Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

*Here be Hunger Games spoilers. Proceed with caution.*

At the 74th Hunger Games, the contestants were told that two tributes could win if they were from the same District. This was because the audience fell for the pairing of Katniss and Peeta. They played that angle up for the cameras to get food, water, and medicine. Once only Katniss and Peeta were left, it was announced that the old rules were back, only one could win. That's when Katniss took out the poisonous berries, both started to eat them, and suddenly they were both winners!

Katniss' moment of inspiration could be interpreted as a love-sick girl doing anything to save her boyfriend...or as an act of rebellion. The Capitol is worried that the Districts will be inspired to stage an uprising. President Snow even visits Katniss to threaten her family and force her to keep pretending to be madly in love. She tries her hardest, kisses and hugs Peeta, even gets engaged, but President Snow still doesn't believe it. Worse, as Katniss and Peeta take their victory tour, they accidentally cause innocent citizens to be killed. The more Katniss sees of the other Districts, the more she she knows how much better everything is back in District 12, a place where things kind of suck in the first place.

Unfortunately, when Katniss returns home, everything changes for the worse. There are new Peacekeepers, representatives of the Capitol who keep everyone in line. The old Peacekeepers turned their backs on the rule-breaking that was going on. Now, every indiscretion results in a whipping or time in the stocks. Katniss' other love interest and fake cousin Gale gets whipped for being caught with a dead turkey. Because Katniss and Gale won the Games, District 12 gets a monthly delivery of food. Even this is ruined, all the food sent is rotten. When the Capitol treats people this way, how can they expect anyone NOT to revolt?

On to the Capitol's biggest and best form of punishment, the Hunger Games. It's the 75th anniversary of the games, and every 25 years is known as the Quarter Quell. The Quarter Quell throws an exciting new twist into the teenagers killing each other for sport. This year, the tributes will all be selected from the victors of previous Hunger Games. That means Katniss is definitely returning to the Games with either Peeta or Haymitch (Their mentor, winner of the 50th Hunger Games). Haymitch gets picked, but Peeta volunteers in his place. Katniss feels that she owes Peeta and makes it her mission to keep him alive, even making Haymitch promise to make sure Peeta gets out alive.

Once the games start, it's business as usual, kill or be killed. Peeta and Katniss make new allies, allies chosen by Haymitch. Katniss doesn't fully understand the game that Haymitch is playing, but it ends up being far bigger than her or the Hunger Games.

Now for the big question of the Hunger Games books: Gale vs. Peeta. I personally love Peeta. He is big and clumsy. He bakes and decorates cakes. When Katniss was starving, he gave her bread. To be fair, Gale isn't featured as much as Peeta. He nobly takes care of his family and would have taken care of Prim and her mother if Katniss had died. However, Peeta is always showing total devotion to Katniss. Gale just seems to be pissy that she never wants to go out with him. Finally, he actually looks a lot like Katniss to the point that they could be related and I think that might end up being one of the twists in the next book.

Catching Fire was a great segue into Mockingjay, which I expect to be completely explosive from beginning to end. I liked the method that Suzanne Collins used to get Katniss back into the Hunger Games. When I was reading the first book, I pictured Katniss having her name called at the Reaping to participate in her 23rd Hunger Games, looking in the camera and saying, "I'm too old for this..." (Note to Suzanne Collins: If you end up expanding the trilogy or writing a 20 years in the future sequel, you can totally use that scene.) Now, I'm just excited to read Mockingjay and learn the outcomes of all my favorite characters, whether Katniss ends up choosing Gale or Peeta, finding out exactly WHAT is going on in District 13, and probably most of all hoping that there is a happy ending. I know, happy endings suck, but these are fictional people that I care about, so I want a happy ending all the same.

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