Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Warning: As always, I try to stay relatively spoiler free. But it doesn’t hurt to proceed with caution. (Also, if you haven’t read THE HUNGER GAMES yet, you’re welcome to skip this, as it will pretty much give the ending of THG away.)
Rating:  Five Stars—ajklsdflk (when words fail to describe how wonderful a book is)

Long before MOCKINGJAY came out, I’d already read both THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE half a dozen times, and to this day, I still can’t decide which book out of the trilogy would be my favorite. So let’s talk about why I like CATCHING FIRE so much.

The Beginning. Unlike THE HUNGER GAMES, with its angsty, fearful beginning, CATCHING FIRE starts out a bit slowly. Fortunately, though it takes a while to gain momentum, it picks up speed at the halfway mark and pulls out all the stops as it races toward a cliffhanger conclusion. I figure, you can look at this one of two ways. Sure, the slow stuff is a bit boring—or at least, it’s not as exciting at first glance. But I also kind of love the lack of action because it creates a believable mood. Speaking as one who has been through several traumatic, life-changing experiences, it’s understandable for reality to seem like a pot of molasses for a while afterwards. Thoughts move in slow motion, feelings struggle to take shape, and nothing seems entirely solid. So, while this period in Katniss’s life isn’t the most entertaining, the slowness fits the mood of her inner struggles. I’m not sure if Collins actually meant to do this, but I applaud this artistic tactic nonetheless (though I wouldn’t have cried if the story had picked up the pace a bit sooner).

Moving on.

Effie Trinket! (Sorry, I needed that exclamation mark because Effie is so terrifyingly peppy.) We get to see a good deal more of her in CATCHING FIRE, and I loved that because I loved getting to know her better as a person. In THE HUNGER GAMES, while she is friendly and happy, she seems rather cold-hearted since, you know, Katniss and Peeta are headed to their deaths and that doesn’t really bother her. And while she doesn’t suddenly develop a conscience, she does become a bit more understandable, and thus, a bit more likeable.

Peeta Mellark. I mean, I already loved him in THE HUNGER GAMES, but in CATCHING FIRE he shines even more. Despite all that he has gone through (including losing a leg and discovering the girl he loves was just playing him), he is still patient and kind and forgiving. In my highly important and entirely irrefutable opinion, he puts Gale to shame with his understanding attitude and the gentle way he treats Katniss’s emotions (even when she doesn’t recognize she has any). He’s like a selfless little puppy—Katniss could kick him a dozen times a day and he would still sit at her feet and stare up at her with those adoring eyes. As Haymitch says: “‘You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know.’”

Get me some duct tape, please, I think my heart is breaking.

Haymitch Abernathy. This guy is one of my favorite characters, like, ever. And in CATCHING FIRE, we get a peek at the Games that shaped him. We get to reach out and touch his lonely, depressing world. Seriously, Haymitch needs a hug, okay? He just does.

Finnick Odair. My first time through I was like, “I don’t know if I should trust this kid or not, but I kind of sort of love him.” So there’s that. He is equal parts snark and mystery with a side of ridiculousness to top it all off. Plus he wears a hat of “Ain’t I just the most charming fellow ever” to distract you from his poor, little breaking heart (which we get to see more of in MOCKINGJAY). ‘Nuff said.

Katniss’s Prep Team. I need them. I need them in my life. They are so stupidly adorable and naïve. Somebody ought to take care of them and protect them from their darling, foolish selves, and I volunteer as tribute (I mean, I would gladly volunteer for the job).

Katniss (Again). Like I said in my review of THE HUNGER GAMES, I relate to Katniss on so many levels (though I am a tad more emotional, but you didn’t hear that from me). I love her strength and her resolve, as well as her general cluelessness when it comes to romantic matters (because anyone who would even consider Gale over Peeta is a sad, hopeless case, in my not-so-humble opinion).  

In CATCHING FIRE, she grows up a little as she comes to appreciate Peeta more and to understand a little better what she’s up against. Though she is by no means sheltered, she still has to open her eyes to the true nature of the problem—and she needs to realize both what she loves and what she stands to lose.

The Second Arena. I still can’t decide which one I love better, the previous one, or this one. It’s really a toss-up. Whereas, in THE HUNGER GAMES, we have a green, leafy death trap full of trees and bloodthirsty tributes, in CATCHING FIRE we have a tropical, oceanic biosphere complete with seafood, predatory opponents, acid fog, and killer monkeys (also blood rain, because everyone knows you can’t have a good book without blood rain). The atmosphere of this arena has a very distinctive feel, very different from the last one. My only beef with the Games portion of CATCHING FIRE is that it’s much too short (less than a third of the book), and let’s face it, I only read these books for the arenas.

