I received the copy of Suzanne Collins' second book in the Hunger Games trilogy from Amazon on a Friday, but had a busy weekend planned, so restrained myself from devouring it right away.
It was a good thing, too, because once I finally picked it up, I couldn't put it down again until the last page was turned and the last word had been read. Catching Fire is just as absorbing and addicting as the first book in the trilogy.
The plot begins where The Hunger Games left off. Though she survived the Games, Katniss is still uncertain of her future, as she now has the unwanted attention of those in power. She is back at home, but things are not the same at all. Even setting aside the emotional trauma of the violence she has both witnessed and committed herself, enforcement of the laws in District 12 has suddenly become much stricter, and everyone's way of life is being threatened underneath the now-scrutinizing eyes of the Capitol. Katniss is discovering that she has unintentionally become the figurehead of the rebellion against the Capitol. While she certainly has other, personal things to worry about - like the fact that she loves two different boys who also love her - her primary concern is still survival. Food is plentiful now, but there is always the threat of the Capitol, and she fears for the lives of her family and all those who live in District 12.
Then the Hunger Games come again, and this time, the rules have changed.
There are certain rules that the second installment of a trilogy generally follow, and Catching Fire is no exception. Confusion seems to be the primary theme in Katniss' life right now - confusion over what she feels for Peeta and what she feels for Gale, confusion over what the Capitol is going to do next, confusion over the mysterious District 13 and what actually is going on. She was the spark that started the rebellion in earnest, but that wasn't her intention, and certainly no one consulted her first. Most of the time, no one will even tell her exactly what is even going on.
The ending is less than satisfying for a stand-alone story, but as the second book of the trilogy, it does its job of whetting the appetite for the next book. Collins does an excellent job of making you care about her characters and what happens to them, and we feel Katniss' pain as she tries to decide what to do and worries about the lives of those she cares about under the looming threat of the Capitol. We share some of her confusion as she tries to figure out what is going on when most of the other players won't give her the information she needs to put the pieces together. I had it figured out a bit before she did, but a lot of that is due to the fact that she still doesn't understand why people would want to help her, or why they would love her and trust her when she still has a hard time trusting anyone else.
I've already pre-ordered my copy of Mockingjay. August can't come soon enough.