Unlike so many “series novels” that perpetuate a story to a third and fourth book without due cause, Suzanne Collins does not allow the momentum of Book 1 of the Hunger Games trilogy to fall flat.
In fact, the craving to continue reading, rapidly, through Book 2 is all-consuming. Aptly named “Catching Fire”, Book 2 seems to suspend doubts about series fiction publications and takes us, yet again, on a whirlwind tour of another exhilarating Hunger Games.
The heroine of Book 1, Katniss Everdeen, survived the first round of the Hunger Games with her fellow victor and tribute from district 12, Peeta Mellark. The two return home to District 12 only to face frightening memories and stirring ghosts of their most recent horror. District 12, seemingly unchanged, has become a foreign land for two victors who struggle to cope with nightmares, celebrity fame and luxuries that were previously unknown. This delirious state of limbo, however, does not last long for Katniss and Peeta.
This year, it is the 75th Hunger Games (also known as a Quarter Quell,) which bode a more riveting, gripping Games than ever before to distinguish the passing of another 25 years since the first uprising in Panem. The Capitol government and President Snow are still seething and furious over Katniss’ attempt to eat poisonous berries in the last games; an act that immediately threatened the government’s power and stifled the Capitol’s tradition of having a sole victor. Instead, Katniss and Peeta were both crowned as Panem’s victors and now, they must pay.
To remind the citizens of Panem of their delicate existence and inconsequentiality, even the victors are not safe from the 75th Hunger Games, in fact they are the targets. The Quarter Quell tributes will be reaped from only previous victors. And as Katniss is the only female victor, ever, from District 12, you can guess who is going back into the arena.
As Peeta and Katniss face a whole new set of challenges in the Quarter Quell, they begin to gain greater insight and perspicacity to their predicament. The 24 victors who have had the unfortunate occurrence of being reaped a second time have bonded over years of travelling to the Capitol to mentor the younger tributes. Katniss, aside from already despising the Hunger Games, is faced with the challenge of killing these people, that she has come to know. As she enters the arena, with Peeta alertly watching and protecting her every move, a heart-warming alliance begins to form between a motley crew of characters. Katniss, believes they are trying to protect Peeta, but when real danger presents itself to the band of victors, it is Katniss who is the one that is saved and Peeta who suffers.
Katniss begins to see that she represents something far greater than herself or District 12. It is her character that symbolizes a revolution of Panem. Her rebellious, hard-headed nature exhibits a determination that was previously extinguished in the country. As Katniss adapts to her role and significance in a rebellion, the tides of Panem begin to sway and churn. Mottled with social commentary and a frantic government trying to stave off a revolutionary surge, “Catching Fire” is still brisk and glossy, but slightly more sophisticated as the plot unveils a rich sub-text.
Kate Lalumiere studied English Literature at Carleton University. She now works as a freelance writer and researcher.