(warning: this review contains unavoidable spoilers for The Hunger Games)
I read The Hunger Games quite recently, under pressure from many of my friends who said things like "It will CHANGE your LIFE!" and "It's the best book EVER!" And, yes, I liked it, I thought it was well written and original, but I didn't love it.
But Catching Fire is a whole different kettle of fish.
Katniss and Peeta have won the Hunger Games. But their victory comes at a price, for now there are whispers of rebellion against the Capitol, and the whispers all have the same face: that of the mockingjay, Katniss' token. With the Capitol poised to take a deadly revenge against the girl who defied them, it's a question of when, not if, the storm will break.
I should make it clear that "rebellion" is one of my favourite storylines: it's why I like The Lord of the Rings so much. There's just something about the little guy standing up against the big bad wolf that makes my heart soar. For instance, I loved the wedding dress/mockingjay scene in the Capitol, because it was such a brilliant symbol. In fact, Collins handles the politics of Panem rather well, I think, the structures of power needed to keep everything in place, the tiny symbolic gestures that can topple the whole thing. Katniss says at one point, "It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down." I love this line.
Aside from the politics of Panem, I found myself really sympathising with the characters: responses on finishing chapters ranged from "Oh God, that's awful," to "Look, Katniss! Look!, and, in the case of the last chapter, "WHAT? WHAT?! DON'T STOP THERE! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT?!" And I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with what seemed like Katniss' wilfully deliberate attempts not to understand the mockingjay on Plutarch Heavensbee's watch. I mean, come on. It's so obvious something is going on there.
I feel there's a lot more to say about Catching Fire, but I think I've covered the major points. A really emotionally complex novel full of questions of morality and power and humanity.