Friday, 22 July 2011

Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult
Series: 2nd book in The Hunger Games series (read in order)
Series Order: The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), Mockingjay (2010)
Type: Kindle ebook
First Published: 2009
First Line: "I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air."

Synopsis: After winning the 74th annual Hunger Games Katniss and Peeta return home to more attention than they ever expected. Their unique and creative way of winning the Games has caused quite a stir in the 12 districts. So much so that there are rumours of rebellion breaking out in several districts. Suddenly Katniss finds herself thrust into the position of the primary symbol of the rebellion which unfortunately doesn't go unnoticed by President Snow who wasn't happy with how Katniss upset the Games.

After a brief and unexpected visit from President Snow Katniss is made aware of how her actions have put those she loves in danger ... especially if she and Peeta don't continue to convincingly show their 'love' for each other to the public while on their Victory Tour of the Districts.

Soon after their tour a special Hunger Games is announced. Since it is the 75th Games there is a special Games planned called a quarter Quell. But this time around the Capital has changed things and have chosen previous winners of the Hunger Games to compete. Now Katniss finds herself competing against competitors who are beloved by the people in the Districts. Competitors who range in age from 14 to 80 years old! Can Katniss and Peeta survive another round of the Games or will their luck run out?

My Thoughts: After reading the riveting first book in this series, "The Hunger Games" (see my review for that book here), I couldn't wait to keep reading about Katniss and see what happens next. Unfortunately, "Catching Fire" didn't have the heat of the first book and just fizzled for this reader.

Regrettably, this book suffers from Middle Book Syndrome. MBS afflicts many second books in a series where the second book is merely a segue in-between the first and last book of a trilogy. "Catching Fire" didn't feel like it was a book that could stand on its own but was more like a teaser for book three. Also, the fact that it seemed to regurgitate the first book didn't help matters either. It was much too similar and not nearly enough non-stop action as in "The Hunger Games".

In modern terms this book could be called "Hunger Games: All-Stars". You know what I'm talking about. Like when "Survivor" or "Big Brother" bring back past contestants to play the game again. The only problem is it's not CBS who's running this show but Panem's Capital. With a country on the brink of all-out rebellion, I wasn't sure why the Capitol would want to bring back beloved District heroes into a new Game. Wouldn't having the populace see their infamous and beloved heroes killed create even more anger and hatred towards the Capitol thereby increasing the rioting?? It just didn't make sense.

Another reason this book didn't grip me is because the tributes weren't on their own but banded into groups from the start. At times it felt more like Survivor with all of the alliance wheeling and dealing and the 'can I trust him or her not to stab me in the back later?" kind of thing. The book focused more on that type of head game than the basic struggle for food/water/safety like in the first book.

I also found the description of the arena confusing this time around. I reread the author's description a few times and finally gave up trying to picture it in my mind and kept reading. It isn't until later that I understood the design of the arena. I'm the kind of person who, when I read, have a mental picture in my head. It's those pictures that tend to stick with me long after I've read the book. Not being able to clearly picture what the arena looked like didn't help me jump into this book.

Then there was the lacklustre 'love triangle'. In the first book I was definitely rooting for Peeta and Katniss. He was this strong, silent type who was totally devoted to a girl who, quite frankly, didn't treat him as well as she should have. In this book, Peeta still comes off as a devoted and sweet guy ... but after awhile you either want him to catch a break and get the girl or man up and tell this whiny, controlling girl off. Am I the only one who felt this way?

I think, after two books, Peeta almost seemed too good to be true. He's the character that everyone is supposed to root for because he's just so darn trusting and so in love with a girl who, for quite awhile, would have killed him in a heartbeat for most of the first book. Now, suddenly, Katniss has a change of heart, loves him and wants to save him over herself.

Plus, how can there be a love triangle when one of the people in said triangle has no lines in the book and doesn't even make an appearance (except in a rehash made by Katniss?). It's more like a Love Line since we never see the other guy! We have to take Katniss' word and recollection for her feelings for Gale instead of seeing her experience them. Big difference! With Gale barely being in this book there definitely wasn't the intensity in the love triangle compared to the first book.

Katniss' character seemed to change a lot too. In the first book she was tough and could handle pretty much anything that was thrown at her. In "Catching Fire" she seems to be much more manipulative which leaves me wondering why such a good guy like Peeta could be so in love with her. She was, in a word, annoying (and whiny). Ok, that's three words but you get my point. She wasn't this tough 'gonna survive no matter what' kind of girl this time around. But perhaps if I was thrown into a Survivor-type game with 'Boston Rob' I'd feel a bit whiny too (totally in awe of Rob!) but a little ticked off and whiny too!

But I digress ....

While there were some tense situations experienced by the Tributes their struggles weren't nearly as surprising and just felt like they were thrown in for shock value. They didn't have nearly the impact as the first book. I felt like the issues the Games threw at the competitors just got in the way of the storyline and I wanted the author to just get on with telling the story. Not a good sign.

I think that with a second book in a trilogy authors really have to bring their A game to keep the storyline going, keep up the momentum as well as the intensity so that readers feel that they 'have to' keep reading. There has to be something new and vibrant with the second book in a trilogy - sadly this wasn't the case with this book.

When you add in the very abrupt ending that seemed to come out of nowhere I just didn't love this book. My biggest concern is that I've heard that the first and second books are the best in the series which doesn't leave me with a 'gotta get my hands on the last book' feeling with this series :(

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars


April from Comox, BC said...

Oh no!!! I was really looking forward to this book. Well, I'm sure I'll be reading it anyways, but now I'm not in a big rush.

Aleisha said...

okay, yes, it does suffer a little from the MBS as you put it, it feels sort of stilted and the ending is very abrupt. BUT, things do get resolved in the third, obviously and it's not how you would imagine it all coming together. I was not thrilled with the second bok either, but I did really enjoy the third and it did resolve loose ends, gave you some really thrilling action and as they say in the Scream movies, all bets are off in third - you can kill off anyone you like in the third. Remember that.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Oh Aleisha, although I did have all those feelings about Catching Fire and it didn't live up to the hype (or my expectations) I will read the last book. Based on your review of the third book as well as the fact that I'd like to see how it all ends I'll finish the trilogy. :)

April - when you do read the book I'd be interested in what you thought of it.

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