Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Somehow, my mom managed to get Catching Fire and Mockingjay at the library. She requested them for me and surprisingly the waiting list was extremely short! So a few days ago, I was up half the night reading the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
The Hunger Games left me wanting more. What about the Victory Tour? What would happen to Katniss and Peeta being ‘in love’? OK, I already knew some of this stuff because I’ve looked on the Hunger Games Wiki and my friends have told me tons of stuff about the series. But it’s always interesting to read how a scene you’ve only heard about actually plays out. Sometimes it’s more emotional than you thought it would be; sometimes you thought it would be funny and it wasn’t.
Maybe I’m picky this way, but I am often disappointed by any book in a series that is not the first book. I suppose I want all the subsequent books to be just as amazing as the first, which means I want the books to be the same. I want the quality of the writing to stay the same. I don’t want the mood of the series to change. In The Hunger Games, everything felt so intense. I could not put down that book. From Katniss blowing up the Careers’ supplies to hiding in the cave with Peeta and so much more, it all felt so vivid. It seems like Collins revised the first book more than she did for the second book, because the words just fit so well in the first. Some of the most beautiful and chilling writing I’ve ever read comes from the part of The Hunger Games when Katniss thinks how really Cato was always the one to fight and how she’s resigned to the fact that she and Peeta will probably be killed by Cato. I didn’t find writing like that anywhere in Catching Fire. I hoped that at least if the writing wasn’t as good, the book would still be gripping.
So I thought Catching Fire would be a whirlwind of adventure. But it took seemingly forever for Katniss and Peeta to even begin their Victory Tour. Before that got underway, she spent way too long with Gale, whom I find boring. And once the Tour had started, it wasn’t that interesting. The visit to Rue and Thresh’s District 11 was the best part, but it went downhill from there. In two ways – Katniss and Peeta were severly restricted in what they could say or do after the chaos they unintentionally caused, and because of that, Collins couldn’t make anything else cool happen during the remainder of the Tour. So I plowed through the rest of that part in boredom, and couldn’t wait for the Quarter Quell to be announced and for Katniss to realize that she would be going into the arena again.
I suppose if I’d just won a game where the point is to kill all the other children, was told that I would have to participate in that game, and would likely die that time, I would react as Katniss did, by sobbing, screaming, running away, and generally throwing a temper tantrum. On one hand, I can’t really blame her for what she did, but I wanted the action to move to the Capitol, already!
So far, I’ve mostly complained about Catching Fire. But once Katniss and Peeta were at the Capitol, the book started to get much better. The quality of the writing didn’t change. The mood of the second book still felt quite different from the mood of the first. Katniss and Peeta didn’t act any differently. Enter three characters, and Catching Fire became much more enjoyable.
I would say that I’ve been dying to actually read what the book and not just Hunger Games Wiki said about Finnick Odair, but that doesn’t seem appropriate since the Hunger Games is filled with death. So I’ll just say that I couldn’t wait to read about him. I loved his first scene. The others too, but the first one was quite good. Coming from District 4, he was a Career tribute, but not all Careers are bad. He reminds me of a more intense version of Peeta, I think.
Johanna Mason was also quite good. I remembered her from what Katniss had mentioned in The Hunger Games when she wondered if Peeta was going for a similar strategy. Johanna pretended to be weak so that no one would notice her. When there were only a few tributes left, she brutally murdered them. It was a nice surprise to see that she had a big part in this book. I like how snarky she is, and how she loves to tick off Katniss. I really like Katniss, but I do love seeing her get frazzled by the other tributes.
I didn’t expect to like Beetee, from District 3, but I found that I did like him. He’s smart and invents things. Beetee reminds me of my mom because he understands all kind of nerdy things that none of the other tributes can figure out. Actually, Wiress and Beetee, also known as Nuts and Volts, remind me strangely of my parents. I don’t mean that my mother’s insane and my dad invents things. If anything, it would be the other way around. But Wiress and Beetee are smart and they finish one another’s sentences. My parents are some of the smartest people I know, and I’m quite skeptical when it comes to how smart someone really is, so don’t scream, “Nepotism!” My parents also seem to read each other’s thoughts, like when my dad frantically waves at my mom as he’s cooking and something is about to explode in a pot and my mom hands him just the right utensil or whatever.
I was happily reading the scene just before Katniss is launched into the arena because Cinna is awesome and his scenes were making the book a little better. I had known that Cinna would die in Catching Fire, but I had forgotten when, exactly. Suddenly Katniss was in the launch tube and he was getting beaten to death. I wasn’t expecting him to die until after the Quarter Quell, for some reason, so I was quite sad even if I already knew that he would die.
