Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book two in The Hunger Games series continues the story of the two "victors" of Book one, Katniss and Peeta. During book one, Katniss played up a "romance" with Peeta while they were fighting the other candidates from the other districts. The audience ate it up.
Now that the "victory tour" through the districts has begun, the "romance" must be continued. The thing is, Peeta deep down really is in love with Katniss. Katniss just wants to get through the tour and then go back to life with her mom and little sister. She doesn't want a mate, a family of her own, because the Hunger Games might end up consuming any children she might have.
The "victory tour" is a grand tour of propaganda for the Capitol. Each district is visited, it's own dead heroes memorialized and the victors do their little dance under armed guard. But this time, the Capitol isn't the only one doing the exploiting. Because Katniss almost defeated, inadvertently mind you, the whole concept of the Capitol being in complete control with a near suicide attempt in the games, the rebels of supposedly demolished District 13 are using her fame as well.
Rebels sprinkled throughout the districts start working the idea that Katniss could be an undercover rebel. She never wants to be a rebel icon, she tries to keep her head down so that the President doesn't have any reason to hurt her family. Unfortunately, her innate compassion for the families of the fallen comes across as thinly veiled criticism of the national government.
Again the exploitation of youth for a sound bite, for a political position; yes, it's easy to hate the national government but it's hard to like the rebels because they use the same tools their enemies use to manipulate the people. Katniss isn't so much an inspiration for revolution but a pawn for others to play with. She knows what is going on but feels almost powerless to stop it. She is always making choices between two evils and nothing ever works out the way she planned. And then another Hunger Games is announced, and the victors of past games have to go back and fight again.
Pretty depressing. PTSD symptoms run rampant throughout the book. There is no feeling at all there could be any kind of redemption - only survival, if that. I think it's telling that there is no religion anywhere. The morality any character exhibits is a "look out for number one" expediency that may or may not do any good. There is no guiding star other than rebellion or revenge. There is little of the human spirit that isn't degraded, abused, or twisted. I sure hope Collins wasn't creating an exclusive commentary on our present day society, otherwise we are up the creek.
Parents will want to guide teens on the harsh subject matter.
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