Book 13 in Cannonball Read 2
Catching Fire is a sequel to Collins’ wonderful Young Adult book, The Hunger Games. Catching Firedeals with a brewing rebellion that Katniss may have inadvertently helped to instigate. While it is not quite as compelling as The Hunger Games, and takes a bit of time to really take off, it is nevertheless worth reading to revisit the characters and see what Collins does in expanding the themes in a story about an all-powerful government that constantly reminds its citizens of their servitude and powerlessness, and requires them to convincingly feign enthusiasm at the government’s oppression.
Collins takes a long time catching the reader up on what has been happening to Katniss and Peeta, the boy she pretended to love in order to win the hunger games, a grisly fight to the death engineered by the government. Continuing with the idea that the government demands not just obedience, but happiness at being obedient, Katniss is told by the president that during their upcoming victory tour, she must convince not just the public, but he himself, that she is in love with Peeta, though he knows this is not true (read the book for the convoluted reasons that this is necessary to quell rebellion). Of course, knowing that she must act the part or suffer the consequences only makes her more desperate and highlights the ways in which she falls short.
Collins also highlights the difference between Katniss’ poor coal-mining district and the Capitol, where they watch the games for entertainment, not because they are forced. Those who live in the Capitol are portrayed as frivolous and unaware: in one scene, Katniss must spend time comforting her hair and makeup team, although she is the one facing possible death; in another scene, Capitol partygoers gorge themselves on food, then drink a liquid that makes them vomit so they can continue to eat, unaware that Katniss and Peeta regularly see starving children back home. It is a fairly nuanced portrayal of privilege - these characters are blissfully unaware of the hardships of others, and they act in insensitive ways not out of malice, but out of their own ignorance; yet Collins does not let them off the hook, and makes it clear that their ignorance is hurtful to others regardless of the intent.
Catching Fire really gets going in the last third or so, during the following year’s hunger games. Like the first book, there are twists, uncertain and shifting alliances, and rules that constantly change. Because of the groundwork laid in the first part of the book, the end of the book is particularly powerful. There is a third book in the works, and I definitely plan on reading it, as the world is endlessly intriguing in and of itself, not to mention the cliffhanger plot.