Friday, September 3, 2010

Catching Fire is ON FIRE!

So for those of you who have read since the blog's genesis, you know one of my first posts reviewed a book called The Hunger Games (click that there text for that post). I greatly enjoyed the book, with or without its pitfalls. But by the time my fingers turned the last crisp page, i was indeed hungry for more (no pun intended). My sister was rereading it before Mockingjay (cannot wait to get my hands on that), but I had it in my hands very quickly and dove whole-heartily back into the post-apocalyptic country of Panem and the mind of Katniss Everdeen. (Spoiler warning for the next couple paragraphs. explaining some of the philosophy involves a couple minor spoilers.)

Well, she did it. Katniss successfully got both her and her comrade (and maybe more than that) Peeta Mellark out of the Hunger Games, making it the first year there were two Victors. But the Capitol has no intention of letting Katniss get away with this Scott-free. Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss and Peeta's mentor (and former victor to the Games himself), warned Katniss to be ready for anything. So far however, Katniss seems to be off the hook.

Until now.

One day Katniss comes home to her new and beautiful house in the Victor's Village after spending some time in the forest she has found solace in for so many years to find an unexpected guest: the Head of Panem, President Snow. And boy has he got it in for her. Katniss's slight act of rebellion in the arena has sent ripples throughout the Districts sparking sizable groups of discontented people to rebel in growing aggression. So the President's deal for Katniss is a simple one: act as if she's still the ditsy star-crossed lover of Peeta Mellark she pretended to be in the Capitol when the two of them go on the Victor's tour (which is, in short, the Capitol's way of rubbing fresh salt into the wounds of the families who lost their children as the Victor tours the country) and the President won't have Katniss's friends and family disposed of on the spot. But Katniss has her own set of issues to comply with. Ever since the awkward exchange Katniss and Peeta had on the way back to District 12 from the Games where Peeta found out Katniss wasn't as smitten with him as he'd thought (which Katniss wasn't entirely sure of), Peeta's held Katniss at a distance, and while they still talk and associate, the wounds the encounter left Peeta with are quite apparent. And her old friend Gale, in whom she had a confidant and a friend, is now working in the coal mines and was (needless to say) slightly turned off by the acts of affection Katniss displayed for this boy she had just met as compared to him, who she had known for much longer. Top that all off with the fact he now loves her as well, and you have quite the romantic turmoil. But it's clear once Katniss goes on the Victor's tour with Peeta that what Katniss did was merely unhinge the door that had been holding back years of discontent, abuse, and planning of some secret plan Katniss doesn't even realize exists. Things worsen when a new regime of Peace Keepers (police) takes over  for the lax (and kind-hearted for the most part) ones and make the previously tough life for the residents of District 12 grueling. And when the Quarter Quell, the little "twist" on the Hunger Games that occurs every 25 years (each time some new sickening change-up to the normal horror the Games bring) happens, Katniss and Peeta are thrust back into a universe they'd hoped never to enter again. The hunt for survival and, more importantly, saving each other, goes to an extreme that will change the course of the entire story.

This as an amazing sequel to an amazing novel. Much of the moral ambiguity that bugged the first book for me is solved, and as an added bonus, Katniss definitely keeps the importance of human life, both her's, her family's and (spoiler warning!!!!) her fellow Hunger Games Players  once she has to enter the Games again  at the front of her mind when she is making critical choices throughout the story. Peeta demonstrates ample self-sacrifice in the Games when he promises Katniss he'll protect her, even if it means dying in the arena just so she can return to her mother and sister and have a quiet life with Gale. As a slight downer, though, Katniss and Peeta do share a bed multiple times in the book, and while they don't deliberately engage each other, and it can be argued they are engaged, it still gives off a slightly immoral vibe, and could give off a message to some girls looking for the security of someone who will love them like Peeta (who is, by the way, an excellent role model for guys in their teens) that it's OK to bring that security into all areas of your life.

On the whole, though Catching Fire is amazing. It delivers some solid messages about survival and sacrifice, and certainly gives you a ride right up to the last word. I think this is THE book to read if you want a cliff hanger like nothing you've expected. If  Katniss is the Girl on Fire, then this is the Book on Fire!   

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