Book of the Week - Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

As a science fiction addict, I devoured Suzanne Collins' first book Hunger Games with ferocity. If you have not read the first book and intend to, I suggest that you stop reading now or at least skip down a paragraph as I am going to offer up the plot and opinions of Hunger Games before I get into the second addition to the series.

Hunger Games is told by spunky sixteen-year-old Katniss. In a future society America has undergone a lot of changes. After an open rebellion, The Capital rose up and destroyed the rebels, splitting their country into thirteen districts. Each district produces certain items like District 11 grows things, District 12 works in coal mines, and Distrcit 3 creates electronics. The districts live in deep poverty, often struggling just to make ends meat. As a reminder that the Capital is always in control they have created the terrible and cruel Hunger Games. Every year they choose a girl and boy from each district to compete in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death. Katniss takes the place of her little sister and is soon thrown into the most terrifying game she will ever play. Somehow, mostly by accident, Katniss defies the Capital and manages to save her friend Peeta, making two winners for the Hunger Games and an enemy of the Capital.

The second book picks up right after Katniss and Peeta have won. The horrors of the Hunger Games still haunt Katniss who suffers from nightmares and guilt. She likes Peeta, but isn't in love with him the way that she pretended she was in order to win the games. And it seems the Capital is not going to let her forget it.

My problem with the second book is that Katniss, despite being thrown into very mature and grown-up situations, is still utterly clueless. She began the sparks of rebellion in the first book, but it was simply an accident not an act of defiance. When she offers her apologies to the families of those killed in the Hunger Games, again she defies the Capital--by accident. In fact, there isn't much that Katniss does on purpose. She sneaks out of the District and stumbles across some rebels from District 8, and it was only because she needed some alone time. Never on purpose. When the Capital announces their devious plan of sending previous victors to the Hunger Games, Katniss flips, but instead of refusing or defying or fighting or something, she starts training.

The plot is great, the story is wonderful. Exciting, thrilling, fighting, killing, rebellion. The main character on the other hand...never changes. She never learns. She never gets it. Even in the end (don't worry I won't reveal the end) she still doesn't get it. Come on girl. Get a clue. The reader is so often aware of what the character isn't that it is frustrating. I like the story and wanted to see these people rebel, but most of all, I wanted to see Katniss rebel. She never did.


Anne Ursu said...

I like your critique a lot, Venus. You put your finger on something that bugged me about the character. The book also felt so hasty to me--Hunger Games was really so well written and paced and this just seemed like a first draft.

Have you read The Ask and The Answer yet?

Unknown said...

Haven't read it yet. I'm afraid I have a terrible habit of reading the first book of a series and then taking a very long time to get to the next book. It's on my list, but frankly, I think I have thirty other books ahead of it. Which means I'll get to it in January. Sometimes it pays to read quickly.

Anne Ursu said...

I'll be really curious what you think. (Big thumbs up here, but I can't decide if it's better than the first or not.)