The Handful of Berries. Revolutions are a difficult topic to write about believably, and group psychology can be a tricky subject (see, look at me, don’t I sound so professional, like I actually know what I’m talking about?). I applaud Collins and her powerful little handful of berries. Often the small things can cause a greater impact than the big things (like, for instance, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand  which sparked a World War—seriously, don’t even get me started). So, to me, it makes a whole lot of sense that that one simple act of rebellion (left unpunished)—and the hope it signifies—could overturn years of terrifying tradition and thus push an angry, oppressed nation to the tipping point.

Negatives. Aside from the slower beginning and the smaller arena time, my only other gripe is the inclusion, once more, of the nudity (specifically, Johanna Mason’s propensity for losing her clothes). I could have done without it, but again, I understand why Collins chose to put it in there.


Well, that’s it. Now, please excuse me while I continue trying to figure out which HUNGER GAMES book I prefer.


  1. This post. I love this post :)

    I remember when I read this I could feel how muddled and foggy Katniss felt in the beginning. To be honest, I didn't even read the back so I had no idea what was going to happen. When Snow dropped the Quarter Quell bomb, or whatever it was called I've forgotten now, I was just shocked as Katniss. I actually avoided reading the book for about two weeks. Because I didn't want to go back in the arena. No way.

    Haymitch! I love Haymitch. He's kind of like Katniss' second father. And I just love him. Did I say already?

    I think I like the second arena better. Mostly because the first seemed kind of random, while the second one clearly had more thought put into it. I love the whole concept of the clock. I guess I just like that there was a concept to it. I liked that it was puzzle they had to figure out.

    I happen to like Katniss too. :)

    I will admit I was very weary of Finnick at first. For quite a while, I didn't like him nor trust him. But then I finally got to see that there was more to him than the facade he put on. I rather like him now.

    1. Thanks! :)

      I loved the Quarter Quell idea. Unlike you, I was a heartless little monster, and once I knew Katniss was going to return to the arena, I couldn't read the book quickly enough. I think I would have been pretty disappointed if she hadn't been involved in the games again.

      Haymitch! He basically is Katniss's second father, like, you know, a grumpy, mean, rough-around-the-edges, alcoholic father. I love him too. :)

      The second arena does have a very distinctive feel/theme--I can see why you would prefer it. I did enjoy the mystery and the puzzle of it, as you said, and I enjoyed the plan the others had concocted behind Katniss's back. I think the only reason why I'm still torn is that I really love being in the woods, so the foresty feel of the first Games appeals to me.

      Ooh, another person who likes Katniss. :) *high five*

      I'm glad you like Finnick. I wasn't sure whether to trust him either, but I think that's actually why I liked him to begin with. I like characters that leave me guessing--I find them much more interesting than the obvious good guys and the obvious bad guys. :)

  2. Ok, I must be the only one in the bookworm community who hasn't read The Hunger Game, lol. Really is it that good? I'm not the biggest Dystopia fan. Fantasy is my thing. That's why I often tend to stay away from it. But your review really made me want to pick it up. You made the story and characters seems so amazing. I already own The Hunger Game, I might have to open it at last, haha. If a review The Hunger Game pop up soon on my Goodreads profile that would be because of you, lol!

    1. Lol, I'm not judging. Well, I think it's really good, but I also know several others who don't like it as much, so it's all a matter of personal taste. I do think it's one of the better dystopias, so I hope you like it. :) And thank you! I'm glad I was able to communicate what I liked about the books. Have fun reading it! :)

    2. Also, I'd love to know what you think when you do get around to it. :)

  3. AWESOME POST!!! I love Catching Fire SO MUCH, I think it's my favorite of the trilogy. YES PEETA IS LOVELY WONDERFULNESS ASDFGHJKL, KATNISS DID NOT APPRECIATE HIM ENOUGH. And I love your description of Finnick, lol. That is so accurate.

    I actually kinda like the slower beginning. Because of all the action in the first book, you couldn't truly get to know most of the characters, I feel like. Though a lot of people think people show their truly colors in such a situation, I still feel like that's only a portion of who they are. You got to see a lot more of the rest of their characters in Catching Fire, and I really appreciated that. :)


    1. Thank you! I LOVE CATCHING FIRE TOO. Sometimes, when I'm in the right mood, it's my favorite in the trilogy (though usually I prefer Mockingjay, but only by a little because they're all so brilliant). KATNISS NEEDS TO APPRECIATE PEETA MORE. Grrr. And thank you--I'm glad you liked my description of Finnick.

      Yeah, I can see why you appreciate the slower beginning. Although you get to know a lot about a person when they're in a rough situation, you don't get to know all the deepest parts of them that only show up in quiet times. And also, sometimes people have to change to meet the needs of a given situation--but that doesn't alter who they are underneath (like, someone might do well in war but might go stir crazy during peace time).

      Thanks for commenting!