Catching Fire

by Suzanne Collins
ages: 12+
First sentence: “
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there! (If you haven’t already!)

When Tricia at Library Queue and I realized that 1) we were both reading Catching Fire and 2) everyone else had read it so there really wasn’t much new to say about it, we decided that the best thing to do would be to team up and do a buddy review/chat of our reactions and thoughts about this sequel to The Hunger Games. Since most of you have read it, I’m not going to edit out the spoilers; just know if you’re one of the handful of people who haven’t gotten around to reading it, you might want to come back later, once you’ve finished.

So, our thoughts:

me: SO… what did you think? First impressions?

Tricia: Loved it!

me: Dawn asked if I ever got to the point where I wanted to throw it in the freezer… did you? Did it ever get too suspenseful for you?

Tricia: Nope, I decided to burn right through it.

me: Brave woman.

Tricia: I found it really hard to close it last night at 12:20am on page 260.

me: Well… yeah… so close to the end.

Tricia: What about you? Did you read it straight through?

me: I read most of it in one sitting, but had to stop (at page 253) for a few hours, but I got back to it as soon as I could. It made yoga hard: I kept thinking about the book!

Tricia: That’s funny we stopped at about the same place.

me: Yeah. 🙂 So: are you Team Peeta or Team Gale? (Why is it that we feel a need to divide everything up into teams?)

Tricia: So, going into the book, I was on Team Gale. But I think one of the things that I really felt like Collins did that Stephenie Meyer didn’t manage for me, is really really make me torn between the two.

me: That’s a good point: you really couldn’t root for one or the other, because they were both so good for Katniss.

Tricia: Yeah. I can’t discount the lifelong friend thing. My parents were lifelong friends and it totally worked for them. But, because we’ve really seen so little from Gale in the two books, I’m having a hard time justifying my team. I really love Peeta, especially after reading this book.

me: Me, too. M said, when she finished, that Peeta REALLY rocked. I agree. But Gale’s never really been given a chance. Why do you think Collins chose to do it that way? Not give us too much info about Gale other than they were lifelong friends, and he loves her, I mean?

Tricia: I’m worried about the readers not getting emotionally involved with Gale.

me: Why?

Tricia: Because I’m worried she’s going to kill him off!!

me: Yeah, I can see that. I think she might have a bigger role for him.

Tricia: OK, so you are on Team Peeta I presume?

me: He’s awesome, and Gale’s so much in the background. I thought, too, that Peeta was stronger this time around, altruistic, yes, but also smart, savvy and able to manage himself which is not something he did in Hunger Games. I think Katniss needs him more than she needs Gale.

Tricia: There was something a little pathetic about Peeta in the first book that was totally gone this book. Like he really grew up. At the moment, I totally agree. Katniss does need him. I think it will be hard for Gale to ever fully understand how much the Games has changed Katniss as a person, but Peeta will always have that for her.

me: You know, one of the things I really liked in this book was how Peeta and Katniss needed each other to sleep through the night. I also liked that they managed without sex — that their connection was something more elemental than passionate.

Tricia: Yeah. That was sort of sexy too. Kind of Twilight-ish.

me: Good comparison. Except not as creepy.

Tricia: Right. LOL. So were you surprised by what happened in the book?

me: YES, I was surprised. I was going along the book, and then I hit page 174 (tweeted it, which is why I remember the page number) and it totally threw me for a loop!

Tricia: I am surprised by how much I was surprised.

me: I am, too, especially since I knew going in that there were surprises.

Tricia: Yeah, some of it I anticipated, and other things just had me shocked. And Collins manages to do it BAM at the end of the chapter so you have to keep reading!

me: What shocked you?

Tricia: I was really hoping no one would fight after the holding hands thing.

me: Actually, one of the things that surprised me was the games itself. I thought she’d leave the games behind in this book and just go political. And she did, in a way. Well, not in a way. She did. Just not in the way I was expecting.

Tricia: Yeah, I was expecting a more traditional uprising I guess.

me: And we got some of that.

