Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. It’s a YA book, but I know several adults who have read and liked The Hunger Games, so it really seems to be teenager and up.
There are 12 districts and one Capital in post-apocalyptic, but feudalistic, Panem. The Capital functions as something of a feudalistic overload which “protects” the districts and in return, the Districts provide for the Capital. The catch is that the Capital is really just using the Districts to provide food and fuel for their hedonistic lifestyle while the people of the Districts suffer starvation and deprivation. Needless to say, the Districts tend to be unhappy with this arrangement, while those in the Capital give no thought to those in the Districts at all. In order to prevent uprisings, the Districts are all fenced in with electrical fences and life is strictly controlled. 75 years earlier, one District, number 13, decided to revolt and was subsequently raised by the Capital as punishment and as a lesson to all of the other Districts. As a reminder of what would happen should they choose to revolt again, the Capital instigated The Hunger Games for which each of the Districts must provide one male and one female teenager each year. Those chosen are sent to the Capital and entered in The Hunger Games during which they fight to the death. The Capital’s residents all find this hugely entertaining while the Districts are all forced to watch their children die until only one, the victor, is left.
Katniss Everdeen is a survivor of the 74th Hunger Games, only there was a twist; her District partner Peeta, also survived because Katniss manipulated the Games to ensure he was not killed. This tactic is taken as a form of revolt by the Capital, especially as it does indeed turn out to instigate revolts within the Districts. Panem’s president, President Snow, sees Katniss as a personification and personal motivator for the uprising, thus he begins to target her believing that if he can crush her, he can restore total power to the Capital. Her only chance to save herself, her friends and her family is to prove to him that she is truly, deeply in love with Peeta and that this was her only motivation for saving his life.
I liked this book. I must have since it only took me two days to finish it. It’s a good yarn and an entertaining, undemanding read. I will say that the heroine, Katniss, occasionally annoyed me to distraction. What I saw as a healthy dose of humility crossed with naïveté in the first book rapidly turned to simple blindness and stupidity in this one. Her character didn’t seem to develop at all, even though a whole year passes in the book. It made me want to slap her and tell her to wake up and smell the double espresso for heaven’s sake. It’s just not that possible to miss so much of what’s going on around you unless you’re either self-centred or possess the IQ of a kumquat. The romance was unconvincing and sugary sweet and there is also a bit of plot repetition which bothered some people, but I thought Collins got away with that rather well.
Although the actual premise of the Hunger Games is better, it reminds me a bit of the Twilight series (good teenage vampires? Honestly, how daft does that sound?) which was a riveting read, even though you knew it was really just asinine the whole time you were reading it. Still, it gets a 4 out of 5 for keeping my attention so well despite the heroin