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Saturday, November 06, 2010

cover of 'Catching Fire'

I had heard that the sequel to The Hunger Games (which I read last month) wasn't quite as good or as enthralling as the first book in the trilogy-- but I found this book quite engaging and easy to read, and almost as hard to put down. We find Katniss and her family more or less settled into her posh house in the nearly unoccupied Victor's Village of District 12, with running water and a telephone but no one to call; she still hunts with Gale, but not because she or her family need it, but his does-- and she needs something to do, to keep herself busy. We pick up the story just before Katniss and Peeta go on the road to visit all of the districts, in a terrible victory tour that reminds all the other districts and families and parents what they lost-- but Katniss gets a secret, threatening visit from President Snow to tell her, she'd better continue pretending to be crazy in love with Peeta, because otherwise... Katniss' clever solution to keeping both herself and Peeta alive at the end of the last book has become a symbol of rebellion, of out-witting the all-powerful Capitol; Snow threatens her family and friends if she doesn't do everything she can to discourage that view of things, but as they make their way through the districts, Katniss begins to realize maybe it doesn't matter what she does or says, she can't convince anyone or change anyone's mind...

On their trip through the other Districts, Katniss and Peeta aren't allowed to see much-- but they see enough to know that some of the people have things much worse off than District 12. And soon after their return, a new and brutal head Peacekeeper takes over without warning, catching many people by surprise and punishing everyone for things they had forgotten were even illegal-- even trying to catch Katniss outside of the fence (also illegal) by electrifying it and hoping to trap her. Katniss begins to think of running away, and starts to wonder if there are uprisings going on in other districts, and even hears rumors that District 13 may not be the dead wasteland that the Capitol would like everyone to think it is.

However, the story really picks up when we get back to this year's Hunger Games. It's a Quarter Quell, the extra-special (especially brutal) "celebration" they have every 25 years (this is apparently 75 years since District 13 rebelled and was destroyed and the Hunger Games were instituted); the last time, a double tribute was required, two boys and girls from each district. This year, President Snow reads off the card that the tributes will be selected from the Hunger Games victors in each district-- and as the only female winner from District 12, Katniss knows she will have to go back into the horrible games that still give her and Peeta nightmares.

Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch all begin training and researching all the other victors who may be their possible competitors-- but this time it is different; a range of ages (some of the competitors are very old), and most of them know each other, since they have been coming to the games for years as they must to mentor each year's tribute children.

The story is told from Katniss' perspective, and she isn't in on everything-- Haymitch's strategy, recruiting and making allies from the other competitors-- so it is very interesting trying to figure out what is going on, especially once we get to the actual games; people are allying themselves with Katniss (even with tokens and messages from Haymitch to make sure she understands or believes them), and helping Katniss and Peeta in ways she doesn't quite understand, since she is still thinking that eventually these people will become enemies-- but it all begins to make sense very near the end of the book, when she remembers Haymitch's final reminder to "remember who the enemy is", and we as readers finally get to see what has been going on behind the unexplained actions and secret strategies and plans. It's very exciting, and leaves me wanting to read the next book very soon.

Started and finished this book within about twelve hours.

Title:Catching Fire
Author:Suzanne Collins
Date published:2009
Genre:Young Adult/Science Fiction
Series:The Hunger Games Trilogy
Number of pages:391


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