Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
Catching Fire picks up several months after the end of the first book. And if The Hunger Games is about survival, then Catching Fire is about ideals. When Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games by threatening suicide rather than killing one another, they triggered a spark of rebellion among the districts. As such, the Capitol has been keeping a very close eye on them, especially Katniss.
The Katniss-Peeta-Gale triangle intensifies here, becoming more integral to the the story. Since the end of the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta have been acting like love-struck sweethearts in front of the cameras, trying to convince the Capitol audience that their act of defiance was merely a reaction to their inability to part with one another. Despite this, Katniss has not sorted out her feelings for Peeta, and still feels a strong draw toward Gale. After the President threatens to kill Gale, Katniss realizes that the only way to protect the ones she loves from the Capitol is to marry Peeta. But Katniss has not sorted out her feelings for either guy, and she resents the Capitol for forcing her into a long-term relationship with Peeta.
This book takes the issues explored in the first book and plays them out on a larger scale. In The Hunger Games, Katniss’ ultimate choice comes down to surviving the games as the Capitol’s pawn or listening to her conscience and risking death. In Catching Fire, Katniss has become the unwitting symbol of the districts’ growing rebellion. But if she chooses to become an agent of that rebellion, her family and Gale could be murdered by the Capitol. But with rumors of uprisings in other districts, Katniss slowly begins to realize that this has become much bigger than her.
Both the tension and the emotional ante have been upped in this book. Even an extended sequence that seems, on the surface, to parallel what happened in the first book only serves to underscore how much has changed in Panem in a year.
That said, this book is so plot heavy that character development has suffered here. If you haven’t read the first book, Katniss’ attraction to both Gale and Peeta may not resonate the way it should.
But if you have read the first book, than Catching Fire is an emotional roller-coaster of a sequel. It’s exciting and, at times, frightening, and has the kind of ending that will drive you crazy waiting another year for the finale.
I, for one, have already marked my calendar.