Sunday, January 29, 2012

What I Thought of Catching Fire

Before I go ahead, I must warn you, this post includes spoilers. I don't like mixing big fat spoiler alert warnings in with the rest of the text, so tread with care as you read.

Like most people who read The Hunger Games, the blood-boiling, heart-pounding first novel in this series by Suzanne Collins, I had been eagerly awaiting the sequel. Catching Fire came and I dove right into it. It didn't take long before I was asking myself what was going to happen. What big nasty thing was going to face Katniss that could possibly be worse than nearly losing her life in the first Hunger Games?

Katniss, the female protagonist, was touring the districts with her pretend boyfriend Peeta (he bakes bread). Things were bad. Unrest in the districts, people getting shot, surges of Capitol Peacekeepers into Katniss' own district to make things uncomfortable. So, that was all pretty bad, but not bad enough. (Also, does anyone out there besides me think of Farscape when you read the word Peacekeeper?)

Then I found out what she could face that would be worse than the first Hunger Games. A second Hunger Games! (Actually, it's called a Quarter Quell, but nevermind that.)

Even if I thought it was pushing it to expect readers to get excited about another trip to the arena, I got curious to see what dangers the author would dream up for Katniss this time. And there were dangers. (In fact, at one point a scene got so bloody that I felt dizzy reading it and had to stop.) People died faster and in worse ways, the tension between the characters was higher, and the stakes were higher too. But for some reason, it just didn't resonate with me the way the plot in the first book did. I wish the author had chosen another way for us to get invested in this book, rather than throw Katniss in the arena again.

And that brings me back to Katniss herself, and why she bothered me in this book. I don't know if I could say she has grown since the last book. It felt more like she backslid. She managed in the first Hunger Games to be cool and strategic, but all this upheaval in the second book has left her confused, torn, changeable, selfish, and self-deprecating. She also seems to have lost all genuine belief in herself since The Hunger Games. Even when she realizes what she represents to the districts, it feels shallow. Throughout the book she's finding reasons why she's not good enough for either of the boys pursuing her, why her plans are worthless, or why she's going to fail. This is why I stopped being so invested in her by the time she got to the arena, and why I became so much more invested in everyone around her.

I wanted so badly to be free of Katniss' perspective so I could actually see what was going on. I lost interest in the love triangle and became more interested in the uprising that Katniss seemed clueless about. This book did give me hope in the possibility that her shackled world could be freed, but it shackled me to Katniss in the process. It was a strong reminder to me why I find first-person perspective so frustrating, limiting, and difficult to get through.

In wrapping this up, there's one last thing I really want to know. Why did the author choose to equip Finnick with a trident? It felt archaic, and very 'sea-god' to me. So, what about a harpoon? Are harpoons just not cool?

Finnick: I carry a harpoon now. Harpoons are cool.


  1. Ah! I'm so glad you linked me to this post--I saw it on my blogger feed last night but it wouldn't let me read. O.o

    I agree with ALL THE THINGS. The first book pulled me along because I wanted to know what happened to Katniss and Peeta, and who would die in the games and how, and how they managed to live. But as soon as I started Catching Fire, I was skeptical just like you were--what can Suzanne Collins whip up this time that's as crazy and interesting as the Games?

    Oh. Another round of Games. (Although I will say that when they announced the rules of the Quarter Quell, I yelled, "YOU DOUCHEBAGS" and almost threw the book across the room.)

    And I agree completely about Katniss. In fact, a lot of the time it felt like her internal monologue was getting in the way of what I actually wanted to know. Like more about Finnick, because Finnick is, well, Finnick.

    You know, I also thought the trident was very archaic. These people have hovercrafts, but they can't fish with anything more sophisticated than a trident?

    But uh..."sea god Finnick"? Mmmm. I'll take some of that.

    I can't wait to see what you think of Mockingjay.


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