Friday, March 16, 2012

Young Adult Fiction: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW! If you have not yet read Catching Fire and do not want to know any part of the plot then you may not want to continue reading this post. Also, because this is the second book in a three-book series, I cannot really talk about it without revealing some of what happens in the first book. So really there are spoilers in here about both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. You have been warned.

The Situation: After winning the 74th annual Hunger Games for District 12, Katniss and her family have moved into the Victor's Village where they have a two-story house and plenty of food. For the first time in Katniss' life there is no need for her to hunt to feed her family, but she still does in order to help out her friends who aren't so fortunate. She even manages to patch things up with Peeta to where they can at least be friends.

The Problem: Even with the improved circumstances at home, Katniss has to deal with the reality that she and Peeta have to go on the dreaded victory tour throughout all 12 districts and the Capitol. Looking out into the crowd and at the faces of the families of the children she killed is not something Katniss is looking forward to. And for every year after this she and Peeta will have to join Haymitch as mentors for future tributes of District 12. Also, President Snow isn't entirely convinced that she is in love with Peeta, and he is still mad at her for making him, the Capitol, and the Gamemakers look foolish because of how she outsmarted them during the games. President Snow blames Katniss for the uprising that now seems imminent, and he is determined to make her pay.

Genre, Themes, History: As brutal and intense as these books are, I am still having a hell of a time believing they are young adult literature, but they are. I'm probably not giving young adults enough credit, but with that being said I am super curious to see how they deal with the brutality of the story once the movie hits the big screen.

The theme of social justice continues with more instances of the oppressed having to make difficult and sometimes terrible decisions due to their circumstances. The mere fact that the Capitol makes the victors visit every district halfway between when the last Hunger Games ended and the new ones begin show how the government likes to always make its presence felt and remind the people of who is really in charge. But while government control still factors in here, ideas and talk of rebellion start to play a part too among the larger and more general theme of survival and what must be done simply to see the next day. 

My Verdict: While still really good, this book for me was the weakest of the series, and I'll go into why when I discuss my least favorite moment later. I do like how Collins depicted the birth of an uprising and the desperation of those in control to maintain that control.

Favorite Moment: While on the victory tour in District 11, Katniss makes a point to give special thanks to Rue and Thresh as they were both a big part of her winning the Hunger Games despite being from a different district. After she finishes speaking, everyone gathered there from District 11 begins singing in a sign of both remembrance and rebellion. It is actually a really nice scene until the shooting starts.

Least Favorite Moment: This is another category (like Least Favorite Character) that I won't use all of the time unless there is something specific that really irritates me. I was absolutely furious when I read that Katniss was going to have to participate in the Hunger Games all over again. When she won the games in the first book I felt such an intense sense of relief not only because she won and was alive, but also in just the fact that the games were over. And then President Snow just has to get on the revenge path and make it where Katniss has no choice but to go back in because of the unique rules of the Quarter Quell. But not only was I upset with President Snow, but the author as well. I feel like with 11 other districts to play with, and the Capitol, that surely there were other ways of continuing the story. It was too close to the "it was all a dream," or the "she has amnesia" plot lines we all know so well. With that being said, still an excellent story.    

Favorite Character: I have liked Cinna the stylist since the first book. He is always somewhat reserved but really supportive of Katniss, but in this book, he makes some bold moves that make him more than just a pawn of the Capitol, and thus wins my ultimate approval.

Recommended Reading: Mockingjay. The third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

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