Author            :  Suzanne Collins

First Published :  January 1st, 2009 by Scholastic Press

ISBN              :   0439023491 (ISBN13: 9780439023498)

Series             :  The Hunger Games #2

Genre             :  Dystopia, Young Adult.

Setting           : Post-apocalyptic North America. A nation called Panem.

Narrative         : First person, present tense.

Rating             :  5/5

It is so very hard to review a book when you’re afraid that whatever you say will give away the twist. And twists make this book one of the best cliffhangers of all times! Catching Fire, the second book of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, is downright intense. Words, action, pain, fear, compassion, sorrow, yearning, everything tugs the heart of the reader and brings it right in the face. This book is addictive. (On a personal note, and because a little bragging every now and then doesn’t harm: I read it in straight 8 hours, having nothing more than a few cups of coffee.)

The book starts off a little slow but it all just adds up to the pacing climax that the book handles so well. The odds are never in their favor, but Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have won the Hunger Games and been awarded magnificent mansions in the Victor Village. They no longer have to worry about filling up their families’ bellies; they have enough for themselves and for others. For all you know, Katniss could have a relaxed life with her mother and her little duck (that’s what she calls her kid sister Prim). If only you knew better. The 74th Hunger Games had ended with Katniss defying the Capitol by pulling a little stunt with the poisonous night-lock berries. But can –or would- the Capitol, particularly President Snow, let it go?

A “yes” to that question will be too obvious for a good book. But how bad a “no” would Katniss have to bear? Trust me; you’ll be as clueless as Katniss is. The first person narrative in the book takes the brownie points for making this book so very powerful. While reading the book, Katniss’ inner voice will become the voice of your own heart. You’ll be scared like her; you’ll be fearless like her. What adds to the narrative skill is Katniss being critical of herself; you wouldn’t agree with whatever she does but you’d understand why she’s doing what she’s doing. And when you think you’ve figured out what’s going to happen to Katniss…when you think you’ve finally reached the zenith of what could happen to a 16 year old girl… a couple of words is all that Suzanne Collins uses to send you tumbling back to the ground. 

Moving back to the world of The Hunger Games reality show: Katniss was able to keep herself and Peeta alive in the first book. But anything against the wishes of Capitol- even living- is an act of rebellion. With her Mockingjay pin, Katniss has sparked a new spirit of rebellion in the Districts. And the Capitol is coming down on all this with a brutality beyond words. There are rumors that the ruins of the long destroyed District 13 house a secret resistance. Katniss is already on the hit-list of Panem's President Snow. Will Katniss and Peeta be able to become anything more than just a piece in the Games? Will Capitol be able to stop the uprising? What will the 75th Hunger Games have in store for the Districts? Catching Fire whets the appetite of the readers with these questions in every chapter and the hunger for answers isn’t satiated until the very end. 

Katniss struggles with her emotions. She’s unable to calm the districts’ desire to rebel against the Capitol: something the President Snow wanted her to do. Because of this failure on her part, the 75th Hunger Games introduce a new twist: it’s the Quarter Quell where the existing victors will have to be in the arena to fight for their lives. And thus Katniss and Peeta are tossed back into the arena where the action begins anew. The Hunger Games is revisited, new characters are introduced and it’s difficult for Katniss, and thus for the reader, to decide who to trust. It’s not apparent who is siding with the Capitol and who is secretly plotting the rebellion. This leaves the reader holding his/her breath right until the final page. A nail biting cliffhanger and Gale’s shocking revelation to Katniss will have readers running for Mockingjay, the final book in this highly popular series.

Once again, like The Hunger Games, Catching Fire too caters to the needs of a variety of readers. For the die-hard romantics, it provides a love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. Along with other tough choices, Katniss has to choose between the boy who saved her life i.e. Peeta and her best friend and hunting partner Gale who’s been keeping their families alive. But the choices are never that easy. 

There is a lot more to the series than the love triangle though. Suzanne Collins is an advocate for educating youth about the realities of war. Being the daughter of a war veteran and military specialist, she grew up learning about the battlefield and understood the consequences of war. This is one point that critics have held against the book: the violent action sequences and unpredictable character deaths. The violent theme is there alright, but it must be noted that Katniss and others were trying to avoid the games and the whole book brings forth the futility of wars. There’s a reason why the book is for Young Adults or teenagers and not for children. 
Collins believes that young people don’t have a political awareness or understanding about the realities of war. And thus she creates a world which is not much different from the one we live & brings out the reality from a web of fiction. Portraying the Capitol as a totalitarian government gives a political angle to the book. The book is raw. It never feels like it’s a separate world. You go through every emotion that the book poses in front of you. You feel each and every word of it. And even when it ends, you can’t help but imagine what it must be like to have all hope striped from you at a time when your life should be bubbling with hope. Reading this book is like hanging from a fraying thread for dear life and holding on to it is really all you can do. The book is worth every experience. You’re going to suffer, but you’re going to be happy about it. It leaves you thinking about life and death and everything in between. 

With this book, you’re in for a great experience. So, Happy Reading and May the odds be ever in your favor.

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