Saturday, April 16, 2011

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Summary of Catching Fire:  
From the Barnes and Noble website
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark.  But it was a victory won by defiance of the capital and their harsh rules.  Katniss and Peeta should be happy.  After all, they just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty.  But there are rumors of rebellions among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror are the faces of that rebellion.  The Capital is angry.  The Capital wants revenge. 

Evaluation: 
As soon as I finished The Hunger Games, I was anxious to begin Catching Fire, the sequel.  Suzanne Collins is a master storyteller.  She brings her dystopian world to life in a dynamic way.  The narrative is highly creative and engrossing.  Throughout the book, I was on the edge of my seat wondering—what is going to happen to Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, and most importantly, who is Katniss going to end up with. 

The Hunger Games prompted me to think, and I enjoyed the character dimensions that are explored.  Collins’ characterization is consistent and credible between the novels.  Unfortunately, she does not genuinely delve into the characters any deeper in Catching Fire.  I would have liked to see more facets to them.

The book continues the motifs of self-absorption and excess in the Capital while the districts suffer from want and hunger.  This discrepancy, along with Katniss’ visible rebellion, prompts the districts and others to begin the surge of defiance that has been lying dormant, waiting for an opportunity.  Collins carries the motifs over from The Hunger Games.   She does not introduce new ones or significantly expand the previous ones.  I felt there is less literary “meat” to Catching Fire. 

Despite library and school recommendations to the contrary, I suggest the Hunger Games series for ages 13 and up.  The content is too heavy for younger readers.  Another aspect to consider is that while the books temper the desciptiveness of the violence and it ultimately is meant to be a lesson in totalitarianism, soon there will be movies depicting all of it.  Reading something and seeing it are very different experiences.  If you allow younger children to read the books in this series, they are going to want to see the movies.  I have no doubt the films will be as graphic as possible while still being within a PG-13 realm.  Today, PG-13 violence can be pretty intense.  Aside from the movie aspect, I strongly caution parents to read the books themselves and carefully consider the appropriateness for children under 13. 

Like The Hunger Games, Catching Fire is a action-packed page turner you will not want to miss!  I have already excitedly started the final book in the series--Mockingjay

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