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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Catching Fire - The Hunger Games Book 2

So, building on my last post, today we shall be talking about book two of the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire.  By far, this was my favorite book in the series.  I feel like the first one set the stage and the second one was the climax of everything and then the third.... well, we'll talk about that one later.  I'm going to focus on analyzing the story and talking about what I think about style, character development, etc.  I already spent a decent amount of time digging into the deeper meanings and such in my post on the first book.  If you haven't already, I highly suggest reading it before you jump into this one, as this one will build on the other a little bit.

***SPOILER ALERT*** I will be discussing the book as if I am talking to someone who has already read it, thus I might give away important plot points, so if you haven't read it yet, consider yourself warned.

Picking up right where the Hunger Games left off, with Peeta and Katniss returning home as victors, we watch as new drama and difficulties unfold for Katniss.  She and Peeta are barely speaking since he found out that her lovey-dovey act in the arena was just that - an act.  She and Gale rarely see each other since she still has to keep up the idea that she and Peeta are in love and Gale is now working in the coal mines.  In short, Katniss' life is now pretty miserable.  Before the hunger games, Gale was her
only friend, during the hunger games Peeta became a friend, but now she doesn't really have anyone.  The only thing she has to look forward to is the Victory tour, an event halfway between hunger games when the victor(s) visit each district in a big propaganda show.  Then things get more interesting.  Turns out, back in book one when she decided that she and Peeta needed to both commit suicide instead of one of them dying so that the Capitol would have a victor, although she was only thinking of survival and going home without Peeta would have killed her inside, there are people throughout Panem who saw it as something more.  They saw it as an act of defiance, and it inspired them to act out themselves.
 President Snow, the leader of the Capitol, visits Katniss and threatens harm to her family and friends if she doesn't allay these uprisings by convincing the people that she is nothing more than a girl desperately in love.  But she's not, and despite her best efforts, no one is fooled.  The only thing that she, Peeta or Haymitch can come up with that might help is a big, public engagement, which does not have the desired effect, although they continue with the charade all the way through the book.  Now this is where the story takes a very interesting turn.  See, every 25 years, the hunger games have a special edition called the quarter quell where there is some interesting twist to the games.  This year is the 75th hunger games, so it promises to be something special and it doesn't disappoint.  Instead of the customary boy and girl tribute between the ages of 12 and 18, each district must send a male and female tribute who has already participated and won.  Long story short, Peeta and Katniss are back in the games.
Needless to say neither of them are very happy about it, and both are determined to keep the other alive, knowing full well that the both of them cannot win this time.  Another long story short, Katniss ends up blowing up the arena, and agents from District 13 (which the Capitol has been telling everyone doesn't exist, and now it turns out is the seat of the rebellion) show up and save Katniss and a couple other people who are with her.  The catch, Peeta wasn't with her, which means that the Capitol has him hostage.  When Katniss wakes up to find herself in the company of people who she thought wanted to kill her and Haymitch (who was her mentor and one of only three people whom Katniss trusted), with Peeta captured she is furious and basically becomes depressed, refusing to eat, drink or speak.  The only thing that can pull her out of this state is what we see in the final scene of the book.  Gale.  One of the three people she trusts, probably the only one she trusts unconditionally.  He comes in, assures her that her family is safe and because he is unable to lie to her, he tells her that district 12 no longer exists.

This book was filled with suspense, some interesting twists and of course, a fair bit of adventure and romance.  I really liked the character development in this book.  Watching Katniss become a little more sophisticated and you think maybe, maturing a little bit.  She doesn't think about herself quite so much, she thinks about Peeta and his feelings a little more than she did in the first book, which is nice and maybe a hint as to who she is going to end up with?  Like I said in my previous post, I like Gale best, so I liked that we saw a little bit more of him and got to get to know him as a character and see him develop a little more.  And Peeta, well quite honestly, I don't have much to say about Peeta.  In both book one and book two he just seems so perfect.  He's in love with Katniss.  That pretty much defines him and why he does what he does.  Sure, he's hurt that she was faking in the arena and he is bummed that this whole engagement thing isn't real in the fact that she isn't in love with him, but he still loves her and is willing to do anything to protect her.  Anything.  He is seriously the perfect boyfriend.
In this book you get to see a little bit more of the Capitol's cruelty.  You begin to see more clearly the need for change - but again the book is written from Katniss' point of view and so she takes you on her journey of trying to figure out where she stands and why.  Honestly, I don't even know where to begin in digging into this book.  I have nothing negative to say about it, my reservations have been expressed in my last post, and I enjoyed this book so much I can't think of anything negative to say about it.  Which is a good thing I suppose.  I think that the strongest aspect of this book is the first person narration style.  We as the readers are inside Katniss' head, so we get carried around by her thoughts, we feel with her as she goes through things and we get so caught up in it that we feel like we are right there beside her.

Like I said about the first one, due to the heavier themes and deeper philosophical ideas, I don't recommend this book for anyone under a senior in high school.

Stick around for my take on Mockingjoy, The Hunger Games movie and more, coming soon!

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