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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Book Review
So, I’ve recently finished reading The Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire, which I’m just going to call Catching Fire from here on out for convenience. As this is a sequel, I’m going to do this ranking a bit differently: Of course, I’ll rank the plot normally, but instead of characters, I’ll focus specifically on how the characters from the previous book have developed since the last book and how well-written the new characters are. I’ll also rank how well the sequel connects back to the original book, and how the different events in the previous book(s) have led to (either directly or indirectly) the events in the sequel. So, without further ado, let’s go!
Connection with prequel
So before we jump into the plot, let’s take a look at how well Catching Fire connects back to its predecessor. The book takes place a few months after Katniss and Peeta’s victory, and already in the first few chapters we can see the seemingly irreversible changes that have happened to Katniss’s life. Some were bound to happen, like Gale, her best friend, turning 18 and being forced to work in the mines and only being able to see Katniss when they met in the woods outside of District 12 to hunt. But most happened as a direct consequence of what happened during and after the games. Katniss, now filthy rich, is extremely bored every day and so goes to the woods to hunt meat for Gale’s family. Katniss and Gale are now much further apart, partly because of Gale’s new job, and partly because of Katniss’s fake love act with Peeta, which has gotten so complicated and twisted that it has had severe tolls on Katniss’s relationships with both Peeta and Gale, Peeta upset that she was only putting on an act for the cameras, Gale betrayed that she would abandon him and go crazy with love over Peeta. Katniss, unfortunately, is an irrational, immature crybaby and therefore cannot even think about trying to explain the situation to them, so lately she has been extremely bored.
So all this is good and all. The author has decided to stick with the real fake love arc with Katniss and Peeta all the way, instead of using it as a plot device in book 1 and throwing it away, as a lesser author might have done. Good job. But then the author takes it one step further. Now, apparently, the Capitol (and especially President Snow, the main antagonist of the next two books) thinks Katniss is a traitor, as her single act of rebellion (threatening to kill Peeta and herself with the nightlock berries) has created “sparks” that might start a “fire” (open rebellion). There is already unease in the districts, and President Snow even comes over to Katniss’s house to directly say that if she doesn’t convince every single person in Panem including himself that the berry stunt was because she was madly in love and not an act of rebellion, he’ll kill Katniss and Peeta’s family, plus Gale. This forces her to pull off the best “I’m madly in love” act she can with Peeta, but ultimately fails to convince Snow and eventually gets thrown in the Quater Quell and also starts a whole rebellion.
Just saying that out loud sounds ridiculous. I mean, really? The entirety of book 2 (and 3, but I’m getting ahead of myself) all happen as a direct consequence of Katniss threatening to perform suicide with a couple of poisonous berries? The author couldn’t come up with ANYTHING else? I mean, maybe it’s to show how strict/paranoid/cruel President Snow is, but having the entire plot based on one seemingly random and relatively insignificant thing Katniss did at the end of book 1 is lazy and uninspired. I give the connection a C.
Author: So the Hunger Games was a hit, and I’m thinking of making a sequel. What should I do?
Guy A: Create a prequel that shows the backstory of one of the main characters, maybe Haymitch at his own games?
Guy B: Create a direct sequel that shows how Katniss’s actions have stirred up a rebellion and jump right into the Districts vs Capitol war?
Guy C: Create a sequel that takes place years in the future that shows Katniss and Peeta guiding another teenager through the Hunger Games as their mentor?
Author: Interesting ideas. Anyone else?
Guy D: How about we put Katniss in the Hunger Games… again?
Author: You’re a goddamn genius.
Seriously, the author had a TON of options to choose from for the sequel to her book. And out of ALL of them, she chooses “do the exact same thing as book 1 but with different people.” I mean, LITERALLY, ⅔ of the book is the exact same as its predecessor but with past victors instead of new tributes. Sure, the other ⅓ is spent on her life after her victory and the Victory Tour and researching the other victors and whatnot. But all that was just more of the Rebellion Arc, which as I already said, started with a handful of berries.
Really, there are three main arcs in the second book. The Rebellion Arc (which is uninspired, has way too much emphasis, started with something stupid and insignificant, and takes a whole book to actually turn into a revolution), the Real Fake Love Arc (which is way too complicated, has all three characters overreact to everything, shows Katniss confused and crying half the time [which is totally out of character], and has even MORE undeserved emphasis than the Rebellion Arc), and the Hunger Games arc (the actual action and what the book is supposed to be based on). Now, the first arc is bad, the second arc is even worse because it’s stretched over three books, but the third arc was the only good arc… until the author decided to reuse it.
Really, most of the stuff that saves this category from falling straight into D-tier happens in the third act of the book, where the actual games happen. The thing with the clock arena, Katniss’s rescue at the end, and almost everything in between are either almost as good or even better than the scenes from the first book (although there’s much less of them). So I give the plot a B-.
Most of the new characters in Catching Fire are the victors from the previous Hunger Games who were selected to play in the Quater Quell. The ones who ally with Katniss and Peeta are Finnick, Mags, Johanna, Beetee, and Wiress, two of which die before the end of the book. They’re only introduced in the second part of the book and they don’t really get developed as characters. Which is sad, since 1) this is the book they debut in, and 2) they make up most of the characters introduced in book 2.
Meanwhile, we don’t see much growth in any of the original characters, either. Gale remains Katniss’s good friend, and his willingness to run away with her, as he would have in book 1. Katniss’s mother plays a slightly bigger role than in book 1, but mostly she’s just patching up the wounded, so she doesn’t get much focus. Prim is much more mature and helps her mother take care of the wounded, although Katniss mentioned that Prim already did that in the past. And the other side characters are barely seen throughout the book at all. So, we’ve got the old characters only being in the first part of the book and barely getting developed at all, and then there are the contestants who appear throughout the latter two parts of the book but not getting developed much either. I really thought the author would do something with Cinna, but I guess she was just out of ideas for how to use him and just killed him off. I mean, what’s the point of having so many unique side characters if you’re not going to give them their own separate side arcs and/or develop them as characters?
The only new character that changes at least a little bit is Finnick. He’s on pretty much every single page in part 3, as he sticks around Katniss from the very start. In the arena, we learn that he’s not really the perfect, handsome supermodel Panem sees him as, but a regular human with very human flaws and emotions. But come on, that was a little obvious. Really, Catching Fire could have easily introduced and developed a whole bunch of new characters while developing the old ones further. But it didn’t. So I give the characters a C+.
Really, Catching Fire had a buttload of potential just waiting to burst out and not only make up for the mistakes in the first book but take the good things from the first book and expand and develop it while introducing plenty of new characters. Instead, it continues the two worst story arcs from book one, stuffs 90% of the action scenes into the last part, and develops almost none of the characters. C-tier. Just… C-tier. Seriously, I don’t care how many people love this series, this book is horrible and it deserves to be in C-tier, and be thankful I didn’t put you any lower.
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