Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 17: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

"Catching Fire" is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Spoilers ahead for those who've not read the first book.

Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12 after their risky death-by-poisonous berries gambit pays off and they both win the Hunger Games. Things are strained between the two, as Katniss has revealed to Peeta that she doesn't share his feelings as strongly as he does. Katniss finds herself thinking of her friend Gale in a different way, and her relationship with Peeta confuses her.

As the victors of the Games, Peeta and Katniss are to embark on a Victory Tour of the districts and the Capitol. On the eve of the Tour, Katniss gets a surprise visit from President Snow. Snow is less than pleased with the way Katniss thwarted the Capitol's rules and managed to keep both herself and Peeta alive. She also learns that her actions have been viewed as rebellious and have inspired the people in the other districts to attempt their own rebellions. Snow wants her to help him keep the masses from rebelling by playing up the star-crossed lovers story that she and Peeta concocted during the Games, in the hopes of making her seem less like someone who was fighting the Capitol and more like someone driven to extremes by love. This, unfortunately, means one thing: she will have to marry Peeta and give up any hope of a life with Gale.

As it's the 75th anniversary of the Games, this year is also known as a Quarter Quell, in which the rules for the Games are changed to make things more interesting for the viewers. For example, in the 50th anniversary Quell, twice the number of tributes were sent into the Games. This year, the rule seems aimed directly at Katniss: the tributes will be drawn from the existing pool of victors. As Katniss is the only female victor for District 12, that means she's going back into the arena - and this time, she knows the Capitol will do anything it can to ensure that she doesn't make it back.

I devoured this book. I simply could not put it down. Collins does a fantastic job of drawing you in and making you care about these characters. I'm not ashamed to admit I teared up at the scene where Katniss came face to face with Rue's family during the Victory Tour. The way the people of Rue's district honored her was touching.

Lionsgate has reportedly bought the rights to the series, which thrills me. Even better, Collins herself will be adapting the book herself. So here, I'd like to make a plea to Collins and the producers: Please, please, please don't let this turn into Twilight redux! Yes, Katniss is torn between Peeta and Gale, but it runs so much deeper than the vampire-werewolf-numbnuts triangle that Meyers created. Katniss is forced into a relationship with Peeta because she believes it's the only way to protect her mother, Prim, and even Gale - if she does what the president wants, then they will be safe. But, of course, their relationship is complicated and not all for show. She's a beautifully drawn character, complex and confused about what's happening to her and what's the right thing to do not only for herself and her own happiness but for the lives of her friends, family, and even those across Panem who plot to overthrow the Capitol and look to her as the symbol of the growing revolution - she is the Mockingjay (from the pin she wore in the arena).

The third book doesn't come out until August. I haven't looked forward to a release since the final Harry Potter, so it's nice to have something to look forward to... even if I am horribly impatient and want it now!

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