Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A lot of people criticize this middle book of the Hunger Games series because they believe it “lagged”, “nothing was happening”, or “Katniss was too whiny”. And it’s true, a great portion of the book (at least the first 50%) is not necessarily filled with the action-packed, high-octane, nail-biting suspense that we experienced and loved in the first book.
But taking the series as a whole, Catching Fire is a perfect middle portion to a saga about oppression, revolution, war… and a frightened teenager unwittingly caught in its crosshairs.
Much of the first part of Catching Fire is spent in Katniss’ head as she witnesses and hides from her worst fear: growing rebellion in the Districts. I think Collins’ portrayal of her fear, angst, and indecision is spot on. Having Katniss feel anything else or act in any other way would have probably come off as disingenuous. Remember, Katniss is a mortal girl. Not an X-Man. Not a superhero. She is very much human, someone who can be tortured, killed, wounded, someone with people she loves, who could literally be annihilated at any point. She is a mouse before the giant that is the Capitol. So she walks a fine line; she understands that her actions now have some VERY far-reaching and painful consequences. As would anyone, for a while, Katniss tries her best to remain still and ineffectual. She wants to placate the Capitol, even though she hates it. But as she realizes that she has already set the match to an already combustible situation, she is finally forced to turn and face her fears. Even THEN, though, we see her wavering. And I love it because it’s just so damned HUMAN.
I think this is what I adored most about Catching Fire, and it’s why I gave it a higher rating than the first book, The Hunger Games. I LOVED Katniss’ humanness, flaws, and fallibility. I love that Collins’ DIDN’T buy into the teen immortality mythology, and that she kept Katniss grounded in a firm reality. This grounding always kept us aware of just how palpable Katniss’ situation was! So when the fast-paced action FINALLY popped off in Act III of the book, I felt emotionally fulfilled and was able to enjoy the action and suspense as it unfolded in the arena (which was brilliantly designed). And just like in the first book, Collins delivered.
Write on, rock on, and READ on,