Monday, September 14, 2009
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I can't think of any two books in a series that I've read that have been as exciting, imaginative, and original as Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. The second book was just as riveting as the first. It's going to be a long year waiting for the third book.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen stepped in to take her sister's place in the annual games designed to remind the districts that they were defeated by the Capitol in their rebellion. Katniss and her friend, Peeta Mellark, brought victory home to District 12, but at what cost? Katniss can't spend time with her best friend, Gale. He's forced to work in the mines to survive. And, she realizes she and Peeta may be forced to continue their sham because the entire nation fell in love with the two young lovers. Her very act of saving Peeta may have stirred up rebellion in the other districts. And, she knows the Capitol isn't going to let her act of defiance remain unpunished.
In fact, the Capitol has cruel plans for the young people. On a surprise visit, President Snow even indicates to Katniss that she holds the fate of many people in her hands, and she needs to live up to expectations on the annual Victory Tour. When Peeta and Katniss are unceremoniously snatched from District 12 to make the rounds of the other districts, they discover a great deal of unrest. And, the change in Peacekeepers at home is just one sign that the Capitol will crack down on any signs of insurrection. But, it's the Quarter Quell, the celebration of the seventy-five years since the districts' defeat, that will change Katniss' life, and, possibly the country, forever.
Collins' second book in the series is an enthralling, fast-paced story. The main characters, along with some minor ones that reappear, are more developed. And, the symbolism is stronger. On the cover of the book in a mockingjay, Katniss' symbol, a symbol that became important to the people in the district. "A mockingjay is a creature the Capitol never intended to exist. They hadn't counted on the highly controlled jabberjay having the brains to adjust to the wild, to pass on its genetic code, to thrive in a new form. They hadn't anticipated its will to live."
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire may have been written for young adults, but any readers who hunger for suspense, adventure, and excitement should try them out. Ray Bradbury's characters from Fahrenheit 451 would be right at home in Collins' future world where the Capitol monitors the lives of its citizens, and gives them reality TV shows to keep them under control. Catching Fire, with its cliff-hanger ending, continues to catch fire in the reader's imagination, long after the book is over.
Suzanne Collins' website is www.suzannecollinsbooks.com , and Scholastic has a link for the book, www.scholastic.com/thehungergames.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780439023498 (hardcover), 400p.