Tuesday, September 1, 2009

REVIEW: Catching Fire

Collins, S. (2009). Catching Fire. New York: Scholastic Press.

Enjoyment Rating:  !!!!

So, I got ahold of an advanced reader's copy of this book MONTHS ago. And let me tell you, I've had trouble keeping quiet about it.

But now, I can shout about it. Yay! On to the review....

(Warning! This review does include spoilers for the first book in this series The Hunger Games)

Several months have passed since Katniss won the hunger games. And while her family now has a new house, warm water and more money than they know what to do with. Life is far from perfect though. Katniss is directionless, still treated distantly by her supposed boyfriend Peeta, kissed once by her best friend, Gale, who said he "had to do that. At least once" (p. 27). (That's right, readers, a potential love triangle!)

Add to that a threat from the President of Panem that she needs to make her romance with Peeta convincing because some people in the other districts have interpreted some of her acts during the hunger games as civil disobedience instead of as the desperate choices of a love-sick girl.

All these tensions build as Katniss embarks on a celebratory tour of all the districts with Peeta and after that to learn about the plans for the 75th Hunger Games. Can she quell the calls for a rebellion against a government that she herself hates? To find out you'll have to read this second installment of The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Collins's writing is consistent from the last book. I eased right into the narrative. There were a few moments of explanation of what occurred in the first novel, but not so many that it got annoying. There are also some plot points that are very similar to the last book, which do have the potential to become tedious, but Collins clearly tried to avoid that.

Overall, Catching Fire should keep readers engaged, managing to raise the stakes of The Hunger Games to new highs.

P.S. Dear Suzanne Collins,

Don't keep me waiting for the final book.


Activities to Do with the Book:
A teacher could guide students to compare real historical uprisings and why they happen with the events of Catching Fire. Students who have been studying various political theories could examine Catching Fire to see which philosophies are at work. Then students could even discuss how they would structure their own imaginary country.

In terms of the culture in the Capitol in both of these books, a teacher could recommend students to do a little research into the history of ancient Rome and pull out parallels in papers.

This series is a wonderful recommendation for students who like strong female protagonists, social commentary, distopia literature or an engaging story.

Also, since birds factor largely into the imagery of this series, a teacher could encourage students to include projects based on this book that involve the social networking site, Twitter.

Favorite Quotes:
"I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air. My muscles are clenched tight against the cold. If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked are not in my favor" (p. 3).

"You have no access to information about the mood in other districts. In several of them, however, people viewed your little trick with the berries as an act of defiance, not an act of love. And if a girl from District Twelve of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same?" he says. "What is to prevent, say, an uprising?" (p. 21).

"Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have provided a spark that, left unattended, may grow to an inferno that destroys, Panem," (p. 23).

"If I feel ragged, my [beauty] prep team seems in worse condition, knocking back coffee and sharing brightly colored little pills. As far as I can tell, they never get up before noon unless there's some sort of national emergency, like my leg hair" (p. 48).

"I don't try to move away. Why should I anyway? His voice drops to a whisper. "I love you."
That's why.
I never see these things coming. They happen too fast. One second you're proposing an escape plan and the next...you're expected to deal with something like this" (pp. 96-97).

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