Sep 12, 2010

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games, 2)

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (the sequel to The Hunger Games), did not catch my imagination on fire. The good writing continues, a good plot continues, but there's a crudeness to this book. It may have stemmed fromthe fact that Katniss Everdeen's life has taken a tougher turn than before the Games and she's now thrust into a less pleasant lifestyle while the Capitol tries to ruin everyone's lives. I did not enjoy book 2 as much as book 1 (then again, sequels are never a match for the first one--unless it's Toy Story).

Katniss is living in a nicer house with nicer clothes and money. But around her, the people of District 12--her people--are barely surviving. And that's before the Capitol sends in the Peacekeepers to whip (literally) everyone into shape. Katniss is forced to continue playing along with the Capitol's wishes if people she loves are to live. But then President Snow takes the Districts on a surprising and nasty twist, sending Katniss and other loved ones spiraling into another nightmare. But in the midst of this, Katniss is seeing pendants with her Mockingjay charm on it, cookies with the Mockingjay stamped on their faces, and people are looking to her for leadership. But leadership in what?
No matter how hard the Capitol tries, they can't completely subdue a growing revolt. But they can take down as many as they can (including entire Districts) with just the push of a button. Katniss is so worried about those who might die, that she fails to realize she's at the top of the hit list. And she's trapped.

I read this book in one sitting, just like the first one, though it was not quite as page-turning. Catching Fire pursued what I wanted it to--more focus on freedom and government than on the love triangle (although the love triangle was in there). I was happy to see that the main character remained smart, that she made the right choice (aka. the choice I wanted her to make), and that the love triangle was not filled with angst and immaturity. We follow every thought of Katniss's and, to the credit of the author, Katniss thinks like a human being, not a fictional character. But there are also the expected signs of non-Christian thinking.

At one point, Katniss gets drunk. Like the first book, there is frequent mention of alcohol (more-so in book 2) and it's not hugely looked down upon, it's more of a joke. But unlike book 1, there are also mentions of eating disorders (encouraged in the Capitol so people can eat as much as they want. Katniss does not condone), prostitution (also looked down upon by Katniss, but still mentioned), and the phrase "knocked up" is used once. There's more kissing--about the same amount as book 1--but there is another matter in which Peeta (Katniss's Hunger Games companion who is in love with her) sleeps with Katniss because she has nightmares.
Nothing romantic takes place, but there are several nights that he joins her in bed just because she wants the company and comfort. At one point, Katniss feels a bit immoral about Peeta sleeping with her, but it's mentioned in passing.

There is more violence in Catching Fire than The Hunger Games. Descriptions go more indepth on the way people die, the heartlessness of the Capitol, whipping, guns to heads, murders, etc. And there's a lot of nudity. One girl frequently flaunts her naked body and a man who's taken the breath away from the Capitol by his good looks wears only a fishing net in one scene (with a rather large knot to cover him).

But, in the book's defense, it never delves into completely inappropriate detail. I would still call it PG-13, but a less enjoyable PG-13.
I am putting this book in the "neutral" rating for recommendation. It is up to you to decide what you want to read. I still recommend the first one, but I understand the difficulty that comes with reading the first of a series--it's hard to stop. So I leave this choice to your good judgment.
Personally, I would read the first one again, but probably not the second.
However, tonight I do plan to read the third book, Mockingjay, and see if the conclusion will pull the trilogy closed with a jaw-dropping smash. I have a feeling it will. . .

Violence Level: **** (The same amount as book 1, but more description)
Romance Level: *** (Still, just kissing. A bit more insinuation.)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: ***
Story Depth Level: ***** (Following in the prequel's footsteps)

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at

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