“I relive versions of what happened in the arena. My worthless attempt to save Rue. Peeta bleeding to death. Glimmer’s blotted body disintegrating in my hands. Cato’s horrific end with the muttations. These are the most frequent visitors.”
Nightmares haunt her. Katniss Everdeen has survived the last horrible games sponsored by the Capitol. Beaten, starved, bloody and practically dead, she has been physically put back together --- even the ear that was torn off has been rebuilt. Still she can never be the same because she has killed, she has seen death up close, she has lost friends, and she has risked everything only to be set up once again for another game. This is practically unheard of; once a victor, you are not put back in, but she is a special case. Katniss knows that President Snow, and all he represents, hates her. They hate her for her rebellious nature. They are not satisfied that she is playing “their” game to perfection, and they will beat her this time. Though she is only 17, she is not likely to live through another ordeal in the arena.
In this remarkable second installment of Suzanne Collins Hunger Games Trilogy, the reader is again swept into the iron grip of the Capitol, a world where no one dares rebel. Nobody disobeys, districts are created, walls are built, rules are brutally enforced and bodies pile up as their smothering laws are put in effect. Her own love, Gale, is beaten within an inch of his life because their relationship cannot be. Peeta, wise and caring, has been set up as her “love match,” which she must pretend to follow. There is a point, however, when Katniss knows that she does love Peeta and that she does love Gale --- and sadly, they now all suffer for it. She also knows there are no winners, and that this time she will live only to protect Peeta because she does not want what they want for her. The beautiful mockingjay pen given her for her victory in the last games represents her strong spirit; it is a mixture of both the dangerous jaybird and the free-spirited mockingbird.
“A mockingjay is a creation the Capitol never intended to exist. They hadn’t counted on the highly controlled jabberjay having the brains to adapt to the world, to pass on its genetic code, to thrive in a new form. They had not anticipated its will to live.”
This time Collins has concentrated a greater amount of time building up to the frightening, bloody battles in the arena. Several characters are also more fleshed out (Haymitch, Gale, Peeta, her mother). Katniss has become a narrator with deeper insights and even greater pain. The Capitol does not just torture in a physical way; their mind games are gut-wrenching, soul-killing ploys. In CATCHING FIRE, Katniss faces the betrayal of someone she has learned to trust with her life. The ultimate destruction is one even the reader cannot imagine.
Do not even think about starting this book until you have read THE HUNGER GAMES. This is a masterful journey of terror, love and loss. Bravo, Ms. Collins! You have written an absolutely brilliant sequel, and I cannot wait for the conclusion of your phenomenal series.
Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts on September 1, 2009