Book Review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games 2)

It is six months after the events of The Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta are now living in Victor’s Village along with the only other occupant, previous winner Haymitch. And they are all about to go on national parade as it is halfway between the last games and the next ones. But there is trouble afoot.

There is talk of rebellion in the districts and President Snow is keen for this parade to be a big display of showmanship to quell the growing unrest. He arrives in District 12 to insist that Katniss and Peeta continue to play the ‘madly in love’ card and insists that they get married, believing that this would assist in ending the rebellion. Of course he is aware that her true love is Gale (who in the media is being touted as her cousin) and Snow uses this to his advantage to get what he wants.

It is the 75th year of The Games and Katniss is fully aware that every 25th year (Quarter Quells) adds a twist to the proceedings. At the previous one, the year that Haymitch won, the required number of tributes doubled and in this one, the Games will be made up entirely of previous winners. With everything on a knife edge, much is at stake for the pair, their families, Gale, Haymitch and even Effie who in the end of the first book was starting to become quite likeable.

I have nothing really to add with regard to the writing style; Collins has a knack for a simplistic and engaging writing style and working in back story seamlessly. Again, very easy on the eye without feeling juvenile or passionless so no great surprises there. The opulence of Capitol was fully demonstrated in the first book so there was no need to go over old ground here; we know the score by now so Collins is careful to avoid any unncessary narrative.

Katniss is still likeable and Collins continues to strike a good balance between creating a sympathetic hero and demonstrating her vulnerabilities as a young girl (let’s not forget, she is stil just sixteen years old). So we feel for her quite easily and get carried along once more in an engaging plot and some very tense moments.

The plot does not really develop in any surprising direction – the groundwork for much of the plot was already set down in the first book. I found the opening up of the story with regard to the fate of District 13 to be the biggest intrigue here. Of course being YA fiction, there is the obligatory love triangle and that side of the plot will be familiar to the point of being cliche. I can live with this as the rest of the plot carries itself well. For those of us not into romance and way out of our teens it isn’t much of a distraction. I find it hard to care about the love triangle, and I do at the best of times, but as Gale has been such a bit part so far – and in my mind has about as much personality as a bit of plywood – I’m finding it especially hard to care. For all his faults, Peeta has at least a fully developed character and we’ve got used to them being together and we cringe at the forced relationship. She loves Gale, and it is hammered home because they grew up together, but beyond that I fail to see why. In fact she seems to have chemistry with neither boy so this part of the plot falls flat on its face. But then, I am not and nor have I ever been a teenage girl. But at least the love triangle here doesn’t leave me feeling a bit creeped out in the way that the love triangle in Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters did.

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