Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review - CATCHING FIRE

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) - Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Dystopian, Sci-fi
# of pages: 391 (hb)
Amelia's Age-Level Recommendation: 12+
Publisher: Scholastic
Catching Fire @ Parental Book Reviews


All aboard the Hunger Games train! Yeehaw! Only 3 more weeks to go, folks!
Though it's hard to surpass the original, Catching Fire was in many ways more enjoyable to me than HG. This book covers more ground, and the pacing is crazy-fast, which made my fingers practically glued to the pages. I can't say enough how incredibly satisfied I am with this series. Suzanne Collins is a master-storyteller, and she has created a classic series. As always, I believe in objective reviews, so I'm going to mention the things that I thought were very well-done, and things I thought could use a little work. The "use a little work" things were so microscopic, though, compared to the broad enjoyability of the story, that they had absolutely no bearing on the final grade. Am I giving this series preferential treatment? Most definitely! That's what happens when I find a series I absolutely fall in love with.

Catching Fire finally delivered on the *action* that I felt was sometimes lukewarm in its predecessor. Except for a few lulls in the story, this book went from one major event to another, and the excitement I felt was so incredible and so energizing, I literally dreaded coming to the last few pages. Collins really does know how to catch her readers and hold their attention. This was a strong, strong sequel and I already know, unless Mockingjay totally bombs, that this is one of my favorite series of all time.

While the overall plot was captivating from start-to-finish, I personally thought that the PACING of this book was like, on drugs. It was roller-coaster fast, then inner-tube-floating-down-a-river slow, and freakishly random at times. Like, something major would happen, but because the book is so fast-paced, there was little emotional and in-depth exploration. I thought the Quarter Quell, for example, was way too fast paced (don't worry - that's not a spoiler. I'm not telling you what the QQ is). I always find it interesting to see what an author chooses to emphasize and what he/she chooses to skim over, and it seemed like quite a few aspects of the story that *I* found to be incredibly crucial were just skimmed, and rather insignificant aspects were blown out of proportion.

In all fairness, I'm starting to get a little annoyed with Katniss as a narrator and character. Now that's not supposed to sound critical, because I actually think Katniss is one of the better MCs in current YA fiction: she's driven, she's goal-oriented, she perseveres, she cares about her family, etc. I can excuse her grammar and bleak outlook on life, but her tone really started to bother me. She's way to dry, detached, and matter-of-fact, no matter how dire and emotional the situation is, and as the stakes got higher in this book, I found her detachment hard to understand. She also had a tendency to be quite patronizing, especially towards Peeta. Umm, okay so Peeta obviously isn't a King Leonidas killing machine, but he's not a totally worthless loser, either. Give him some respect, Katniss! He's definitely smarter than you are!

Other high points: always good to have a consistent, strong villain. I've been waiting to read about President Snow ever since I asked my 14-year old cousin what team he was on, and he told me "Team Snow!" (he was just kidding, I think). I definitely was creeped out by President Snow. Bravo for scary-but-mysterious villains!
And now to the love story: Okay, here I absolutely LOVE the concept but am less than impressed with the execution. I think SOME of Katniss' attitude is refreshing. She's not boy-crazy and she's not leading them on, either. She's honest about her feelings (or lack thereof) and expresses fear and uncertainty about her future with either of them. Those are genuine, consistent feelings for a character like her. And I'm going to defend both Peeta AND Gale's personalities. I keep reading that the two needed to be contrasted more, and I just don't get that. To me, they contrast just fine. Gale's more the brooding, quiet, brawny type (he reminds me of Jacob from everybody's favorite series because he just seems to exude manliness) and Peeta is adorable, kind, sweet, incredibly shrewd and clever. Both are "good boys," and I quite enjoy having two characters who were somewhat alike. It makes Katniss' decision way more unpredictable.

Because my little critiques are really ULTRA-specific, they have no bearing on my rating. Catching Fire is one of the most exhilarating, enjoyable and amazing books I have ever read, and all I can do is just implore all of you to read this incredible series! See you all a few days after August 24 for my Mockingjay review. Until then,
Down with President Snow!
(and Peeta had better the heck be alive, or ELSE!)

Final Grade:

11 shout-outs!:

Melissa said...

Love, Love, LOVE this series! I was so lost after Percy, but I'm so glad that I've this series, and I'm glad to hear you loved Catching Fire as much as I did...now...Team Peeta or Team Gale?! Great review :)

elizabeth said...

I loved Catching Fire! I am so excited for Mockingjay!

Blueicegal ♥ said...

im so glad you liked it!! and your review was very insightful i agree on many of your thoughts, ohh i cant wait for the third book!

Dazzling Mage said...

*sigh* August 24th can't come fast enough! This is one of the few series I'm really emotionally attached to (HP was the first xD).

As usual, awesome review.

Jan von Harz said...

Very interesting review and with a surprise ending too.

JSavant said...

Loved the review, Amelia! I have to say that I also thought somet things, like the dread leading in the days up to the Quarter Quell, weren't 'deep' enough. Then again, I guess we have Katniss to blame for that since she's not the most emotion-emphasizing character there is. (That's part of the reason why all of us are still so conflicted about who she's going to choose in the final book, if either one at all!)

And I have to agree on your last count as well: Peeta BETTER be alive!! Or there's going to be one mad HG fanatic sobbing her eyes out and ruining her copy of Mockingjay come August 24th. :(

Sheri said...

Fantastic review! President Snow is so wonderfully creepy. Though I have to say, your review did make me even more excited and anxious for Mockingjay (I didn't even think that was possible...) I'm not sure I'm thanking you for that right now. ;o) Can't wait for both the book and your review! It's so fun to have you on board one of my favorite series.

Erika said...

great review! i fell in love with the hunger games, and i can't wait to read catching fire :D

Christina T said...

Great review, Amelia! I like how you critiqued the book. I still admire Katniss although I was disappointed with her behavior at times in this one. I thought maybe her emotional distance was due to her experiences growing up and that she purposely shuts off her emotions. I am still Team Peeta so I liked your last comment :)

Can't wait for Mockingjay to see how it will end. I have a feeling it will be a Deathly Hallows-like reading experience.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Man I love me some Peeta :)

Okie said...

So so good. I agree that President Snow is a fabulous villain. This world got even better in the second book. I'm so excited for the third.

 
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