Book Review- Catching Fire

I didn’t hate “The Hunger Games”, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it.

I am not sure I feel the same way about “Catching Fire”. I read it. I read it quickly. And I didn’t really care what happened. Let me try to explain.

Katniss is a fairly unlikable character. She is selfish, violent, and generally a “bad” person. I found myself not terribly concerned with what happened to her throughout the book. I will also say that the plot was really predictable. I realize I am not going to win any prizes for guessing important plot points throughout the first two books of a Young Adult series (I guessed there was a dragon under Gringotts after all).  But I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the big reveal at the end of the book.

Once again, I think the author limited herself by telling the story strictly from Katniss’ perspective. The book lacked any real depth, she flew through the plot, again, and the characters are basically cardboard cutouts of interesting characters. When you look at them straight on, they look great, when you try to analyze them deeply, there is nothing there.

But, let me get to what bothers me the most about the series. I dislike the fact that the violence is taken for granted. When it was announced that for the 75th Hunger Games, they would be drawing from the existing pool of Victors, I thought there was a chance that finally, the violence wouldn’t seem so inevitable.

One of the big things I disliked about the first book was that the thought of NOT killing one another never crept into Katniss’ mind. Right up to the very end, when Claudius comes over the loudspeaker and announces that there has been a change of plans, and that there will still have to be one victor, her immediate response is to point an arrow and Peeta and prepare to kill him. I felt like the first book begged the question, what if the Tributes refused to fight. What if they looked at each other when the gong went off, and just stood there? The entire foundation of the Capitol’s dominance over the Districts through the Hunger Games would crumble. The author overcame this by including the career tributes from Districts 1 and 2. They were trained killing machines and forced the violence.  But I still thought to myself, what if a coalition of Tributes from other districts killed the careers off, then decided enough was enough and threw down their weapons?

This concept never enters Katniss’ mind. She is prepared to kill from the word go, because no other option is ever presented. I thought the second book would offer this possibility. When a group of people who had previously experienced the horrors of the Games were thrown back into it, I hoped that there was a chance that this group of people, who the author claimed had become friends after their years serving as mentors together, would refuse to participate in murdering each other for the Capitol’s entertainment.

Of course, this didn’t really happen. The gong sounds, and the killing begins. The time in the arena is fairly predictable and boring. And ends with a big shock, that didn’t really come as a shock.

I am sorry to say this, but I don’t find Katniss likeable. She is not a tragic hero, she is not a reluctant hero, she isn’t really a hero at all. She is a character, who has things happen to her, from whose perspective the story happens to be told. I think the second book could have been much better if it were told from Peeta’s perspective. I finished the first book feeling like it was pretty good, but the movie would be better. I finished the second book feeling like I just read 275 pages of nothing, and I am not sure how the movie could improve it.

ADDED:

I want to say also, that I really want to like these books/films. I do not have it out for YA, or female lead characters. I don’t think my hatred of all things Twilight has influenced me here. I know that somewhere in my mind, I have an angry place that I reserve for 15 year-old girls who fall all over themselves about Twilight, and my dislike for the themes, characters and messages contained in that series have not influenced my thoughts on these books. I am among the people who were really excited for the film (Which I really liked). I just don’t think the books, and specifically the second book, are all that good. I think a good barometer of how good the book was, is how excited am I about the third one. The reality is, I will read it, not because I have a burning desire to know how this all plays out. But because I have a mild curiosity about it, and I would feel like a quitter if I got this far and didn’t finish.

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One comment on “Book Review- Catching Fire

  1. Carrie Nyman says:

    I totally agree with your take on Katniss (and even though I admire Jennifer Lawrence, I’m not sprung on her version of this character – unlike the rest of the country). She is so hard to like (I’m lukewarm to her, if anything) but Collins makes her disaffection believable. What’s more, is that Katniss makes me love Peeta; her affinity for Gale, I just don’t get because the audience isn’t present for the beginning of their relationship. As far as the YA part goes, I really don’t think kids should be reading this stuff before they master reading literature. It’s junk food to me: fun, quick, empty.

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