Okay, so maybe it’s a little lazy but I’ve spent enough time in Panem now, I’ve got plenty more books to read, so I’m reviewing the second and third books in the Hunger Games series together in one post. I don’t think it’s too much of a cop-out, as they flow so seamlessly into each other they could be read as one novel.
Catching Fire picks up around six months after Katniss and Peeta beat The Hunger Games, and they’re just about to embark on the
compulsory Victor’s tour of the districts. Katniss is still feeling the repercussions of her berry stunt, and this is magnified when she receives a visit from President Snow and feel the full pressure of the Capitol’s wrath. She and Peeta try their best to convince the world that they are in love, even staging a proposal on national television. But it doesn’t seem to be enough, and in a cruel twist of fate they are thrown back into the arena for the 75th Hunger Games, this time competing against other previous victors.
I know some reviewers were annoyed to find themselves being thrown back into the heart of the Games, feeling it read a little like a re-run from the first book. I personally don’t agree. Lets face it, the Hunger Games are epic – I’m always happy to read more about them, and the clever and cruel ‘clock’ themed arena was a stroke of genius. They don’t take up as much of this book as they did the first, making it just the right mix of familiar and new territory for a sequel, in my opinion.
The real action comes in the final third of this book, as the Hunger Games hots up, Katniss and Peeta are struggling to beat the system whilst working out who they can count as allies and who the enemy really is. But don’t worry, Katniss works it out just in the nick of time.
Mockingjay has a different feel to the previous two books. Katniss is a changed person, traumatised and damaged from all that has happened. She tries to be strong, but through most of this book it does feel like she is losing her way a little, and she even irritates me at times.
The other big difference is that this book plays out on a much wider scale; District 12 is no more and so Katniss and her crew are forced out into the wider world. And the world is at war. The Capitol is struggling for control over the districts, most of whom are staging an out-and-out rebellion. Katniss, her family and Gale are holed up in District 13 – a district which was supposed to have been destroyed by the Capitol years ago, but has in fact been busy building its own underground army. Particularly handy when there’s a war going on.
Katniss has gained celebrity status and, despite her being a very disturbed teenager, she is pushed into a situation where she must play the face and leader of the rebellion against the Capitol. The Mockingjay.
Peeta has been captured by the Capitol, and seems to be being used as their puppet, making intermittent pleas on television for Katniss to call a ceasefire. Katniss and the team from 13 embark on a mission, firstly to rescue Peeta from the Capitol’s clutches, and then to win over the districts and take on Capitol, culminating in the assassination of President Snow. Of course, things never go quite that smoothly.
There is a lot of action in this book, but it does feel that we don’t always get the full force of it, having to see everything through Katniss’s eyes. She does spend a lot of time feeling quite sorry for herself, and pondering her feelings for the two men in her life. Despite this, it is a gripping read, and a shocking decision she makes near the end of the book does make up for it somewhat, showing that she is still the brave girl we knew who isn’t afraid to go against the grain.
Whilst always tackling a serious subject, the first Hunger Games book made it fun and entertaining; an adventure. The final novel reads more like a depressing war story, full of sadness, mind games, blood and gore. Does it have a satisfying ending? I thought so. It actually made me cry, which not many books do. But it does also feel rushed, and a lot of key characters are not given the proper closure they deserve. I can understand why some people were disappointed.
Maybe I am being picky though – in my opinion, The Hunger Games trilogy is still one of the greatest things to come out of young adult fiction in years. It is original, gripping and emotional. Perhaps at times the balance between the emotion and action feels a little off, but this can be overlooked because the story really is one of a kind.