Catching Fire – The Hunger Games

*Note – Review Originally written in 2009 based on a free copy draft provided by Amazon

Catching Fire (Part 2 in The Hunger Games Trilogy) picks up soon after the first book’s cliffhanger; Katniss has survived the brutal combat of The Hunger Games- a star-studded TV show similar to that from Japanese Classic Battle Royale where a group of people from the divided nation are pitted against each other to the death. Typically when this happens the survivor is free to live a life of luxury with all the food, clothes, and money they could ever want- they become a celebrity throughout the land and can put the Games and ill-treatment (if not the nightmares) behind them. Things are not so easy for Katniss- through a simple gesture in the Games she has gone against the tyrannical Capitol, making them look weak and marking herself as a rebel figurehead to a part of the population who just need such a spark to ignite them. Fearing once again for the safety of those she loves- her mother, her sister, and her maybe boyfriend, as well as the boy she saved from the games, she tries to act as the model citizen. However, it soon becomes clear that no matter what she does now the fire has already started- news of rebellion, riots, and murder reach her, and security is tightened severely on her and her home. The turning point comes halfway through the story as it is revealed that The Capitol and The Games have not finished with Katniss yet.

Catching Fire is just as exciting, fast-paced, and entertaining as the first story. Many characters are expanded on including, thankfully, many of those who had been on the fringe. There are plenty of twists and the bad guys now have a face with President Snow- an old-fashioned ‘Boo!’ as loud as you like bad guy, a devious, intelligent, and murderous leader. The book never insults the reader’s intelligence but stimulates with notions of freedom and politics which are all too invisible from teen media nowadays. The central plot is standard sequel fare; expand on the ideas which made the first succesful and throw in some interesting twists. Again most chapters end on a cliffhanger enticing you to read just one more before turning the light off. We learn more about Katniss, her past, and the history of her world. My only qualm is that this is possibly overlong, although Collins ensures that it is a fast read regardless of length. As with the first book we eagerly wait the next part.

The Hunger Games (Part One)

* This review is originally from 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is something of a rarity- A book specifically aimed at pre and early teens which has fully formed characters, is not patronising towards its audience, and aims to thoughfully inform rather than preach. Already garnering rave reviews from literary critics, writers as big as Stephen King, and now most importantly, from everyday readers, Collins’s book is an entertaining, action packed, ominously realistic read, portraying a fictional world which only seems a few close districts away.

Our narrator and protagonist is 16 year old Katniss, protective sister, loving daughter, fearsome hunter. She has learned to be a survivor in a world where the rich control the poor by the sword. After an unsuccessful rebellion, the rich lords of the Capitol invented an exciting solution/punishment- once a year one girl and one boy from each area of the new America are chosen to fight to the death until one survives. The prize for survival is food for your area and family, and heroic status. Watching are the millions that were not selected. Katniss volunteers herself into the Games to protect her sister, but is equally horrified when her only friend is also picked. Can they trust each other? Can they survive, and is there a future for a world so filled with injustice?

After a slightly slow and bleak start, The Hunger Games kicks into a high gear and rarely slows down. There is action and horror, but never exploitive, there is romance, but true to the plot it is never sentimental, and there are vital and unsettling lessons to learn. Collins has taken clear inspiration from other great works- 1984, Battle Royale, and to a lesser extent Lord Of The Flies. While not reaching those heights, The Hunger Games aims similarly, and doesn’t miss by much. We have empathy for the characters who are refreshingly distant, and are not people you would like to meet. The book itself is fairly long for the target audience and will definately keep readers engaged under the blanket, though there is great energy throughout ensuring the long read is also a quick one. You will be left wanting more- part two is on the way.