Saturday, April 20, 2013

Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)

Catching Fire
(The Hunger Games trilogy, Book 2)
Suzanne Collins
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Katniss Everdeen walked into the 74th Annual Hunger Games competition an underdog, and walked out a hero... and an enemy of Panem's cruel President Snow. She beat the system, allowing both her and her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta, to survive a contest that was supposed to leave only one contestant standing. With the cameras on and the Capitol citizens in love with the "star-crossed lovers" from the coal mines, it looked like there was no way for Snow to enact vengeance without enraging his own citizens. At least, so Katniss had hoped.
She soon learns just how wrong she is.
Though Katniss never intended it, she has become a symbol of rebellion to the people, a sign that the government can be thwarted. Years of discontent are finally catching fire across the oppressed districts, with the mockingjay of Katniss's token as their symbol. Little as Snow tolerated her trick at the end of the Hunger Games last year, this year he means to end her, crushing the spirit of a rebellion she never meant to spark. Instead of simply mentoring this year's tributes, Katniss and Peeta must enter the arena again, going up against victors from the other districts. And this time, Snow will see to it personally that neither make it out alive.

REVIEW: Like the first book, Catching Fire starts quickly. As desperate as life in District 12 looked before the Games, things grow even worse as the President makes good on promises to make Katniss suffer. She never asked for any of this, and more than once contemplates simply running away, either into the wilds or into her own depression. Despite the politics and intrigues swirling around her, it's all Katniss can do to simply survive. She is not, and never will be, a politician, and she has trouble even trusting her closest allies, especially when everyone she cares about seems to become a target for government forces. Katniss still can't figure out her own emotions, torn between feelings for her childhood friend Gale and her protector Peeta, not to mention her own determination that she's better off not endangering anyone by actually falling in love. Her survival instincts, however, are as keen as ever, and she manages to come through when it counts the most... up until the very end. I nearly clipped the rating a half-mark for the awkward cliffhanger, with both salvation and desperation dropping out of the sky. It seemed unnecessarily dramatic, a marketing ploy more than an authentic plot twist; there was already plenty of tension to compel me to finish reading the whole trilogy. Still, the book kept me reading long past the point where I meant to set it down and do other things with my evening, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt. (And, yes, Book 3's already in the to-be-read pile...)

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