Picking up several months after the end of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire throws us back into Collins’ politically charged world known as Panem. Peeta and Katniss are the first co-Hunger Game winners ever. As such, much is being made of their publicity tour of the twelve districts. The world still believes them to be young and in love, but little do they know that the two have barely spoken since arriving back in district twelve. Katniss’ struggle to figure out her true feelings for Peeta has only been made more difficult by her return to district twelve and in turn the renewal of her friendship with Gale. Gale has been her hunting partner and best friend for several years, but he’s also been her confidant and knows her better than anyone. While Katniss struggles to figure out whether her feelings for Peeta are real, she becomes more in tune for her yearning for Gale. Just when Katniss through her life couldn’t get any more complicated, President Snow, ruler of Panem, comes to make a personal visit to let Katniss know that there have been uprisings in the districts, and that he is holding her responsible because of the berry stunt she pulled at the end of the Hunger Games. He tells her that the only way she can save her family, friends, and her district is to make everyone believe on her press tour that the berry stunt was done out of despair in a love-crazed act of finality. Will she be able to convince all of Panem that she loves Peeta?
On top of all of the other problems Katniss is facing, it is the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, also known as the third “Quarter Quell”. It is announced that instead of picking tributes from the districts, tributes will be picked from previous Hunger Games winners. This means that Katniss will be going into the games with either Peeta or Haymitch. Will she be able to survive a second time, or will her luck finally run out?
I absolutely loved this novel for multiple reasons, chiefly Collins’ ability to create intricate layers of conflict in her characters. Katniss is a prime example of this multi-layered conflict effect. She is dealing with a. the fact the she survived the games and the grief and guilt that comes along with the win b. the love triangle that her feelings for Gale and Peeta form c. President Snow laying the weight of Panem and the uprising on her shoulders and d. her struggle in facing the games again not as a mentor but as a tribute for the second time. Katniss is not the only character that has multi-layered conflicts. Peeta is dealing with trying to figure out a strategy to keep Katniss alive in the games while also knowing that her love for him was all a strategy ploy. Gale is trying to deal with his anger with the Capital for what they’ve done to Katniss, as well as dealing with his inner turmoil of jealousy about Peeta. The list of conflicts goes on and on, and these are just some examples of how complex and intricate Collins’ writing can be.
The ending of Catching Fire is just like the ending of The Hunger Games in that it is a perfect cliffhanger. If I had read these books when they first came out, I don’t think I would have survived the wait time inbetween the publications. I literally finished The Hunger Games, picked up Catching Fire, read it cover to cover, and then picked up the third in the trilogy, Mockingjay, finishing all three in under 24 hours. While all three books are told through the eyes of Katniss, I would have loved to have seen some of the other characters’ thoughts, most specifically Peeta’s. While it’s certainly engaging to be in Katniss’ head for her love triangle turmoil, I would have liked to have known how Peeta was feeling about it all. All in all, Catching Fire continues the stellar and unique story that Collins began in The Hunger Games and leaves the reader greedily wanting more. She continues to ask us to look at the deeper meaning in her writing and learn something from her themes of survival and indepdence.
5 out of 5 Stars