Sunday, September 13, 2009

I caught fire and loved it

Note: This review does NOT contain any spoilers.

Suzanne Collins earned a huge following with The Hunger Games. With the release of its sequel, Catching Fire, more readers will discover and love the adventures of Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, and other citizens of Panem, the world that Collins conjured in her Hunger Games trilogy. Collins has indeed cemented her position in the crowded genre that is YA fiction.

Having managed to win the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta return to District 12 as heroes. They've managed to outwit the Capitol in letting it declare not just one but two winners for the first time. Now, all they have to do is take part in the Victory Tour, wherein they'll visit all 12 districts and the Capitol and be feted with speeches and lavish dinners. (There's a certain morbid aspect here. In the annual Hunger Games, each of the 12 districts sends a teenage boy and girl to compete in the games, one wherein the contestants are required to kill each other, leaving only one winner. During the Victory Tour, the people in other districts are honoring the person who has killed their contestant.)

But people in the 12 districts are becoming restless, further realizing how unhappy the Capitol is treating them. Hunger is widespread; people are tired because of the forced labor the Capitol imposes upon them. Katniss, with her unconventional way of winning the Hunger Games, becomes the unwilling symbol of the rebellion. One by one, the districts stage massive revolts against the Capitol and for everything it symbolizes -- decadence, wealth, and abundance. But the Capitol has several tricks up its sleeve, one of which is the Quarter Quell. This year is the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, and every 25th year, it organizes the Quarter Quell, a reformulated version of the Hunger Games.

Everything that readers loved in the first book is here in Catching Fire. Once again, Collins touches on sensitive subjects such as oppression, violence, dirty politics, and status inequality. These are issues which are not usually tackled in YA fiction, but Collins handles these negative ideas and concepts in a tactful way. Readers may cringe at the cold-blooded killings happening during the story, but they stay glued to the novel, always eagerly anticipating what happens next.

Because Catching Fire is the second in a planned trilogy, readers can't help but make their own predictions as to what the third novel can possibly focus on. And these guesses usually affect the way you anticipate the events in Catching Fire. Collins does pull several surprises, but there are several threads in the narrative that can be quite predictable. There are characters in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire who have proven indispensable to the story; killing them off would drastically affect how the trilogy will come full circle.

One of the reasons many adults still go back to YA novels every now and then is the straightforward story these novels have. Collins flexes her storytelling prowess in Catching Fire, a worthy sequel to The Hunger Games. The events are linear; there's none of those flashbacks that have become a staple in adult novels just to provide a context or a background to the present events. She has also effectively laid out the elements of the third and last novel, which will hopefully come out next year. I just can't wait for it.

Read this book if:
  1. You're craving for a YA novel with a bite.
  2. You're not afraid of the occasional bloodshed.
  3. You just love a good, thrilling, and satisfying story.


Vivienne said...

I can't wait to read this. I bought it this week, so I am very excited.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Vivienne! I can't wait to read your review!

fantaghiro23 said...

Haha! I was wondering how long you'd hold off writing your review. This book is on top of my to-buy list at the MIBF this week.

Thanks for not including spoilers.:)

Peter S. said...

Hello, Honey! Hahaha. I'm actually holding off buying more books. I've bought tons of hardcovers the past few weeks. All at full prices!

sumthinblue said...

AIEEE! I clapped my hand over my eyes while I scrolled down, even though it's spoiler free.

Will get back to this entry after I get my copy on Wed.


I can't wait.

Patrick said...

LOL @ blooey's comment. I actually did the same thing she did.

There's a one year gap between the 1st and 2nd book. I think it's safe to assume 3 won't be out till Sept 2010 and I hate waiting. I'll try to start this series closer to book 3's release. Hehe!

Anonymous said...

Moan, moan...Oh why did I have to see this post and that of Blooey's (Hunger Games). Now, I just have to have these! I've already made a list of 25 must-have books for this book season, which I will add to over a hundred unread ones on my shelf!

Peter S. said...

@Blooey: LOL!

@Patrick: I think part of the fun is the waiting.

@Jo: These books are really must-haves.

mel u said...

I like what you said about why adults sometimes will read a young adult book. Sometimes you just want a good story told in an clearly narrated fashion-often young adult books have better production values-and frankly they are often better written-

Melissa said...

Thanks for your review! I am getting ready to read Hunger Games here in a few weeks then getting into this one.

I have heard many GREAT priases on this book and the first one that I am very anxious to get to them.

This sounds really, really good!

Peter said...

@Mel: I agree with you that some YA novels are often better written. I guess that's the challenge when you write for children -- how to make your writing as interesting and engaging as possible.

@Melissa: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are worth all the hype!

Something's Dishy said...

Hi Peter - Nice to meet you too. I'm a book lover but I much prefer to write about food. I did write about a few books in my blog though. You can check the archives.

Looking forward to this book (Catching Fire) too!

Peter S. said...

Hello, Mrs. B! All right, I'll check the archives.

Michael said...

Hi Peter, I've been pressing my luck in holding out on "Hunger Games", because I've been reading reviews of "Catching Fire" - just a matter of time before I hit some spoilers. I think I should get to the library and read "Hunger Games" soon - perhaps in a few weeks time when I wrap up my home renovations.

Krista said...

Catching Fire is AWESOME!