By Suzanne Collins
This should post on September 1, CATCHING FIRE's release date. But I read it and wrote this before then, thanks to Lenore. She let me read her (signed!) ARC as long as she was able to keep track of me while I was reading it. So thanks Lenore! I may have to visit her again when the third ARC comes out, because there is a doozy of a cliffhanger and I know Lenore has the clout to receive an ARC and I don't. (Not that I have the money to make this a feasible plan.)
CATCHING FIRE begins awhile after THE HUNGER GAMES ends. Katniss has developed a new routine, providing for her and Gale's families with both her winnings and her hunting, as well as trying to bring more prosperity to District 12 by spreading her money around. But while Katniss would enjoy fading into obscurity, the world doesn't want to forget about her. So she receives a visit from the President, telling her to ramp up the silly-girl-in-love act while on tour with Peeta . . . or else.
Suzanne Collins knows how to move a story along. She adds a bevy of new characters to those already established, but I never felt lost. I do feel worried that I'll never know the exact fate of some of these characters, which will probably make me think terrible things happened to them. The government is worried about rebellion, so it's a bad time to show any spark. And though Katniss tries to keep her head down, her actions keep igniting the people.
I don't think I would like this series as much if it were from Peeta's point-of-view. I like Katniss's coldness. She's a good person, but she's also ruthless and practical. She lacks political savvy, but her other survival instincts are dead on. It would be very easy to hate Katniss from another POV, but it's hard not to sympathize with her while inside her head. Her own qualities also allow her to appreciate the qualities that make other Hunger Games survivors formidable, if sometimes unpleasant and dangerous.
Collins is brilliant at humanizing her characters, even the ones that oppose the protagonists. However, their main opponent, President Snow, is somewhat disappointing. He's just evil, with no attempt at roundness. I want to know what makes him tick, since he's at the root of everything. I know Collins can deliver more with him, so I hope to see that in the conclusion.
I also hope to see more of the rebellion. My main problem with Collins is I feel she has a tendency to take the easy way out. To describe why exactly would spoil both books, but feel free to discuss it with me in the comments as long as you preface your statement with SPOILER for those who have yet to read THE HUNGER GAMES and/or CATCHING FIRE.
While CATCHING FIRE is a children's book, the violence might be a bit extreme for the under-ten crowd. Collins ramps it up even more, and some scenes even made me a little queasy - and believe me, I've read some sick stuff. The premise pretty much guarantees it's going to be a violent novel, but it never hurts to give an extra warning.
Despite my quibbles, CATCHING FIRE is a wonderful book. I have no doubt that everyone who enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES will find the sequel as engaging. I also encourage fans watch or read BATTLE ROYALE, which uses a similar premise but emphasizes different themes, particularly exploitation.