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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Fascism, love triangle, uprising, oh my! These are just a few of the many foci of the second book of the Hunger Games series. As it’s the second of a series of three novels, a quick briefing is necessary. So here’s the low down on the first book- Katniss Everdeen lives in district 12 of Panem; a post-apocalyptic fascist society located on the North American Continent. Panem is divided into 12 districts-each responsible for a specific aspect of the society: Agriculture, Lumber, Coal, Textiles, etc. In order to manifest their power, the government requires that a boy and a girl from each district participate in the annual Hunger Games- a televised violent fight to the death with only one victor…usually. Katniss and her forced yet somewhat voluntary love interest Peeta are both participants in the games…two years in a row.

This book picks up after their first participation in the 74th games. Rebellion ensues because 2 victors are crowned. District 12 is assigned a new head Peacekeeper who is even more uncompromising than the previous one. Katniss’ friend Gale is caught with game he trapped in the forest-an illegal act that was previously overlooked, but this time he is whipped in the middle of the town square. When Katniss returns to the square a few days later “Peacekeepers march on the cleanly swept cobblestone. Along the rooftops, more of them occupy nests of machine guns. Most unnerving is a line of new constructions- an official whipping post, several stockades and a gallows”(128) The mines, where nearly all the men work are closed for two weeks and “by that time, half of district 12 is starving.”(131) Threatened by the president, Katniss is forced to marry Peeta despite her undying love for her lifelong best friend Gale-completing the love triangle. Provoked by the arrival of a crate of wedding dresses sent from the Capitol, Katniss escapes to the woods to visit for the last time a small cabin she used to go to with her father before he was killed in a mining explosion.

She sneaks through the never activated electric fence and when she arrives she is approached by two escapees from district 8 who are using the cabin. The two women tell Katniss about their escape and their plan to travel to a rumored district 13 where everyone lives under ground to escape the Capitol. They show her a cracker imprinted with the image of a pin she wore in the arena. Because of various acts of defiance against the capitol, Katniss has incited a full-fledged rebellion and for most of Panem she is a hero. When she returns to the fence, she can hear the buzz of electricity running through it. She makes it over by climbing a tree and with a few injuries returns home to find two Peacekeepers waiting… waiting for her to not come home. She proves herself innocent and reluctantly they leave-dumbfounded.

For the 75th games, the Capitol decides to choose the participants from the “existing pool of victors”(172) and since Katniss and Peeta are the only winners district 12 has ever had other than an old drunk, they are going back to the arena. They make their way through the tribulations thrown at them by the Capitol, forming alliances along the way. The arena, which is different every year is a circular strip of land in the middle of the ocean which is surrounded by a force field with indistinguishable sections that each have a predictable event that occurs once a day for approximately 1 hour. For example, for one hour a day blood rains down in one section, another hour toxic gas flows through another section and flesh eating monkeys assemble in another section for an hour, lightning strikes in one section. When only a few participants remain other than Katniss and Peeta’s allies, they devise a plan to kill off the others. Their plan goes awry and Katniss ends up in and underground room in district 13 and is told that District 12 no longer exists. That’s where this installment ends.

Other than the physical setting of district 12 and the arena, the time period of this novel is more or less left up to the imagination. It is know that it was once North America, so clearly it’s in the future, but how far in the future is not known. If I were to make a somewhat educated guess, I would say around 150-200 years in the future.

This novel definitely falls into the teen/young adult fiction genre. The main characters are in their late teens, there’s romance, lots of action and a setting that makes one concerned about the way the world is headed; all topics that young adults are especially captivated by. While reading, I couldn’t help but notice a few minor parallels between Hunger Games and Twilight. Katniss is an eccentric 17 year-old girl. She’s quiet, awkward and has few close friends, not unlike Bella Swan. However, Katniss is more down to earth, humorous and over all more likable than Bella. In the Hunger Games, there is also a love triangle just as there is in Twilight. Of all the characters of the Hunger Games, Peeta is definitely the most likable character in the novel. He’s charming, witty and so hopelessly in love with Katniss, but its nauseatingly adorable. I may be biased since I always picture the handsome Josh Hutcherson as I’m reading-the actor who plays Peeta in the movie version in the first book.

The title of this book, Catching Fire directly relates to Katniss. By rebelling against the capitol she ignites the fire of rebellion in others. She is the spark that ignites or “catches fire” if you will to the rest of the districts.

I would definitely recommend reading this book, but not before reading the first book as it would be very difficult to follow. It’s most suited for teens and young adults, but could definitely be enjoyed by any age group. Unlike Twilight that’s more geared toward girls, The Hunger Games series is great for guys too. I would most definitely give this book two thumbs up, I was far from disappointed. I could not put it down once I started reading. I’m eager to read the next book and after the impressive first movie, I’m impatient for the movie rendition of Catching Fire which will be released this coming November.

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