Fiction: “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins


No, you don’t understand – my leisure time has been awful over the past six weeks.  Since I finished Brave New World, I started reading Dracula … and am still reading it, as I will read two pages and fall promptly asleep.  I guess I should thank working fifty hours a week for my lack of focus.  And crocheting blankets and scarves and things for Christmas.  And actually making myself dinner every once in a while.  And sleeping – oh Lord, how I miss sleeping!

But Catching Fire kept me awake!  Or, rather, was enough of a quick read that I didn’t fall asleep during it as often.  Or something.  Anyway.  Let me — much like when I read The Hunger Games – attempt to talk about the book.

Because seriously, I am super-glad I decided to take a break from Dracula to read Catching Fire, because if you think I’m not going to go to the see the movie as soon as I get more than five hours of sleep, then you don’t know me at all.

We catch up with Katniss, one of our Victors: she and Peeta have returned from othe arena “victorious,” and I mean that in the most sincerest of air-quotes.  Even though they won the Hunger Games, they won due to blatant defiance of the Capitol.  Now they are in even more danger now than when they were in the arena.

Katniss, Peeta, and their families have been moved into the Victor’s Village in District 12.  It is a bit of an adjustment for Katniss, as she and her family have not been used to largesse.  She finds herself sneaking off into the woods to hunt with Gale every Sunday, leaving Peeta and Haymitch … not to their own devices, but certainly more alone than someone who only survived the Hunger Games because she was desperately in love with her fellow tribute should.

And President Snow notices.  (Sidenote: HOW FREAKING AWESOME is Donald Sutherland as President Snow?  I want to kiss that casting director right on the mouth.  Even before seeing the first movie, I don’t think I’d be able to think of anyone else in that role.  The kindly face that can turn deadly on a dime?  The voice that can be comforting and uplifting in public, and ruthless behind closed doors?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, Donald Sutherland!)

(SIDENOTE TO THE SIDENOTE: Last night, while watching getting sucked into Gone With the Wind for the umpteenth time [God, I love that movie], I couldn’t fast-forward through the commercials because it was ‘live’ TV and AMC is a bastard, and apparently, Donald Sutherland narrates the Simply Orange orange juice commercials.  And I am still trying to come up with a joke to link Simply Orange to an uprising in one of the Districts, but I can only come up with Florida, and would we care if Florida … uprose?  I think not.)

Uh, anyway.  President Snow pays a visit to Katniss before she and Peeta go on their Victory Tour of the other districts, and tells Katniss that her actions and her love for Peeta have sparked some minor uprisings.  If she does not do beyond her best to persuade everyone that not only is she desperately in love with Peeta, but that she’s also fiercely loyal to the benevolent Capitol, her friends and family will be killed.

When they return, the Capitol sends extra policemen to District 12, turn the electric fence back on, and keep a very close eye on Katniss and Gale.  And then comes the Quarter Quell – every 25 years, the Hunger Games gets a wrench thrown into it.  And apparently, for the Third Quarter Quell, each District will pull its Tributes from its pool of Victors.  This means, since Katniss is the only female Victor District 12 has ever had, she’s going back in.

What follows is full of spoilers and awesomeness.  Since discussing the spoilers will take away the awesomeness, I will stop talking about the book.  If you liked Hunger Games, you’ll like Catching Fire, pure and simple.

Let’s talk about this whole love triangle thing instead.  I don’t know about you, but I am firmly on Team Peeta.  I mean — he loves her!  And he will bargain with Haymitch to keep her alive, because she’s the symbol of revolution!  (oh shit, sorry – spoiler!)  And sure, Gale’s there, back in District 12, and we feel bad for him because he loves Katniss too, and he has to work in a mine seven days a week, but … I think Katniss only loves Gale because he’s there, and he knows her and has known her from when they were kids.  It’s a comfortable love.  With Peeta, she struggles more.  She likes him, but she doesn’t love him.  She wants to be worthy for him, but not in a bad way –

Okay, let me try and work something out.  Girls, being worthy of guys so they’ll like you is bullshit.  Guys should like you for who you are – they should not try and change you, or make you like things you don’t like.  They should challenge you, make you try new things, try to get you to like things they like that maybe you’re not sure you like because you haven’t tried it before.  But if they force you to do it, or if they get mad at you for not trying it before you went out, or if they say “if you don’t like this then we can’t date anymore,” then bullshit.  And girls, I am talking about everyday things like football, or Japanese cuisine, or rock-climbing.  If you read this paragraph and thought I was talking about sex, I wasn’t, and that is a whole ‘nother can of worms that you really don’t want me to get into.

Hold on, I need to find my point and bring it back to Katniss and Peeta.  When I said that “Katniss wants to be worthy for Peeta,” Peeta loves her exactly as she is.  He is not asking her to change herself; he doesn’t want her to change.  Katniss is putting pressure on herself to be better when she doesn’t need to be, because she feels that Peeta is an inherently good person (and he is), and that she is a morally ambiguous person at best (but she isn’t), and that she needs to strive to be equal (and she doesn’t).

The “Peeta loving Katniss exactly as she is” is important to the whole “being worthy” idea.  Because if Peeta didn’t love Katniss exactly as she is, then I would be on Team Anyone Else quicker than a barrel of monkeys can turn deadly.

I think that’s all I wanted to touch on with this book.  As I said above, the rest is full of spoilers and awesomeness, and I’m trying a new thing out where I don’t ruin things.  So please, read the book, or go see the movie.  And if you see the movie, let me know how it is – since I’ve read the book, I know there shouldn’t be snakes, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.  But I should be seeing it next week.

And now, a brief look-ahead for That’s What She Read!

If I can read seven books in the next forty days-ish, I will have read thirty books this year.  Last year, I only read 29.  I am going to make every damn attempt to make that happen.  As well as making all the Christmas presents this year.  And hosting a Christmas party for at least twenty people.  And working fifty hours a week.  And sleeping.

I’m nearly done with Dracula, and then I have a very stupid little romance novel I’ve been reading off and on that I might just power through in one day — it’s that stupid, guys — , and Erica and I are Collaborating again on something short and (hopefully) hilarious (but more on that later), plus I want to reread The Stupidest Angel which, again, is short … I could make it happen.  I could also fail miserably, but if I just keep thinking lovely thoughts, it could happen.

Either way, it’s probably gonna be a scene, is what I’m saying.  But it’ll be a good scene, I promise.  So stay tuned — things are happening!

Grade for Catching Fire: 4.5 stars


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