Catching Fire, the second book of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, is another intense ride. Once again we’re taken through a range of emotions with extra threats, action, betrayal, compassion and twists and turns. It continues to deliver the punches and does not disappoint.
I read Catching Fire dying to know what would happen now that Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have returned to District 12 victorious from the 74th Hunger Games. We know at the end of the first book that the Capitol is not happy about the outcome of the games and that a price would have to be paid.
Catching Fire is in three parts. Part I doesn’t follow the same action pattern as The Hunger Games but helps us better understand life in the districts and the possible consequences for going against the all powerful and cruel rulers in the Capitol. The story picks up a few months after the games have ended and Katniss and Peeta are about to embark on a victory tour of the other districts. It also becomes clear that there is growing unrest in the districts and just how far the Capitol is prepared to go to keep the people of Panem under control. Finally, we are confronted with the ultimate challenge that awaits Katniss and Peeta as the former tributes from District 12.
It’s never easy reading the middle book of a trilogy. You are already emotionally invested in the characters, but you don’t get to see any closure. However, in some ways I liked Catching Fire more than The Hunger Games. The suspense is just as strong, but we get more back story and the relationships are drawn deeper, the twists greater and by Part III I couldn’t put it down. My only criticism is that while I was anxious for the conclusion, it felt a bit rushed. I wanted more details.
Collins is an excellent storyteller and she manages to take the same format and mix it enough to keep the plot exciting. She makes you feel more invested in the characters, more angry at the Capitol and more fearful for the districts. And even more impressive, is that with just a few pages to go, while I had an idea of how I thought the story might wrap up, Collins still surprised me. The setup is definitely there for an interesting conclusion. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
It felt like we had to wait forever, but finally Mockingjay, the last book in the Hunger Games series has been released and as a conclusion to the trilogy, it doesn’t disappoint.
In the first book, The Hunger Games, we discover a world ruled by a dictatorship that demands that every year children from different districts will fight to the death in a giant televised event. It is in that book that Katniss, at the age of 16, is thrown into the Games only to emerge after having broken all the rules and taken back a small amount of control. In Mockingjay, Katniss is still breaking the rules. Here she’s the face of a rebellion against the all-powerful Capitol. The situation has now descended into all out war. There are no longer any more Games being held in the arena, as they’re now spread out throughout the districts.
This story is at once heartbreaking and horrifying. It’s brutal and Suzanne Collins never spares the blood or the gore. That’s not to say she does it pointlessly. Every wound or death has a purpose and an aftermath. Everything is connected and written for a reason. The readers are drawn along emotionally. We feel every blow along with Katniss, and mourn all of the loved ones that she loses along the way. Katniss falls apart, and in a way, so do we.
This is a war story. We find out what it means to be a volunteer and yet still be a pawn. Suzanne Collins develops the supporting characters beautifully, so much so that we learn to care about them and some of their deaths can be a bit hard to take. That might upset some people, but for me it was one of the strong points of the book. The war is depicted as real and horrible. There’s no clear good and bad guys either. Mockingjay continues to be just as complex and intriguing with its areas of grey as the first two books. You can never take anything for granted.
And all of that is bigger than the love story – the speculation about who Katniss will choose, Peeta or Gale. While Katniss continues to love them both, romance has never been a priority for her and that stays true in Mockingjay. It’s always been about survival for Katniss and making sure her loved ones, including Gale and Peeta, survive too. Nevertheless, the war does eventually come to an end and she does make a choice. Because she’s been to hell and back and lost so much along the way, the decision, the ending, seems somewhat real. You know that Katniss will never be the same again.
While I loved this book, I do have some criticisms of it. I was expecting Katniss to develop more in Mockingjay. I really thought her internal struggle would be a reflection of what was happening in Panem. I thought that as the districts took back their power, so too would Katniss emerge as the master of her own destiny. Unfortunately it never really happens. She never reaches her full potential and ends her days in passive reflection. Was she manipulated by Snow, or did she, in the final moment, act on her own, setting everyone free to start over, with no Capitol and no District 13? It felt to me that Katniss’ inner journey was never fully resolved. I would have liked her to have had a moment to reflect, to know that she had achieved it, that she had finally become the Mockingjay for real and that once she’d finished her task – had done all she could do – she was ready to leave. But there is no neat ending for Mockingjay. It doesn’t’ get wrapped up nicely with a bow. The ending was a little unsettling, which is definitely part of its strength and its beauty, but a part of me was left wishing for a just a little bit more.