Review Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is a 2009 science fiction young adult novel by the American novelist Suzanne Collins, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. As the sequel to the 2008 bestseller The Hunger Games, it continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. Following the events of the previous novel, a rebellion against the oppressive Capitol has begun, and Katniss and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark are forced to return to the arena in a special edition of the Hunger Games.

The book was first published on September 1, 2009, by Scholastic, in hardcover, and was later released in ebook and audiobook format. Catching Fire received mostly positive reviews, with reviewers praising Collins’ prose, the book’s ending, and the development of Katniss’s character. According to critics, major themes of the novel include survival, authoritarianism, rebellion and interdependence versus independence. The book has sold more than 19 million copies in the U.S. alone.

A film adaptation, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was released on November 22, 2013.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games in the previous novel, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to District 12, the poorest sector in the country of Panem. On the day that Katniss and Peeta are to start a “Victory Tour” of the country, President Snow visits unexpectedly and tells Katniss that her televised acts of defiance in the Hunger Games have inspired rebellion in the districts. Snow lets her know that she must convince the people she sees on the tour that she was acting out of love for Peeta, not against the Capitol.

The first stop is District 11, the home of Katniss’ deceased friend and Hunger Games ally, Rue. During the ceremony, Katniss delivers an impromptu, heartfelt speech expressing her feelings toward Rue and also Thresh, who spared her life. When she finishes, an old man whistles the tune that Rue used in the arena to tell Katniss that she was safe. Everyone else salutes Katniss, using the same gesture that she used to say farewell to Rue. To Katniss’s horror, the old man is quickly executed before her eyes.

Katniss and Peeta travel to the rest of the districts and the Capitol. Hoping to placate President Snow, Peeta proposes to Katniss during a televised interview. Katniss accepts, but Snow is dissatisfied with her overall performance, leaving her fearing for her loved ones.

Shortly after returning to District 12, Katniss accidentally discovers that fighting has broken out in District 8. She then meets two refugees from that district, Bonnie and Twill. They tell her they are trying to reach District 13, hoping the Capitol’s story that it was completely destroyed is not true, and that its residents survive in underground shelters.

The 75th Hunger Games is the third “Quarter Quell”; the Capitol implements a special twist every 25th Games. It is announced that the tributes will be selected from the surviving victors of previous years. Katniss and either Peeta or Haymitch will be competing in the Games a second time (since they are the only living District 12 victors). Katniss decides to devote herself to keeping Peeta alive. She persuades Haymitch to agree to volunteer in Peeta’s place if he is chosen. Unfortunately, Haymitch is picked, and can do nothing to stop Peeta from volunteering (to try to protect Katniss).

In the Capitol, Haymitch tells Katniss that she and Peeta will need allies this time, but she takes a liking to some of the weakest tributes, much to Haymitch’s exasperation.

The arena is a jungle surrounding a saltwater lake. Katniss and Peeta join up with Finnick Odair, a strikingly handsome 24-year-old from District 4 who won his Games ten years prior, and Mags, Finnick’s 80-year-old mentor. In the jungle, Peeta is knocked out when he touches the nearly invisible force field enclosing the circular arena. Finnick manages to revive him, however. The party then has to flee from poisonous fog, with Finnick carrying Mags. When a weakened Peeta cannot go any further, Mags sacrifices herself, running into the advancing fog, so that Finnick can help him. After Mags’s death, Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick join forces with Johanna Mason, a sarcastic and often cruel victor from District 7, and Beetee and Wiress, an older couple from District 3 who are said to be “exceptionally smart”. Wiress realizes that the arena is arranged like a clock, with each danger occurring at a fixed and predictable time and place for one hour.

Wiress is killed in a sneak attack by the Careers (tributes from the richer districts 1, 2 and 4, who train all their lives for the Games and are usually the winners), but the Careers suffer more losses, leaving them outnumbered. Katniss learns of Beetee’s plan to harness lightning in order to electrocute Brutus and Enobaria, the two surviving Careers from District 2. Their enemies interfere with their plan, so Katniss instead uses her bow and arrow to direct the lightning into the force field, destroying the arena. She is knocked unconscious.

When Katniss wakes up, she is being transported to District 13, along with Finnick, Beetee, and Haymitch. She learns that Peeta and Johanna have been captured by the Capitol. She is informed that there was a secret plan among half of the contestants to rescue her from the arena, because she has become the living symbol of the rebellion. Gale, Katniss’s best friend and possible love interest, visits her and informs her that, though he got her family and some of the other residents out, District 12 has been destroyed.

Review

Praise for The Hunger Games

#1 New York Times Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Horn Book Fanfare
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008
School Library Journal Best Book of 2008
Booklist Editors’ Choice
New York Times Notable Book of 2008
Kirkus Best Book of 2008
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
USA Today Bestseller

“[The Hunger Games] is a violent, jarring, speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense… I couldn’t stop reading.” – Stephen King, Entertainment Tonight

“I was so obsessed with this book that I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn’t have to stop reading… The Hunger Games is amazing.” – Stephanie Meyer

“[The Hunger Games] is a great book, and very thought-provoking. Read this along with your teen and discuss it.” – Charlaine Harris

“Brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced.” – John Green, New York Times Book Review

“A plot-driven blend of suspense, science fiction, and romance.” – USA Today

“Enthralling, imaginative and creepy.” – Los Angeles Times

“{A} superb tale” – Booklist, starred review

“Readers will wait eagerly to learn more.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

Customer reviews

Cara 

This is most possibly the WORST (or best depending what you go on) cliffhanger I have encountered in all my reading days. It leaves you more than just hanging, you are grasping for your life on a thread that is fraying and there is nothing to do but hold on (well metaphorically of course).