Tricia: On page 60-something, when they visit District 11, I actually cried. I don’t even remember getting that emotional when Rue died in the last book. But for some reason, it really got me when she was staring at the people’s faces and remembering it all.

me: Speaking of uprisings: President Snow was CREEPY.

Tricia: I could have nightmares about that dude.

me: Oh, MAN. Talk about a good bad guy. He made my skin crawl. And the level of intimidation that he’d stoop to — poor Cinna!

Tricia: Yeah. Love Cinna. He’s kind of a younger Nick Arrojo in my mind.

me: Yeah — how about the mockingjay dress. Totally awesome. He was one of my favorite characters from Hunger Games.

Tricia: Loved the mockingjay dress. I think Collins does a fabulous job with the minor characters. Even annoying Effie and the crying stylists. I love them all!

me: True. Actually, the only person I still really didn’t like was Katniss herself. She’s still too black-and-white, though she’s less so than in Hunger Games.

Tricia: You know, I never really thought about it that way, but I agree with you. She’s still immature. I think this book really highlighted that, especially with Peeta growing up so much.

me: Yeah. Which is probably one of the reasons she got sideswiped there in the end: she wasn’t mature enough to handle what everyone else was doing, and would have probably blown it (she nearly did anyway). Which makes me curious for the next one.

Tricia: So, usually 2nd books in a trilogy are a little rougher for me than the rest. But this one wasn’t. What do you think made this book so different from normal 2nd books?

me: I don’t know: I was thinking that about this book, too. Perhaps it’s because Collins didn’t do what we expected her to do? If you think about it, not much really happened in this book it’s still mostly foundational.

Tricia: Yeah, she seems like she’s got a really clear direction she’s headed. She’s not distracted in her writing.

me: That’s so true. She’s a very tight, very descriptive writer. I don’t feel like she’s telling us more than we need to know which is probably why it’s such an intense reading experience.

Tricia: Nor do I think she’s being influenced by her fans one bit.

me: Good. For. Her. I think being a more seasoned writer helps — she has the whole Gregor series under her belt.

Tricia: Somehow Collins makes a dystopian thriller romantic and heartbreaking and gritty. It’s explosive stuff! Do you think Collins knows exactly how it will all end?

me: Oh, yeah. But I don’t think we can even imagine what’s going to happen.

Tricia: Do you think she’s know that from the beginning?

me: I don’t know. Possibly.

Tricia: I always wonder if writers sketch out the whole trilogy from the start, or if it evolves…or both.

me: Or if she sat down and wrote it all as one long draft, and then perfected it in three chunks. I think sometimes writers just start with one book, and if it does well, make it fit into a series. But sometimes, you can tell that they’ve thought it through from the beginning!

Tricia: Yeah, I think Scholastic booked her for a trilogy from the start on this one.

me: Okay… lightening round…favorite character?

Tricia: This book: Peeta. Yours?

me: Haymitch.

Tricia: Oooh, good call. We haven’t talked about him; why did you like him? (Sorry, not lightning, but I’ve got to know!)

me: Because, like in Hunger Games, there is so much more to him than what we’re really seeing. I liked that we “saw” his games and that he knows more about getting out of the arena alive than anyone else.

Tricia: Yeah. Me too.

me: and then there’s the end… WOW!

Tricia: I’m so SO glad he was there at the end.

me: I think his drunkenness is a mask for something bigger, and Collins hinted at that in the end. Makes me wonder what he’s going to do next. He’s very complex.

Tricia: I hope he’s more sober in the next book though. 🙂

me: Back to lightning round: favorite scene? Don’t give too much away.

