WARNING: If you have not read The Hunger Games, do NOT read this review. SPOILER ALERT!
Rating: 4 out of 5
When The Hunger Games ended, Katniss and Peeta had been spared in the Games after attempting to commit a double suicide when they were told that only one victor would survive, instead of the Gamemakers' previous decision to make an exception that year and crown two victors.
Catching Fire picks up about six months later, as the two former tributes are preparing for their Victory Tour across the districts. Super awkward considering that they have to give speeches to the very families of the kids they killed. But even more awkward is the fact that they still have to pretend to be in love with each other, despite Katniss' budding relationship with Gale back home. President Snow is not pleased with Katniss' rebellions, both in the Games and afterwards, and he warns her that if she doesn't start behaving, the consequences will be dire.
Of course, Snow only wants Katniss dead, especially when districts start uprising against the Capitol--using her and her mockingjay pin as the symbols of their resistance. So since this year will hold the Quarter Quell, an especially brutal Games celebrating another 25 years of oppression, Snow has just the plan in mind to keep the districts down: choose the tributes from the existing pool of victors--forcing Katniss and Peeta to enter the arena yet again.
I had been told that this sequel was not as good as the original, and although that's true, it's still an excellent book. Everything was new and exciting in The Hunger Games, but now we're familiar with the world and are growing just as tired with the Capitol as the districts are. The pacing is not perfect, starting off a little too slow, then revving up as Katniss and Peeta compete once again. It's a race to the finish, and although it took me awhile to complete the book, I read the last 130 pages in one sitting because I wanted so badly to find out who would win.
The ending is a definite cliffhanger, and I was left with so many questions. Of course, so does Katniss, and I appreciate Collins' strategy to keep the reader in the dark with the characters--even though I'm just as frustrated to learn what's going to happen! All in all, it was a thrilling read, if just a pit stop on the way to the finale. I can't wait to jump into Mockingjay!