Suzanne Collins hooked me with The Hunger Games. Now I read the second book in the trilogy Catching Fire. This book is slower paced and less action packed as the first one, but still good nonetheless. Catching Fire begins pretty much where The Hunger Games left off, so if you plan on reading The Hunger Games or are in the middle of reading it, I must warn that there will be spoilers in this post.
Katniss Everdeen returns to District 12 to a new home as a celebrity after winning "the Games". However, her victory takes a dire turn and could cost her everything. Before leaving for her victory tour, she is visited by President Snow who warns of an uprising in the districts due to her act of defiance at the end of the games and says it's up to her to squash it on the tour. Fail to comply and her family and friends will be killed. Meanwhile, the third "Quarter Quell" or the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games is approaching and, as with every quarter quell, that means a miserable twist for the tributes. The twist for this quell "as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol" is for the tributes to be selected from the victors of previous Games.
Katniss grows as a character in this book. She tries hard to do the right thing by everyone, but has a difficult time figuring out what that is. It seems no matter what she does, she risks hurting or endangering someone. She doesn't want to be a puppet of the Capitol but she also doesn't want her friends and family to die because of her. However, even with her best intentions at heart she winds of screwing things up.
When she went into the Games in the last book she was only looking out for herself, she had no intention on making friends or allies. And this is pretty much how she's gone through life until the Games. She only has one real friend, her hunting partner Gale, who is the only one other than her sister Prim that she expresses her thoughts and fears to. But even with him she's still a bit guarded. However, when she enters the Games this time, she is no longer just out for herself. She wants to rebel against the capitol and protect as many as she can...particularly Peeta.
Ultimately she did what she felt was best for her and to protect her family. But I think if you asked her what was best for her, she wouldn't know the answer, nor would she even really consider it. She would prefer to die if it meant saving everyone else. Before she felt if she died her family would suffer. Now, if she lives she endangers them to even more suffering than if she dies. She also has a difficult time deciding who or what she should trust. Was President Snow telling the truth when he said she had the power to stop the uprising? Should she and her family run away? Should she stay with Gale and fight? Is District 13 really destroyed or is the Capitol covering something up?
There is also a love conflict, even though Katniss says time and time again that she has no time for romance. She's torn between Gale, her best friend and confidant, and Peeta, her fellow victor. Each represents a side in her major conflict. Her romance with Peeta is basically a show for the Capitol. It is important that she and Peeta keep up the romantic angle to convince everyone that they are in love and that love is what fueled her act of defiance at the Games, not rebellion. I find this unfortunate because his love for her is genuine and I think that if she didn't have to keep up this romantic show she'd find that she loves him as well, otherwise she wouldn't spend so much time trying to save his life. I think it's all the fake showcasing that keeps her from realizing her true feelings for him.
Her relationship with Gale is more natural and represents rebellion against the Capitol. She can express her feelings for him however she wants and secretly. She doesn't have to prove her love for him to anyone. However, for me, from the beginning their relationship felt more like a brother/sister type of a relationship than a romance. She even admits within the first chapter of The Hunger Games that she has never viewed him as more than a friend. I think romantic entanglement between Katniss and Gale will feel weird and unnatural in the end if they actually went for it, at least for her anyway. The interesting thing is that she doesn't seem to truly show her feelings for either one until she's at risk of losing them. It's only then that she realizes how important they are to her and how much she needs them.
We begin to learn just how brutal and powerful the Capitol is in this book. In the previous book, we were mostly told of their cruelty, this time we get a good glimpse of it. District citizens are arrested, publicly beaten, and killed; property is burned; Katniss receives visits from "Peacekeepers" that feels like mob visits. There is no end to the Capitol's tyranny. And Katniss knows that something needs to be done about this before more lives are lost. The question is what and how.