At what cost comes freedom? If you are promised redemption from fear and hunger can it really change who you are? Katniss finds herself facing this very question from the moment book two of The Hunger Games series picks up, as she heads home to District 12. They are victors, heroes, celebrities, but Katniss does not feel relief, far from it. If it were up to her, she would try to forget the Games entirely and never speak of them, and no wonder, but the Capitol as the book says, has a way of keeping the horror fresh and immediate. The two victors have won in a way that no one has ever won in the history of the Hunger Games, and the anger of the President of the Capitol is more real and palpable than Katniss realizes. Katniss and Peeta are compelled to do a Victory Tour which visits each of the Districts where children have been lost, to participate in meaningless ceremonies and dinners celebrating the win. Katniss looks into the faces of cheering crowds who “secretly loathe” her and an anger that has been kindling a long time begins to build in her. What Katniss does not know, and President Snow does, is that this anger has kindled in the hearts of the Districts also. The act of defiance and desperation which enabled Katniss to win the Games and save Peeta’s life has struck a chord with the people and she is an unwitting symbol for them.The Capitol is prepared for this. It is the year for the Seventy-fifth Hunger Games, which also makes it a Quarter Quell, a particularly ghastly twist on the usual games, celebrated every 25 years. It’s a double whammy and the prime moment for this society to totter on the brink of change, or be forever subdued. Katniss and Peeta don’t realize it yet, but what was the most vividly profoundly disturbing event in their young lives, the Hunger Games they just came from, was just the precursor to what is next.
If possible, the writing is even more superb than the first book. You fall so deeply into the character of Katniss, thinking her every thought, seeing everything she sees, that the deep irony and cruelty in her environment sting to the core. I found this book even more compelling and deeply disturbing than the first, in some ways because the world and characters expand even greater. Many people talk about Katniss’ confusing relationships with Peeta and Gale and except for when you want to thump Katniss on the head for being thick, you really feel her struggle. In particular I appreciate the relationship between Katniss and her drunken, bitter old mentor Haymitch Abernathy. It’s one of humor, sour acceptance, and growth for both of them. The author, Suzanne Collins lets the story grow and play out without rushing anything, and as always there is plenty of wry humor to balance the mood of the book. The characters interact often in a humorous or touching way, she develops each scene with minimal detail and yet it feels so easily real. This more than anything else I felt, made the story authentic. This is the real rare talent I think Suzanne Collins has that immerse people in her stories. The anticipation grows and does not disappoint with Catching Fire, but fans heading on to the third book may feel less excited to see what happens next, but more doggedly determined to see Katniss through this journey.