Catching Fire

24 Jan

Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, begins after Katniss Everdeen and her male counterpart from District Twelve, Peeta, return from their fight for survival in the 74th Hunger Games. As victors of the games, Katniss and Peeta embark upon a customary tour of the districts where they are welcomed with hints of unrest. President Snow blames the resistance in Panem on Katniss’s inadvertant defiance of the Capitol in the games when she and Peeta threaten to eat the poisonous berries. Now, with the 75th Hunger Games approaching, Katniss and Peeta are prepared to serve as mentors to the new tributes. What they don’t expect, however, is that the rules of the Quarter Quell will require them to face off with other former victors in the arena. This time, Katniss’s survival is more precarious – after all, her opponents are people who have already won the games with their strength, quick wit, and desperate will to survive. It seems the odds are not in her favor. More importantly, however, is the survival of Peeta. Can Katniss manage to keep Peeta alive in a savage arena against fierce opponents?  

When I told my students that I had begun reading Catching Fire, a few of them remarked that they did not like this book as much as The Hunger Games. When I asked them why they were less than impressed, their response was unanimous: the plot of Catching Fire, in their opinion, was slow and boring. I disagree! As with the first book in the trilogy, I found myself devouring Catching Fire. This book focuses more on the heightening unrest in the Capitol, whereas the plot of The Hunger Games centers on the action in the arena. Perhaps my students thought the tour of the districts was not as exciting because it lacked the drama of the previous book. In contrast, I appreciate this aspect of the novel because I thought the victory tour communicated the country’s heightening tensions. I also thought the picture of Panem’s unrest highlighted the citizens’ need for a leader like Katniss. Speaking of Katniss, I continue to enjoy her character. She is an unwilling symbol of the rebellion, a reluctant leader. She feels unequal to the responsibility and admiration the citizens of Panem are so willing to attribute to her. Though she used to hush Gale when he spoke of the Capitol’s flaws, Katniss is beginning to question their authority as well. She’s feisty, yet her actions are ruled by her compassion for others. I find Katniss’s character to be believable and lovable in spite of her flaws (and perhaps, because of her flaws). I’m already afraid that I will miss her when I finish Mockingjay.

On a side note, I think I will have to re-read the Hunger Games trilogy. Right now, I’m speeding through the pages to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta. I think another reading will allow me to truly enjoy the plot.

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