Having experienced such frustration while writing my post on The Hunger Games (mainly frustration over stale memories, i.e., my inability to fully convey all that I thought of and felt towards the book, due to my having put off for various reasons writing that post for nearly a month after my having finished reading the book), I am resolved to never again put off writing a “review.” Which is why I am here now, typing away at the kitchen table while my eyes and brain are screaming for sleep. (I still haven’t recovered from my 6:00 AM flight yesterday.) I read Catching Fire this weekend, and finished it yesterday morning.
To say that I am very fond of the book may quite possibly be an understatement. Just maybe.
Catching Fire, being the middle child, as it were, of The Hunger Games family, did not have much luck in winning my favor. Experience has taught me to not expect much from the middle installment of a trilogy. In some way or another, they all disappoint. The characters develop serious flaws (too flat, too emotional, too reckless, too boring). Or the pacing of the story decelerates to the speed of a child running through a pool of molasses. Or you simply feel sad because the hope and optimism that burned so bright in the eyes of the characters in Book One are suddenly extinguished from a sudden and jarring turn of events. (The Two Towers, I’m looking at you.) But Catching Fire caught me entirely by surprise. Not only did it not disappoint, it exceeded all my expectations. When I closed the book yesterday morning, I remarked to myself how much I liked it more than its predecessor.
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly thrilled me about the book. It’s a mesh of random things, I suppose. Like Katniss’ voice, which is much more consistent in tone and personality here than in The Hunger Games. And the pacing, which is impressively steady but relentlessly fast. And the well-balanced tension and suspense that was never too stressful yet kept me leaning forward, and eagerly asking, “What happens next? What happens next?” at the end of every chapter. And the characters — oh, the characters! Regardless of how flawed or even peripheral they were, they all — somehow — burrowed their way into my heart: Finnick (who was a complete 180 in my metaphorical book). Johanna (whom I read as “Joanna” for the longest time, lol). Even senile Mags. The repeats burrowed even deeper, but I guess that is to be expected because I’m just nostalgic like that: Katniss. Peeta. Haymitch (you cantankerous, genius, alcoholic, wonderful person, you). Cinna (oh Cinna!). His prep team (STOP SOBBING I MAY JUST START SOBBING TOO YOU GUYS ARE SO PRECIOUS). Effie. Madge.
I also liked the terrain of the arena. The clock layout thing, with timed attacks in specific sections? Oh wow, can someone say clever? Or is that just my innate affinity for order and structure talking? I won’t lie, the clock with its regularity and symmetry appeals to me like a candy store would a sugar-crazed toddler.
And the plan. Oh, the plan. I can’t believe it succeeded, and how it was kept mum right under everyone’s noses. And how much foreshadowing there was, and how much double meanings there were in what characters said. And gosh, what mayhem will ensue in Mockingjay because of the jailbreak.
And despite how much I don’t want to talk about romance, because I think the series is so much more than the ridonkulous love triangle between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale, I also liked the tender moments between Katniss and Peeta: Their reconciliation in Chapter 4. Katniss’ uncontrollable sobbing in Chapter 20. The locket/genuine kiss scene in Chapter 24. Peeta’s pearl in Chapter 25. And (this isn’t exactly tender, but) Katniss’ violent reaction to the news that Peeta has been captured in Chapter 27. Peeta is such a stellar guy (such a stellar guy), and it melts my heart seeing how much he cares about Katniss, even though he knows that Katniss does not entirely return his affections. Which is why I want Katniss to choose Peeta in the end. Well, not entirely why. Mostly why. I also want Katniss to choose him because I genuinely think they complement each other well. And because I dislike Gale with a passion. (I have little respect for guys of the hotheaded, passionate persuasion.)
And … I think that’s it. Or at least I’ll let that be it for the sake of time and my sanity. (Late nights equals sleep deprivation equals no fun.) I’m looking forward to reading Mockingjay. But that may not be for some time, because I’m going to wait till the paperback edition comes out (long story). Can Jennifer stand the wait? I sure hope so. I don’t want to re-read the spoiler-y summary on Wikipedia again.