|Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins|
I expected a lot from this book since practically everyone I know who's read The Hunger Games trilogy have declared Catching Fire as their favorite. I read it in a breeze, just like the first one, so my realization that I was already past half the book came as something sort of a disdain to me because really, I feel like nothing significant has happened yet. Nothing, counting in Katniss' indecisiveness with everything--Peeta or Gale, to flee or to fight, to love or hate Haymitch--that practically lead to nowhere. She schemed and she screamed, hurt herself countless times and got drunk, hating on the oppression, only to be riding the train back to the Capitol in the end, with all her good-byes hanging from her lips.
For the first three-fourths of the book, everything was stretched (kind of like The Hunger Games movie that just came out, but we'll get to that later), only to try to fit everything else, the good parts, in the remaining one-fourth. Like Bonnie and Twill, for example. They brought such a vital piece of information, but what happened afterwards? Katniss couldn't believe it entirely herself. No one around her would believe it as well--not Haymitch, though of course in the end we learn that he knew about it all along. Nothing really happened with that piece of information other than Katniss being confused more than ever. Which brings me to my point: there were a lot of unnecessary events. In the end they were flying to District 13 anyway; what difference did it make, learning about it earlier on? Katniss is, supposedly, the heroine. The mockingjay. But what did she do, really, other than create an unintended spark of rebellion by pulling out the berries in the first book? All that was, really, was a girl trying to keep herself and her friend alive. In Catching Fire, all the heroic antics happened around her. She had nothing to do with it; she didn't even have a clue.
The announcing of the Quarter Quell was also a bit of a turn-off for me. It felt like Suzzane Collins was just milking the cow, because, duh, it is the Hunger Games after all. I admit to have been hoping against them going back to the arena; a derailed train, rebels going in to save them, an agreement between the victors not to play with the game once inside, anything. Anything that will save this book from being a commercial object that remakes what was a hit. And although I was very much failed in that area, I must say, the turn of events worked out pretty well. So intense, it was difficult to put the book down (it didn't matter that I was out for coffee with my friends; my nose was buried 'till the last page). Once they got back inside the arena, everything went uphill. The same feeling of excitement and suspense was present again, as a hanging suspicion of who to trust or not has doubled compared to the first book (I remember being suspicious of Peeta. Sweet, lovable Peeta. Now the thought makes me laugh.). Like Haymitch says, they are not in an arena full of trembling children anymore. This time, it's experienced killers.
To sum it up, in a scale of one to five, I give Catching Fire a three. The deducted two points are for the story being as idle as Katniss was for a significant amount of time, but the three points are for the fantastic turn-of-events in the last quarter that makes up a bit for all my initial disappointments. And I admit to having formed a new kind of respect for Suzanne Collins upon the discovery of the arena's design. It was nothing short of a genius.
*This is my fourth book out of my target of 20 books for 2012. I'm aiming humbly this year; last year I set a high goal and got nowhere near it. Add me up if you're in Goodreads as well!