Tricia: Having a tough time with that one. You go first.

me: I think I liked the one with Katniss in the woods when she met the escapees from District 8. It gave us a hint of something bigger that was going on, yet managed to not give too much away. And it let us see a bit more into Katniss’s world.

me: Yeah, I agree. OK, I will probably change my mind 1/2 dozen times, but I really liked the scene when the fence goes back online and she gets hurt coming home. And how everyone at home reacts and plays dumb when the Peacekeepers are there. It was serious and funny all at the same time. And I liked the interaction between Haymitch, Peeta, and Katniss there a lot.

me: Oh, that’s a good one. Serious and funny at the same time is something that Collins does well.

me: OK, totally random, but if you HAD to live in a district, which one would you pick?

me: Besides the Capitol? 😉 District 3 or 4. I’m selfish, and I like to live in ease.

Tricia: Remind me, 4 is Finnick…the sea right?

me: Yeah. And three is electronic: Nuts and Volts (I liked them). How about you?

Tricia: I think somehow 12 gets me because my ancestors were coal miners. That, and they had relatively nice Peacekeepers and they were far away from everyone else.

me: So, even though they were poor, they were relatively untouched. Perhaps that’s why the revolution had to start with someone from 12. Hunger Games was a good criticism of popular society and reality television…but I don’t think this one was as much, do you?

Tricia: No, I felt like it was much more it’s own world this time. Any characters you don’t like? Besides Snow?

me: Thresh. I think she makes most of the people sympathetic, and leaves just a couple to be real baddies.

Tricia: I actually really don’t like Joannah, and I think that’s a good thing. How I can dislike someone who’s on the right side…that’s talented writing.

me: That’s a good point. It’s easy to like the likable people and hate the bad ones but to dislike someone who is on the “good” side… but to write someone unlikable who is on the good side. That IS good writing.

Tricia: Did you think someone was going to turn bad? I’ve been worried there’s a mole somewhere. Who saw Gale and Katniss kiss? that never got resolved.

me: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.

Tricia: I thought maybe Haymitch…at first.

me: Not Haymitch. maybe it’s someone we haven’t met?

Tricia: Right. But snow is getting his info somewhere. Prim?

me: Would it be really terrible if it were Peeta? That, actually, would be interesting. Devastating, but interesting.

Tricia: Yeah, I’m scared I’m emotionally invested in a bad guy!

me: LOL! THAT would be good writing.

Tricia: OK, which book did you like better? I think I’ll go with Hunger Games just because it was first.

me: I think I liked Catching fire better because it was less commentary on society and more a straight-up adventure.

Tricia: I don’t think we could go wrong with either, truth be told. Good stuff!

Good stuff, indeed!

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11 thoughts on “Catching Fire

  1. I finished Catching Fire and felt some despair that the 3rd book is nowhere on the horizon. I think this is one of the only times I remember reading a 2nd book in a series and contemplating going back to reread both almost immediately. I didn't even do that with Harry Potter, although I am in the process of rereading those with my children and enjoying them all over again.

    Thanks for the discussion! It was fun to contemplate.

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  2. Oh, how I wished to be in this conversation with you guys as I was reading your dual review. 🙂

    The Gale v. Peeta argument is SOOOOO difficult to take a side on for me. I seriously would be happy with her being with either one of them, since each couple is forever linked to the other in an undeniably important way. That's why I think one of them will die in the last book, because I really think that's the only way Katniss would ever take the leap to be in a romantic relationship with either of them. BUT, I can't even begin to predict which one would die, and I wouldn't want to have to choose!

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  3. Next time, Dawn, maybe we should do a three or four way conversation… 🙂

    Softdrink: interestingly enough, Hubby was underwhelmed by the book, too, and talking to him has changed a few of my opinions. I can see how the whole thing would be a bit meh, and while I liked the end, too, I can also see how it's troublesome. (He had MAJOR problems with the end.)

    What I like most, though, is that this book engenders these kind of discussions…

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  4. Thanks for the tip. I went over but I still had to skip. I just like to go into books knowing NOTHING because I am like that. BUT. I am sure I will enjoy when it is my turn 🙂

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  5. What a fun conversation! I can't wait to have a similiar one with my book club in a couple of months. I so wish we didn't have to wait so long. (We had another book scheduled that we couldn't change.)

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