Catching Fire, the long-awaited sequel to Suzanne Collins' dark young adult novel The Hunger Games, is an unbelievable book. Following Katniss Everdeen's rebellious win of the Hunger Games in the triology's first installment, Catching Fire concerns the aftermath of Katniss' daring refusal to play the Games by the tyrannical Capitol's rule.
For those who haven't yet experienced the Hunger Games, here's a quick recap: in the America of the future, Panem, a central region called the Capitol holds total rule over the twelve active districts which ring it. Each district, numbering one through thirteen, performs a special function which serves the Capitol, from mining in the poverty stricken District 12 to the manufacture of luxury items in relatively privileged districts 1 to 4. As a haenous reminder to the districts of the failed attempt of District 13 to rebel against the Capitol in the Dark Days, a tournament is held yearly where the names of two children from each district are drawn at random for the purpose of a glorified gladiators game. The twenty four tributes enter a highly controlled arena, and are forced to kill one another until one survivor remains.
Katniss, a sixteen year old tribute, managed almost to outsmart the Capitol at what is quite literally their own game. She managed to keep her district's fellow competitor alive in an act which, at its heart, was pure rebellion, but was presented to the masses as uncontrolled love.
It is from this point that Catching Fire begins; Katniss and Peeta's lives have been transformed into ones of relative comfort, yet neither are happy. Katniss is being controlled in her every choice from where she spends her victor's money, the partner she chooses and the words she speaks. Threatened personally by President Snow, she is under enormous pressure to hold a full-scale rebellion at bay by continuing her romance with Peeta. Essentially, she needs to disguise her own refusal to comply with the Capitol, so that the masses do not follow her lead.
What's worse is that the Hunger Games are not over for Katniss; being the mentor to this year's tributes, she must first complete a victor's tour of the districts before settling into the brutal and savage rhythm of the Games once more.
In the not so obscure world of Panem, however, the government is all-powerful. Katniss's accidental beginning of a long-dormant uprising means that the punishment of the many will forced onto her shoulders, and her relationship with the Hunger Games shifts once more.
With an ending as shocking as its subject matter, Catching Fire lived up to every expectation I had personally held for a sequel to what has become one of my most beloved books. Katniss is every bit as ambitious and determined as she was when we were first introduced to her, but now she is weathered with the horrors of what she has seen and done. As a readership, so are we; I felt every twist of every knife, every stab of fear and every moment of confused hope and panic that Katniss did. Just like the Hunger Games, only more so, Catching Fire resonates with the reader. It remains a part of you for days after having endured its horrors. In a world which so closely resembles our own, Suzanne Collins has shown us what a dark and horrible place the future could be. The hope of the many, however, rests frighteningly easily upon the shoulders of the young.