Book Review: Catching Fire

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually read The Hunger Games yet. I watched the first movie and was dying to know what happened in the aftermath of Katniss and Peeta’s near double suicide

Coming into book 2, I was really curious what to expect. I knew the Capital wasn’t done with Katniss and her family. I suspected Prim was going to conveniently be thrown in the next Hunger Games. I was curious what would happen between Katniss and Gale after the whole Katniss/Peeta saga.

The book started not with a bang, as I suspected, but a slow simmer that turned into a boil before turning into an all-out explosion at the end of the book. Like many great trilogies before it (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the latest Batman movies), the second book of Hunger Games series takes a turn for the darker.

“Catching Fire” succeeds is where many sequels go wrong. Instead of trying to match the first book punch for punch, Suzanne Collins allows the characters to breathe. If anything, “The Hunger Games” is all about the bizarre story and unexpected plot twists with the characters kind of the thrown in as somewhat of an afterthought whereas in “Catching Fire,” the plot is secondary to the characters. Even seemingly minor characters, such as Cinna, Finnick, and President Snow, are brought to life in a meaningful way.

That isn’t too say the story is weaker in the second entry. On the contrary, the story steps everything up a level in a completely organic and unforced way. I found myself unable to put the book down. During a real busy period of my life, I plowed through the nearly 400 page book in less than a week. I read around 15-20 books per year, 95% of which are nonfiction. To be completely honest, the figure is even higher than that because I haven’t read a nonfiction book since I read Rick Reilly’s “Missing Links” and “Shanks for Nothing.” As I mentioned in my video review of the Hunger Games last month, I avoided this for a crazy long time due to my sheer distaste of all things Twilight. The Hunger Games, and subsequently Catching Fire, have proved once again that I should know better. I’m fairly certain there is a movie within the pages of this book that, besides making billions of dollars, could be better than the exceptional first movie.