I found the arena scenes quite dull. Yes, plenty of action happens, but the writing lacked the tenseness of the 74th Hunger Games. I did feel sad when Mags and Wiress died. I already knew that – “Tick, tock.” – the arena was a clock, so I wasn’t surprised by that.
And then the remaining tributes were pulled out of the arena. Most of them were headed to District 13, which turned out to be still intact, albeit underground. The whole thing just felt so anticlimatic.
I think a huge part of why I didn’t like Catching Fire is that Katniss wasn’t really being herself. That’s explored in more detail in the third book, with Katniss forced to act a certain way for propaganda instead of making her own decisions. Many of the best parts of The Hunger Games took place when she acted spontaneously – volunteering for Prim, saying she liked the lamb stew during her interview, forming an alliance with Rue, blowing up the Careers’ supplies, singing to Rue as she died, taking care of Peeta, and more. I suppose that’s why the first book felt so vivid. But so many of her actions during the second book are all a show, whether for Snow, Haymitch, Peeta, Prim and her mother, Gale, any of the other tributes, Plutarch Heavensbee, her prep team, and others.
In his review of Catching Fire, Liam is similarly pessimistic. (Wait, he’s always pessimistic. Anyway.) He says reading the book was like watching a pot boil and I agree. I continued to read it mainly because I figured that Mockingjay would make more sense if I’d read Catching Fire. I’m now going to quote the best part of his review: “There is almost no story except the ever-present love triangle, and it gets kind of ridiculous when over half the book has gone by with nothing except the Victory Tour happening. I think the author would have been better off tacking the first half to the end of the first book, and the last half to the beginning of the third book. Thus, we have two books, both extremely action-packed, and none is left to say “Oh, that’s the worst one in the series.””
Again, I agree. Sort of. I think The Hunger Games was a nearly perfect book. It ended at the right time and I don’t know that I would have liked it as much if it had contained the Victory Tour. And I’m not sure that Mockingjay would work if it contained all of Catching Fire as well. Perhaps it might. But even when I was only on the third chapter, I couldn’t get past the feeling that Catching Fire should be stabbed repeatedly.
I was going to write a bit about who I think should be cast to play Finnick but apparently they’ve cast Sam Claflin already, whoever he is. (I’d never heard of Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, or Liam Hemsworth before I saw The Hunger Games, either.) On this site, I found some other actors that fans wanted. I think Armie Hammer, whose name makes me laugh a lot for some reason, is the closest to how I imagine Finnick. The closest on that particular list, anyway. The more I thought about it and looked at Sam Claflin, though, the more I think he’d be a better Finnick. He looks kind of like him and they could always change his hair color, which they had to do for Lawrence and Hutcherson. But I don’t know how well he will be able to play the character with all his brave, seductive, joking, happy, worried, and tragic sides. I’d think it would be harder than playing Peeta, who is an awesome character, but let’s face it; all you have to do to play Peeta is act really sweet and kind. For some reason, before I was searching who’s going to play Finnick, the only person I could think of off the top of my head was Richard Hammond of Top Gear UK, and I don’t know why. He’s the spitting image of Finnick if I take off my glasses and everything’s blurry. But I guess I think he could do the funny part of Finnick well. Probably not any of the other parts, though. My only other suggestion is this guy named Josh Hutcherson who might be good for the part. So I’m being very finicky about Finnick…
And apparently, they’ve also cast Johanna. Who the heck is Jena Malone? Am I just really clueless when it comes to young actors who weren’t in Harry Potter? Anyway, I think they should have cast someone else, but this suggestion of mine is no help because I can’t actually think of who else they should have chosen! Malone might look better if her hair’s short and spiky like it is in the books. Otherwise, she doesn’t look enough like Johanna. And she’d better be good at the snarky-but-actually-just-scared thing, too. What I’m really interesting in seeing is how the moviemakers will handle those scenes when she’s not wearing any clothes! (If this just caused my parents to fall out of their chairs saying, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU READING IN THAT BOOK?!”, let me explain. She thinks her tree costume representing District 7’s lumber industry is stupid, so she just rips it off, thankfully after the tribute parade. Also, many of the other tributes are trying to see what it takes to shock Katniss, and she joins in. Panem is not a huge nudist colony. Wait. Well, Finnick just wears a net as his parade costume. I may have to take back that claim.) That will take some clever editing. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film gets an R rating, what with all the violence and scantily-clad tributes, but it’ll probably get PG-13 because the producers can make more money with a bigger audience.
I was supposed to be reviewing Catching Fire and instead I’ve gone off track talking about naked tributes! Sorry about that. I was disappointed, for the most part, with this book. I loved some of the characters. This book would have been even better if they had had more scenes. But they didn’t, and I felt the writing lacked the sense that I wanted and expected it to have. I was turning the pages so slowly that there was no way that they could possibly catch fire.