Name: The Hunger Games Catching Fire (Book Two)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Amazon: Paperback £2.49
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Themes: Death, Concealment
Rating: 5 Stars
*I have kept spoilers at a minimum and hence omitted the synopsis of the last half of the book…
Having escaped death the first time round, Katniss and Peeta face much greater challenges as the tributes are called for an even more twisted and difficult battle. They must face the challenge of deciphering friends from enemies, and fight against the relentless oppression and control of the Capitol.
The reader is immediately plunged into the hardships of district twelve, as Katniss is already troubled by peacekeepers, proving that even those most respected in society are still under tough dictatorship. Then Katniss experiences conflicting emotions…
I had to do that. At least once.
A visit from Snow himself proves that the dictatorship feels threatened, further highlighted by the immediate contrast to the prep team who are most concerned about appearance: the superficial facade is continued.
Celebrations for the first games include speeches, banquets and dances in each district, but the celebratory atmosphere has dark and powerful undertones as the Victors have more to prove than before, this time it is not only their lives on the line.
The chilling and twisted announcement of the 75th Hunger Games leaves the protagonist stunned, numbed and disorientated…
Finnick Odair: A 24 year old sex icon of the novel, he first appears as an arrogant and flirtatious individual with a strong personality and supposed heartthrob of the Capitol. His true personality develops through the eyes of the protagonist, and we see his caring and selfless nature emerge, with his commitment to the main cause, his alliance with Haymitch, and his bond with an unexpected individual who represents the disastrous consequences of the totalitarian regime they are all subjected to. He represents inner and outer beauty in contrast to the dark and dangerous dystopic world in which they live.
Wiress and Beetee: Although separate characters, their intelligence combined is enough to challenge the authority of the Capitol. Wiress, seemingly mentally challenged, figures out the biggest secret of the novel and this provides a huge advantage to her allies. Her innocence and childlike nature evokes empathy from the reader as the Capitol fail to understand her deteriorated state as result of their own insistent request. Beetee, a qualified teacher proves the most insightful individual of the novel, as he uses the Capitols own advantages against them, and shows how in a world of so much ‘control,’ one person can shatter the whole facade.
Mags: The elderly and innocent contender who does not speak, however her actions are both caring and loving. Her build and age immediately place her at a disadvantage but the Capitol does not seek mercy on even the most frail of people. It contrasts with an idea highlighted in the first book, where Katniss mentions that it is an achievement to be old as it shows how much you have survived. Her achievement and respect are taken away from her.
Johanna: The most turbulent and alienated character, Johanna is hated to begin with, but through the eyes of the protagonist we begin to see a different side to hr character ad gain a bigger understanding of her actions. With no family, she has little to lose and is determined to present the Capitol in the most negative light possible, with the viewpoint that they cannot take any more away from her.
Death: Runs consistently throughout the novels, but is much darker in this one with death foreshadowed immediately from the start…
The smell of blood…it was on his breath.
Since the first book, the level of oppression and control seems to have increased, with life thoughtlessly and carelessly taken. The irony and beauty of the novel, is the fact the characters face something much worse than death, especially in the eyes of the protagonist. The imagery of blood is further exacerbated through the use of blood rain conjured by the game makers, in which the characters become covered in, foreshadowing death and violence to come. President Snow’s name is both ironic and fitting. The snow represents his cold-hearted nature whereby he views life as dispensable, but also the connotations of the colour white which contrasts the colour of blood. The colour white is pure which contrasts his thoughts and personality. The symbolism of the clock could also also signify a countdown to death.
Concealment: The oppression and justice measures in place make voicing personal opinion a dangerous act, and Katniss constantly reminds Prim to keep quiet and not to openly criticise the Capitol or Snow.
The first question is who to tell, if anyone.
Communication becomes a difficult and problematic issue and it is difficult for characters to trust one another, especially Katniss who has been approached by too many officials and deceived by too many people close to her to be able to trust people. As a very closed character but very easy to read, she is quickly frustrated by the fact that nobody believes the pretense she tries so hard to achieve. Many symbols are used throughout the book which allow each character to recognise allies from enemies and distinguish who to trust.
My Personal View
Admittedly I enjoyed this book more than the first, probably more so because the characters and the plot was already well established and I already felt an emotional connection to the love story of Katniss and Peeta, but also attachment to Effie, Cinna and the prep teams, shared hatred for Snow and appreciation for the themes and symbolism. I felt this book achieved thoughts and feelings much better than the first, and it was more clear the extent to which Katniss was in danger. The characters introduced in this book had much stronger personalities, and it felt like a very honest account of human nature, and in the end what everything comes down to. I gained a closer connection to characters in this book, purely because of the emotional events. The loss of life in this book felt more serious, more symbolic, and more tragic, and the touching actions of many of the characters added to the sense of joint hatred towards the Capitol and leadership, and the sense of family.
Overall this is my favourite book of the Hunger Games as a series, down to the characters which I have gained much love for and much connection to.
How do you feel about this book compared to the first?