Book Review – Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Edition: Hardcover
Year: 2009

Much thanks to Danielle for letting me borrow her copy. I wasn’t expecting to read it in four days, but hey, what can you do?

This a book that is very difficult to talk about without giving everything away, I have to say. The book throws curve balls you don’t see coming, and even when you get hints that something’s going on, you still don’t totally understand what. You’re sensing something’s not quite right. You’re pretty sure you know kind of sort of what is going on, but you can’t put your finger on it.

And then you get to the end of the book and whole thing blows itself wide open.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins proves, easily, that she knows how to tell a story and keep you turning the pages. This is the second installment in the Hunger Games series, and it’s amazing, considering how much of the two books is similar, how completely different they are, in terms of their types of stories. The first book is a straight forward story. The Hunger Games are upon us, the reaping comes, you experience the Games preparation in Katniss’s head, you experience the Games with her, she returns triumphant (trust me, to anyone who has not already read The Hunger Games, I didn’t spoil anything).

The second book picks up shortly before Katniss has to make the tour of the rest of the districts and end in the Capitol for a big celebration. Except things go very wrong. Her defilement of the government in the arena has got people talking, and there are uprisings and unrest building in the Districts. President Snow asks her to put a stop to it, and she does everything she can, but it’s not enough.

Every 25 years, the Hunger Games are turned into the Quarter Quells, which adds another terrible twist to the already terrible games. And it was a twist neither Katniss nor I saw coming.

If this book left me feeling something in particular, it was the want for more. I felt as angry as Katniss does in the end for being left in the dark, and I felt like I’d been tricked and forced to the stay in the dark as well. I’m sure most of that will be cleared up in the opening chapters of Book Three, bu

t until then I have to deal with being highly unsatisfied. The cliffhanger for this book I can best liken to the Empire Strikes Back cliffhanger (although I wasn’t alive to experience the full effect of the cliffhanger firsthand). The first book (and, for that matter, the first Star Wars movie) end on a pretty resolute note. You know there is more story to be told, but you feel fully satisfied for the moment. The end of Empire Strikes Back however, leaves you itching. I have a very hard time resisting the urge to put Return of the Jedi in as soon as I finish. Oh, I know as well and anyone else that Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and the droids successfully free Han, but it’s such a wonderful cliffhanger that I usually can’t stand it. The cliffhanger on Catching Fire is very much the same. This was not a clean ending; the story is not over, and there is much more to be told. Everything that crashes on Katniss in the last chapter crashes on you, too.

And the next book isn’t out until August. Sigh. C’est la vie, no?

Anyway, I liked Catching Fire better than The Hunger Games, no question. We meet some fun new characters, we get to know previously introduced characters better, and other than the frustrating ending, I have nothing negative to say about the book.

Grade: A

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