As featured by Toni Whitmont in the October Booktopia Buzz.
The last thing I expected this year was to find a young adult series that affected me as strongly as Patrick Ness' incredible Chaos Walking books. And, more surprising still, was finding a yet another young adult series where the sequel managed to match, even surpass the brilliance of the original.
Catching Fire is the intense follow up to last year's word-of-mouth best seller The Hunger Games. Set in a far-future, dystopic America known as Panem, the series is narrated by teenage Katniss Everdeen, forced to fight for her life in an unforgiving and bloodthirsty post-apocalyptic version of Survivor. And, before you all start quoting books and movies based on the very same fight-to-the-death reality TV show plot, trust me when I say you've never seen a story like this one before.
Panem is divided into 12 Districts, each responsible for a different industry and ruled over with absolute authority by the Capitol. The populations of the 12 Districts scratch a living on meagre rations while the citizens of the Capitol enjoy a pampered lifestyle of careless excess. On top of the brutal policing of the Districts, the Capitol suppresses thoughts of rebellion through the annual staging of the Hunger Games. Every year a boy and a girl are chosen by lottery from each district and pitched against each other in a televised death match with only one winner. The entertainment highlight of the year for the Capitol also serves as a yearly reminder to the serfs in the districts that they are powerless, even to protect their children from the might of the government. As you can see, the Hunger Games are much more than a simple set-up for an action story; Suzanne Collins has created a subtle and twisted political thriller that doesn't pull any punches.
Katniss lives in District 12, a coal mining town and one of the poorest regions in Panem. As there is obviously a sequel I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that Katniss is selected to enter the Hunger Games and manages to survive through Book 1. But the defiant manner of her survival has angered the government and lit a spark of rebellion in some of the other districts. But as a Hunger Games champion, Katniss is now a celebrity and the government must be cautious in the way they treat her or risk inciting a revolution. It is this political manoeuvring that is at the heart of Catching Fire and Collins draws it out beautifully, lifting the series up to another level as Katniss begins to realise that her life is no longer her own, she has become a symbol for something far greater.
Catching Fire not only extends upon the political aspects of The Hunger Games, it also throws Katniss' personal life into even greater turmoil. Katniss is a tough and resourceful girl, with a ruthlessness practicality born from years of hunting for her mother and sister. But, like most teenagers, the affairs of the heart are a painful confusion to her. Unlike most teenagers, however, her personal relationships have become highly politicised and even if she was able to interpret her own feelings, she no longer has the luxury of choosing for herself.
The Hunger Games' unrelenting brutality in the arena, placed so startlingly against the wilful ignorance and casual indifference of the Capitol, had such an impact on me that it was hard to imagine how Suzanne Collins could maintain the intensity in Catching Fire. She has not only matched it but taken it to a new level. This is not only young adult writing at its very strongest but some of the most compelling speculative fiction in years. A must read.
Reviewed by Richard Bilkey, Booktopia Buzz Editor
After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol.
A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create.
As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
This is the terrifying sequel to The Hunger Games.
About the Author
Suzanne Collins' debut novel, Gregor the Overlander, the first book in The Underland Chronicles, received wide praise both in the United States and abroad. The series has been a New York Times bestseller and received numerous accolades. Also a writer for children's television, Suzanne lives with her family in Connecticut.
Series: Hunger Games
Number Of Pages: 480
Published: October 2009
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.9 x 3.3
Weight (kg): 0.31