Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic Press, New York, 2009, ISBN: 9781594135859
Catching Fire begins a few months after the closing scene of The Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta are preparing for their victory tour when President Snow makes an unexpected visit and warns Katniss that he knows her romance with Peeta is fake. If she wants to save her family and friends, she better convince the people in the districts that she didn’t trick the government into letting her and Peeta survive.
While on the victory tour, Katniss witnesses the turmoil in the other districts and understands Snow’s worry: the districts are getting ready to revolt. In retaliation, Snow’s government cracks down even harder on the districts, especially where Katniss lives. Gale is nearly killed in a public whipping for a minor infraction of the law. Katniss is just about ready to seek refuge in fabled District 13, when she learns that she has been called back to the Games as part of the Quarter Quell (the 75th Annual Hunger Games). Before she knows it, she’s back in the capital, getting ready with her prep team to re-enter the arena with Peeta at her side.
The Quarter Quell brings back two victors from each district to compete to the death in a new arena. Katniss and Peeta now have to fight against a new set of competitors, all with more training and experience. She needs to decide who she can trust to save Peeta and possibly bring down the government.
Fans of The Hunger Games won’t be disappointed with the sequel Catching Fire, which takes the story to a whole new level. In the first novel, Katniss’s fight was personal. Now it’s political. While still concerned with saving her family and friends, she now begins to see herself as a larger symbol in the fight to bring down the government. She’s still a reluctant hero, but now she understands that she’s fighting for a cause greater than herself. While still torn between her private and public selves, she starts to reconcile the two.
It’s not only Katniss’s character that evolves. Peeta and Gale become stronger, more distinct characters in this sequel as well. Peeta becomes the political leader who can use his words to inspire people to action, whereas Gale evolves into a rebel leader who sees no way to avoid the upcoming revolution. Their growing strength and importance in the movement make the love triangle more complex and interesting.
Fans of the first book may find the first half a little slower in terms of plot. Collins is giving readers a larger sense of the country that houses the 13 districts and this makes the plot feel not as focused as the earlier book. Once Katniss and Peeta get to the capital and begin participating in the Quarter Quell, the book takes off with a number of great surprises. Collin’s sharp writing and inventive details will keep readers up late at night to finish the last 100 pages.
Surviving The Hunger Games turns out to be as dangerous as the games themselves. Now Katniss is not only the symbol for the Capitol, but for the growing revolution as well. If she can’t convince President Snow she’s loyal to the government, he will punish her family and send Katniss back into the arena.
Information about the author
From the author’s page on Amazon.com, we learn that “Suzanne Collins has had a successful and prolific career writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains It All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. Collins made her mark in children’s literature with the New York Times bestselling five-book series for middle-grade readers The Underland Chronicles, which has received numerous accolades in both the United States and abroad. In the award-winning The Hunger Games trilogy, Collins continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age. Collins lives with her family in Connecticut.”
Young Adult Fiction
Does Katniss put her friends’ lives in danger with her attitude?
How must Katniss fight differently in these games compared to her first experience?
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up
Some violent scenes in the Quarter Quell. Collins does not describe the characters’ deaths in graphic detail. The book was released to rave reviews by critics and won many awards, including Time Magazine’s Top Ten Fiction Books of 2009.
Why did I include this title?
I read the first book in the series and was immediately hooked. Collins is a great storyteller and I was excited to see how she continued the story of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. While the sequel started a little slow, it got more exciting as it went along until I was reading until late in the night to finish.