What if the well-being of your family depended on how well you could fake feelings for a guy whom you barely knew? What if your friends and neighbors could be hurt everytime you rebelled against rules that you disliked? How would you choose to act? How easily could you make those choices and face the consequences?
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Katniss may have thought her life would return to normal after the Hunger Games, an annual fight-to-the-death event demanded by the Capital of its twelve districts. Yes, of course, there would be concessions: She would serve as mentor to the next tribute picked from District 12; She and her family would live in Victor Village; And the families of those children whom she killed during the battle enforced upon her by the Capitol would not likely forget or forgive her. But then again she would probably never meet them nor the families of the children whom she had saved except of course Peeta’s family. He would live in a house alongside her in the Victor Village but, now that they were done with the games, she would no longer need to feign love for him to save both their lives–or would she?
In Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Katniss is bombarded by more than the harshness of District 12. Her new victor life demands more of her than her pre-victor life of boiling water for baths, disobeying hunting laws to find game to sell for food, and living under a constant layer of coal dust. After the games, Katniss finds herself mourning the loss of her earlier life–for at least then she knew where she fit in. Now she has President Snow warning her she must convince him of her love for Peeta–her family’s life depends on it. One minute Katniss is wishing to gather up her family and run. The next minute she is encouraging rebellion. Only the latter results not only in the reinstitution of public whippings, but sees the beloved Hob burnt to the ground. Every action Katniss takes has a consequence, none of which are pleasant.
Even when Katniss acquisces and revives pretense of love for Peeta, her world is not righted. How could it be? Shouldn’t one marry only for love? Yet what if by marrying Peeta, she could protect her family and the man she actually loves? And who’s to say she doesn’t really love Peeta? Or that she truly loves Gale? She has never been allowed to explore her feelings for either without the intervention and manipulation of the Capitol. Or what if she didn’t feel any conflict about her true feelings? What if she did actually love Peeta? How could even this resolution help her find peace, when she is seen as the mockingjay? She is the symbol of rebellion and hope of a new life apart from the Capitol. All over people in districts are fighting and fleeing tyrany. Would Katniss really feel comfortable choosing the safety of seclusion in Victor Village, while around her others are risking execution to overthrow the Capital? She ignited a spark when she threatened for her and Peeta to swallow poisonous berries in the arena and therefore allow for no survivors. Could she accept just sitting back?
Catching Fire holds all the perfect qualities that Hunger Games did: suspense, characters we deeply care about, settings that are familar yet harsh and alien, and of course probing ethical questions. Actually, Collins reveals even deeper facets of the lives of her minor characters and even so-called district enemies. Catching Fire is a captivating sequel that will leave you breathless throughout and send you dashing at the end to the library for the conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
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