Catching Fire Review: not as hot as the original

Cathching Fire: B

By Suzanne Collins

Brief summary: Sequel to the wildly popular Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins continues the series with more plot twists, intrigue and angsty teen love triangles.

Characterization___________Total: 24/30

Protagonist: Katniss is back, with all her sass, cleverness and angst. While she’s a good, strong female, sometimes she can come across as a little whiny and insecure. Sure, it’s accurate for a teenage girl, but that doesn’t make it less annoying. Overall, though, we see some good confliction. 8/10

Antagonist: Like the first book in the series, the antagonist changes by the minute, depending on who’s out for Katniss’ scalp at the moment. However, there is the looming empire and President Snow. While they’re a little distant to really hate openly, the novel is by no means short on action, so lack of an ever-present antagonist isn’t that important. The government is a good background enemy, with several other dangers thrown in to keep the action going. 9/10

Supporting Cast: As colorful and varied as they come. Even more so than the first book, Catching Fire really lets the reader get to see some interesting competitors. However, because the primary focus is action, the characters aren’t as fleshed out as they could be. Also, some characters remain static throughout the novel. I still love Peeta and Gale, but for the most part they’re the same at the close of the book as they are at the opening. Not terrible, but it could use some work, 7/10

Plot______________________Total: 21/25

Main Conflict: Most people would look at the heap of action and automatically give this book a perfect score for conflict. However, mindless violence doesn’t automatically equal greatness. Even though the second half of the book is full blast, the first half is dreadfully slow, meandering here and there. And, spoiler alert, but forcing Katniss back into the arena felt contrived. We’re forced into the same plot device, and it isn’t as fresh the second time around. So the book definitely has its ups and downs. However, it holds interest even during the slow parts, and the end leads up very nicely to the next book. While not a complete failure, don’t expect the plot in Catching Fire to be as compelling as the original. 12/15

Leading/Falling Action: Leading action takes waaaaaaay too long. The falling action was abrupt, but it’s supposed to be a cliffhanger. So since there’s going to be a sequel, that’s actually a good thing. You just might want to hold off reading this book until the third one comes out. Trust me. 4/5

Back story: My only complaint here is that the author teases us with back story, with the how and why of Panem, without giving too much away. She doesn’t answer everything, which is frustrating, but not in a bad way. After all, there’s going to be a sequel, so no worries. 5/5

Writing___________________Total: 30/30

Description: Spartan. In this novel, though, the primary focus is action, so that’s a good thing. The arena is a lush rainforest, described just enough for the audience to understand what’s going on while still using their own imagination. In fact, setting is always perfectly described here. New authors could take a leaf from Collin’s style. Never too much, but never vague enough to leave you wondering. If this had been a slower book, I would have liked some more beauty in the descriptions. However, action description doesn’t get better than this. 15/15

Style: Present tense first-person. A fitting choice, as it really brings the action home. Also, Katniss’ voice is lively and believable. A perfect choice for the plot, and carried out with flair. 15/15

Other____________________Total: 11/15

Theme: Don’t let the gore fool you. Catching Fire has a lot to say about everything. Government, media, young love, responsibility, cooperation. It’s all here without being didactic or pushy. In fact, the themes are the best part of the book, saving it from being a hack-and-slash by including subtle messages directed at our own society. This novel is a perfect example of a young adult novel with universal appeal. 5/5

Originality: Well, I hate to say it, but this novel’s worst enemy is itself. Or rather, its precursor. Because the author chose to recycle the same plot device, it doesn’t have that fresh feel. In fact, sometimes it feels like more of the same. However, it does push the limits of the Young Adult genre by addressing complex themes. I just wish it took as much chances as the original. 6/10

Final Grade: 86%. So, this book is good, but it falls short of excellence. It doesn’t take as many risks as the first, it doesn’t have as much action, but it has a good story to tell. Read it, just know that it’s not as good as the first.


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