One word that can sum up this book is intense . Everything is just felt more. The compassion, threats, action, betrayal, gestures, words all of it. This has to be the reason why it is so addictive. As expected from this series we are in for a ride. Some things are hinted out, but the full affect of what is going on isn’t totally revealed till the very end. Though I felt frustrated at times this is a grand slam of a sequel.

You know it’s hard to hate Katniss for being the object of the whole love triangle. I usually get annoyed to no end and can’t help wonder what people see in the person, but Katniss is different. Though you don’t think that Katniss is particularly more special than others, but that is part of what you admire about her. Plus she is critical of herself so you don’t necessarily get a good feel of what people think about her other than what is said with dialogue. I totally love this because frankly that is what it’s like in real life. It’s others that can show you who you really are when you aren’t able to do it yourself. Peeta and Gale are both incredible guys and what makes them so great is that they both are good friends , something that is lacking in other books at times. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot more to the series than the love triangle. Suzanne Collins gives us a lot to mull over till her much anticipated final climatic book Mockingjay.

BTW Excellent Excellent covers!!!

Later added: For those of you who didn’t know there is a movie coming out for the first book The Hunger Games! Here is the link to the trailer. Now just to wait for the second movie trailer…and the second trailer has arrived! Click here to view it. I got the chills guys.

Meredith Holley

I went to see Inglourious Basterds a couple of times this past month, and there is that scene where Eli Roth and Omar Doom are in the theater, and they dress themselves up to look like waiters and then whip around the corner and kill the two Nazi guards to some funny Ennio Morriconi(ish?), spaghetti-western sounding music. And everybody in the theater laughs, and then the film cuts to Hitler laughing, watching a movie of a Nazi soldier killing Americans. It’s one of those great story-telling moments where I’m nice and comfortable and morally superior, until I realize that actually I’m exactly the same as someone I think is Evil. There was a moment when I first saw Merchant of Venice that was like that, and I was depressed for a month after I read Notes from the Underground because of the same type of experience. I don’t know where you get that brand of story-telling ability, but Suzanne Collins has it coming out of her ears, in the sort of young adult variety.

Catching Fire was maybe not as striking as the first book in this series, The Hunger Games, in making me disturbed about myself, but it definitely had its moments. Also, I was in my second week of law school and had just gotten back from an exhausting wedding when I read it, so I might not have had the capacity to self-reflect that I normally do. If you don’t know already, even though you should know, the premise of this series is a that in the future, post-apocalyptic world of the super-badass Katniss Everdeen, one rich city controls twelve poor-to-starving cities that produce all of the goods for the rich city. In order to keep the poor cities in fear, the rich city requires each of the poor cities to send one teenage boy and one teenage girl as tributes to play the Hunger Games. In the Hunger Games the kids have to kill each other until there is one survivor, who gets to party for the rest of his/her life but never really feels like partying because everything’s so fucked up. Usually they go crazy, if they didn’t start out that way. It’s very Lord of the Flies, and yes it is the same premise as Battle Royale, but not as determinedly nasty as those two books. Also, girl action hero!

Anyway, a couple of days after I finished this book, I was spacing off instead of briefing cases, and I started thinking about the description of the capital city that controls the other cities. There is a part where Katniss and another character have to go to a party at the capital, and there are as many amazing foods as they can imagine. It’s a big party, and they’re celebrities, and everyone loves them. They have one bite of every kind of food, so that they can taste everything, but unfortunately they get full. One of their entourage explains to them that there are puke closets, so that everyone can keep eating for the whole night, and our two characters suddenly step back from the party and remember their families and neighbors, who are starving while the capital lives in decadence. I was thinking about that and how the shallow people in the capital city were just as culpable for the evil in their society as the military that imposed starvation on the cities, and then, suddenly, I realized, duh, she’s talking about me. This story is really about the global economy, and (passive, consumption-driven U.S. citizen that I am) I’m not the hero.

So, that’s about three times this month that I’ve been on the side of terrorists. I don’t know whether that means story-tellers are gettin’ pretty tricky, or if it just means I think there’s a problem with the way stuff is. Or that, like, I’m becoming a rager, or something. (FBI, if you’re reading this, JK about this whole paragraph. LOL!)

When I was working my 8-5 job last year, I started listening to some iTunesU classes while I was doing my work so that my brain wouldn’t die. One of them was given by Carolyn Marvin at Stanford, and it was called “True Colors: Myth, Magic, and the American Flag.” The premise, to summarize very briefly, was that for any culture to stay together, the culture requires a blood sacrifice. This article goes into more detail about nationalism and blood sacrifice. She really convincingly pointed out how, civilized though we think we are, blood sacrifice in modern Western culture is not really significantly different than tribal human sacrifices. It’s a seriously creepy theory, but I’m not kidding when I say that she’s right. Really, listen to the lecture. So, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks doing a mental compare/contrast of the U.S. with this futuristic dystopia. We don’t come off looking too good, guys.

Obviously these are really complicated topics, but nothing seems as simple as “violence is not the answer” or, on the other side of the argument, “destroy civilization.” I’m not positive what the right answer is, but I’d like to find out. I think Suzanne Collins’s books should be taught in high school social studies classes, so maybe we could get some young brains working on this problem. How do we effectively refuse to benefit from universally destructive and dehumanizing trade practices, but still live healthy and productive lives?

So, go read everything Suzanne Collins ever wrote (including the episodes of Clarissa Explains It All because that show is awesome) and reflect on international trade and the global economy. I don’t know if you’ll be a better person for it, but I think so. Maybe after you do all that reading you can help me figure out some way for us not to be Evil.

The Hunger Games (Book 1) 

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