Literary Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Format: Audiobook

The second book in the series we are re-introduced to Katniss and the world around her. She and Peeta have both made it out of The Hunger Games alive and relatively in one piece, but when Katniss admitted to Peeta that she didn’t really fall in love with him, she was just playing the game in an effort to keep the both of them alive. Except she is feeling a little broken hearted and the connection they felt while within the arena had virtually disappeared… at least according to Katniss.

We are introduced to the notion of the Quarter Quell… where every 25th Hunger Games there is a special twist that is added to the mix. During one Quarter Quell all the districts had to nominate the children to send into the Games, in another Quarter Quell all districts were expected to send double the tributes. In the third Quarter Quell all the tributes would be polled from the pool of previous living victors. In this case Katniss was automatically a part of the Quarter Quell and for the men it was between Haymitch and Peeta and as it would turn out, Peeta volunteered for the Quarter Quell.

One thing I noticed was in the last novel Katniss was very much an island throughout the story, forcing herself to ally when absolutely necessary and even then she didn’t trust those for whom she was allied to (except in special circumstances). She felt very much only and didn’t depend or lean on anyone for anything, choosing instead to rely on her resources, wits and talent to survive.

In this book she isn’t as much of an island having built a few bridges in the last novel, but now she is expected to make allies, build connections with some of the other victors as a way to survive in the games. Much to her consternation, Peeta does a lot of the talking in trying to establish partnerships with the other victors… however it wasn’t until she started showing off her archery skills that the other victors took notice.

But in the backdrop of what was happening in the Games, Katniss finds herself the center of attention, particularly as the reluctant symbol of an underground rebellion that was building in the shadows.

Catching Fire available summary:

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Ah yes… and there is that “love story” between Katniss and Peeta that the Capitol was pushing to continue, complete with the wedding spread and the planning of the wedding, etc.

However, how can two people who are so estranged find a way back to one another? By tossing them together in a situation where they are forced to face one another and with no way to escape… aka the Quarter Quell. (Granted the closest approximation would be to toss them into a room, lock them in, and keep the key.) At first, Katniss and Peeta continued the romance with the hope that they could put on the brave face to the rest of the world but eventually that faux romance appears to have grown into something more… if not into a full fledged romance, but into something deeper than what was there previously.

Heck I would argue that Katniss was developing stronger feelings for Peeta in the first novel during their first Hunger Games except Katniss was so focused on the Games that she wasn’t able to separate reality from fiction. So when she decided that she was only manipulating the audience and as thus everyone else must also be doing the same thing and she told Peeta that it was all just a game to her, she started to feel the pang of loss even though she didn’t really know why.

So when she is forced to pretend that she was in love with Peeta at the “urging” of President Snow, she did so out of fear of the lives of her loved ones. This seems to be a growing trend for Katniss, even though on the outside she appears hardened and unable to connect to those around her, she has a streak of being protective to the point that she would be willing to protect her loved ones at the sacrifice of her own life. In fact I would go so far as to say that if she was walking down the street with any of that she cares about and someone aimed a gun at them and fired, she would be more than willing to put herself in the line of fire to protect them without question. How many people would actually do that? Not necessarily, people may say that they would do that but whether they actually would is a whole other ballgame.

Once again Haymitch played a prominent role in helping Katniss and Peeta survive the first couple days in the arena, giving her hints as to whom she must ally herself with. Because she was forced to be a part of a team now, there wasn’t as much of a need to help her along.

One other person was trying to help Katniss with the Quarter Quell: Plutarch Heavensbee the new Head Gamemaker. In fact when Plutarch introduced himself to Katniss, I knew something was up. When Plutarch showed his very special pocketwatch with the mockingjay image on it, I knew that he was at least on Katniss’ side if not part of the underground rebellion.

Yes, in some ways, Plutarch’s involvement appeared to be rather contrived. I was able to predict a lot of what was going to happen in the story, nothing really came as a surprise. This tends to be an issue for me, when I read a novel, I like to not have to predict how the story would unravel. Once I am able to predict aspects of the story, I will quickly bore of the story and move on. Granted I did enjoy the novel, but I’ll admit that I was getting bored in some capacity or another.

During the Quarter Quell, Katniss and Peeta made alliances in and outside of the arena. Katniss’ choices would originally appear to be out of the norm, but for me personally I would probably have chosen similarly. Whileas Peeta was making friends with pretty much everyone. One of the allies that Katniss did not align herself with until the start of the Quarter Quell was one Finnick Odair, a figurative playboy in the Capitol known for his string of lovers. Finnick struck me as someone whose playboy style was more of a front than anything, someone that used his lovers for something more than what was between the sheets. As to what, who knows. Granted Finnick’s charm did win me over to an extent, but then again… it wasn’t exactly impossible to see that there was definitely more than meets the eye.

The same goes for Johanna Mason, one that tried to unnerve Katniss and has no qualms in strutting her stuff… so to speak. She always struck me as someone that had more going on than meets the eye and someone to watch out for in the grand scheme of things. Sure there were some aspects that one would question, when she stabbed Katniss’ and told her to lay still in the water I had a feeling that she was in it for more than the game, that there was a bigger game at stake.

Through it all, Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’ best friend from District 12 decided to take his chance and tell her of his feelings towards her. Granted I saw this coming back in The Hunger Games (as did everyone else on the planet), so it was just the matter of when. So when Gale finally told her his feelings my initial thought was that Gale was so wrong for her they were too similar, too much fire so to speak, while Peeta was more the hope and the calm that Katniss needs desperately in her life whether she knew it or not. Granted, Katniss having someone like Gale in her life is not a bad thing, in a way this helps to keep her grounded. At the same time… as I mentioned before she and Gale together is almost too much fire… so how to keep the calm?

Unlike the last book where there was a reasonable ending with a slight cliffhanger, this book had a full fledged cliffhanger where you really had no choice but to read the final book in the series to complete the trilogy. So it was with a small amount of bated breath that I find myself waiting for the audio book for the third in the trilogy to be available so that I may listen and understand the series as a whole.