designer Elizabeth B. Parisi puts on these books with Tim O’Brien’s artwork. They make the series on a whole cohesive but each book is also very individualized. Plus mockingjays are totally badass.