“The berries. I realize the answer to who I am lies in that handful of poisonous fruit. If I held them out to save Peeta because I knew I would be shunned if I came back without him, then I am despicable. If I held them out because I loved him, I am still self-centered, although forgivable. But if I held them out to defy the Capitol, I am someone of worth. The trouble is, I don’t know exactly what was going on inside me at that moment.” – Excerpt from Catching Fire
Catching Fire is the second book of the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It takes forward the story of Katniss Everdeen, who after winning the Hunger Games along with Peeta, has unknowingly become the symbol and mascot of a revolution against the capitol. By threatening to eat poisonous berries instead of subjecting herself to the whims and fancies of the gamemakers and their changing rules, she has not only defied the authority of the capital, but has done it openly, in front of almost all citizens of Panem. The capitol now wants her to pretend that what she did was out of innocent love for Peeta and not “an act of defiance”. The love story should continue, and the acting should be real convincing, else people close to her will pay the price.
Katniss, unsure about her feelings towards Peeta and Gale, and concerned about the safety of her family and friends, tries to play it along as the Capitol wants. But circumstances lead her to stroke the same fire which she was supposed to douse.
The ultimate twist in the story comes when a second hunger games are announced, which again puts her and Peeta in the arena, where only one can come out alive. Giving them company are a few selected victors of the previous years. It is the hunger games of the hunger game winners.
Compared to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire is slightly less engaging (but still it is quite good), and the purpose is probably to build the platform for a grand action packed climax in the third part. Collins has succeeded in writing a perfect penultimate novel, where the ending will make you eager to start the final book.
The highlight of the book is how the other characters – Peeta, Gale and Haymitch (especially Haymitch) – are developed. President Snow makes a small appearance and a big menacing impact. Parts of the narrative related to the second hunger games become a bit repetitive and are not as gripping as the first part. Other tributes are not as properly itched out as the first one, and this time it is more about the tributes against the gamemakers rather than the tributes against each other.
Summary – Must read for anyone who enjoyed the first part.