Catching Fire: A Sequel with Less Sizzle

A lot of people I’ve met and a lot of opinions I’ve read on the Internet state that both sequels to The Hunger Games are complete misses and not worth reading. I do not agree with these statements, but I do think both books lack the brilliance of their predecessor. I also don’t know anyone, and can’t even bring myself to imagine someone, with the willpower to get to the end of The Hunger Games and not keep reading.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. Many people rate this as their favorite in the series. However, the fact that I liked the book had more to do with the continued connection I felt with the characters.  The character development carried on throughout the book. I learned more, and therefore cared more, about most of the characters. My favorite parts of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers) are learning about Haymitch’s Hunger Games, the newly introduced past victors, especially Finnick, and Peeta.

Even more than in the first book, Peeta begins to represent everything good. Peace. Love. Compassion. The Arts. Maybe that is simplistic of me, but he seems at most junctures to stand of for what is right and what is good. Of all the characters, he seems very sure of himself. I know there are people out there that like Gale more, but if I found someone that meant I didn’t have nightmares anymore I would marry them on the spot.

The heightened political aspects of the book also stand out as a strong point in the sequel. You will learn more about the Capital and the other districts. Katniss and Peeta, as victors, take on a new role in the political landscape of Panem.

Katniss is, perhaps, my biggest disappointment in the novel.  While she is a very active person in the Hunger Games, in Catching Fire everything seems to happen to her. She makes few decisions, and mostly goes with the flow. And flow isn’t going anywhere good.

The Prim storyline also seems to disappear. Her relationship with her sister is overshadowed with the love triangle, in a way that rings untrue to me. I think I wrote in my last review that Katniss has a need to be needed. But no need except an economic need is established between the sisters. Once she has money and Prim has enough to eat the need evaporates. As a sister, I don’t’ believe there is no emotional need exists between them. This makes me question the entire arc of the first book and the series.

The question that sticks in my mind is whether these aspects of the book are intentional or not. As a reader it doesn’t really matter to me, but as a writer I am curious. I can’t help wondering if Collins didn’t know how to follow-up her hit novel or if she is making a comment on the reality of being a hero. I probably will never find out.

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5 thoughts on “Catching Fire: A Sequel with Less Sizzle

  1. I got to the end of The Hunger Games without continuing, actually! I tend to enjoy fiction for its protagonists, and in this case, Katniss was a hard character to enjoy.

    I revisited the trilogy after watching the movie more than a year later. I liked the film Katniss enough to try reading the books with the image of her in mind. Still, Catching Fire was painful for me to get through; I gave it a 2-star rating, the same as its predecessor.

    The third novel, OTOH? Loved it. There were things that didn’t work for me, but they were small enough that I still gave the book a 5-star rating when I concluded. I’m glad the movie gave me the incentive to revisit the trilogy, because the third book made it worthwhile for me!

      • One of the biggest search terms leading to my site is “i didn’t like katniss.” I felt the friend who said I should never, under any circumstances read The Hunger Games (having given it one star on Goodreads) hit the nail pretty squarely on the head when she said, “Katniss is like all of the bad stuff about Buffy Summers without any of the good stuff.” Some folks have argued with me that it’s understandable why she is the way she is. While absolutely understandable, it doesn’t necessarily make for enjoyable reading.

  2. I agree. Prim disappears throughout most of the second and third books, only to suddenly burst into flames at the end of the third book. The later books felt a bit like Suzanne Collins was trying to check things off a YA book writing guide- Love triangle. Check. Lots of people dying, ie a lot of blood and gore. Check. A typical dystopian uprising where the poor oppressed people finally break free. Check. But I still love the series anyways 🙂

    • I feel the exact same way. She had a very innovative and original first book, that she followed up with very conventional and expected plots. Great observations!

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