Thursday, 22 April 2010

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins does not appear to have a full review for this book. So, in a nutshell, this book is the second in a trilogy called The Hunger Games. Society has crumbled and, what I assume are the remains of America, has been divided up into twelve districts. The Capital is the tyrant over this civilisation. As punishment for previous rebellions, and a form of social control, each year two children from each district have to compete in what is called 'The Hunger Games'. If you have seen Battle Royale that is a mild interpretation of what happens.

I discovered this book in a Ms magazine article that recommended books with positive feminist role models. Katniss, the lead character and from whose perspective the story is told, is a kick ass girl. However, the kick ass-ness is partly due to survival. In the first book, she manages to win 'The Hunger Games' along with Peeta. To appeal to the Capital's thirst for reality styles, she and Peeta create a believable love affair.

Unfortunately the Capital are not terribly happy with this. This sinister note is how the second book opens. Katniss is now back in her home district with her mother and younger sister. This happiness does not last for long. To celebrate the 75th Hunger Games, it is announced all previous contestants are to compete instead of choosing new participants. This includes Katniss and Peeta. Then all the fun starts.

This book was a terrible distraction from coursework I had due in last week. Collins keeps the reader hooked. The story is seen from Katniss's perspective so the reader is left guessing. What are people's true intentions in the Hunger Games? Why has there been a crackdown on activity in the districts? Who can Katniss really trust? Which is probably why I read this book in an entire sitting.

Collins paints a torturous and futuristic world. In an interview (at the back of printed copy of the first book) she admits the idea came from channel hopping on the television on evening. She was going from Survivor, other reality TV shows to news coverage of war, famine, people fighting for daily survival. This may explain the emphasis she gives to 'manufacturing' of Katniss. As a participant in the Hunger Games she is given a team to spruce up her hair, nails, everything. In the Capital, presentation is everything. A stance I think our current society is not a million miles away from.

Katniss is a true icon for feminist teens. If I had a teen daughter I would prefer she was reading about strong women than love sick girls; mooning over vampires. Collins' book is full of more admirable role models. Katniss's mother who has powerful healing skills but struggles to cope with the loss of her husband (Katniss's father died in a mining accident prior to the events in the first book). Johannes, a contestant in the Hunger Games who has lost everyone she cares about but is still fighting. Even Prim, Katniss's sister, is a character worthy of admiration.

A fantastic, gripping book that appeals to both teens and adults alike. Can't say fairer than that.

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