Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsI know there were so many readers (adult and teen) at our school who loved Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and I am thrilled to report that they will not be disappointed by Collins' latest work. Its sequel, Catching Fire, is nothing short of fabulous and manages to keep up the momentum Collins established in The Hunger Games. Scholastic has a great trailer hyping Catching Fire that is sure to whet your appetite. Sadly, I usually link to the author website for further information, but that is one area Collins needs to work on - her website looks like it was done in 1994 and doesn't contain a lot of information. I'm sure (and hope) she's busy writing the next book in The Hunger Games series (is it a trilogy?) so I'm going to tell her agent and publisher, "Hey, it's YOUR job to make sure Suzanne has a kick butt website that fits her books and satisfies her fan base!!!" So there. I hope they hear me.
The momentum of the book is excellent. We pick off pretty soon after the games have ended and Katniss and Peeta have returned home to District 12. Tensions abound with Katniss' good friend (and possibly more), Gale, who has been identified as Katniss' "cousin" by the press so as not to cast a pall over her romance with Peeta. Katniss has moved to the section of town reserved for victors (she's Haymitch's neighbor) and her mother and sister, Prim, finally don't lack for food or shelter. But even when Katniss is able to escape under the fence and go hunting in the forest with Gale, she is haunted day and night by images of the games. Collins does a great job describing what's essentially post-traumatic stress disorder (albeit in a dystopian future) and yet peace is not on the horizon for her and Peeta. They just can't catch a break.
Once the evil President Snow arrives from the capital the tension begins to crest and Peeta and Katniss are plunged once again into the public eye with the threat of violence hanging over their respective families if they can't tow the line. Yet as they begin their victory tour, they discover that their act of defiance at the end of the games has sparked a latent powderkeg in the districts that could break any moment into open rebellion.
Collins' writing is excellent and the tension she builds throughout the book is almost unbearable. Her description of Katniss' feelings for Gale yet her confusing connection to Peeta lets the reader understand how she is torn between the two men in her life who each love her and represent different futures. My sole criticism is, like The Hunger Games, this book also ends painfully in the middle of a revelation, so the agony of waiting for the next book is a little brutal. For people who can't handle that, I'd suggest postponing the series, but for everyone else, run out and check out Catching Fire.