Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: Catching Fire

This past weekend I drove to Nevada to pick up my two younger kids.  (They were staying with my parents during their Spring Break -- which incidentally is NOT during the same week as MY Spring Break at the college.) Even though I knew I'd be exhausted from the long 8 1/2 hour drive, I decided to take Book 2 from the Hunger Games series, "Catching Fire" with me, in the off-chance I'd have some down-time.  Besides I just didn't know how much longer I could wait before reading it.  I was even beginning to have dreams about Katniss and Peeta and Gale, haha.

I don't really want to give too much away about the second book, in case some of you are still planning to read it. Some felt the first book was extremely gruesome; I did not.  The second book has even less than the first, although it is just as intense for other reasons.  I felt like I couldn't read fast enough.

One of my friends stated she didn't like the 2nd book at all, while another one hated the first but loved the second.  After reading it, I honestly think it all depends on how you, the reader, perceives Katniss.  Someone commented to me just last week that while they felt the first book portrayed her as strong and confident, the second book made her seem weak and stupid.  Now that I am done with book 2, here are my thoughts on Katniss...

In the first book, yes, she does appear strong in many ways.  But remember that she was a skilled hunter and knew how to survive in the woods.  In the second book however, her surroundings are different; she is not in some ordinary woods.  She is not in "familiar" territory.  She is not simply trying to outsmart other kids.  It's a whole new arena.

Additionally, in the first book she was a confident "girl" who felt comfortable in her own skin when she was in her own environment.  However, she still felt lost when she visited the Capitol, around people and places where she didn't feel she fit in.  In the second book, even though she is still a girl by age, her experiences have propelled her into adulthood in some regard.  However, her lack of other life experiences (i.e., love, raising children) may make her come across as "weak" or "stupid", because she is so unsure of herself in these types of arenas and of course she lacks the wisdom that many adults obtain over the years.

I think the writer did a great job portraying her how any of us might feel in a brand new situation; a lack of confidence and uncertain about many things.    Personally, I do not perceive her as weak or dumb in the second book at all.  I think she is just a girl who is trying to figure out her new "normal", who longs to be comfortable and safe in her own skin once again.

Lots of twists and turns in this one.  The ending definitely leads right into Book 3 and now I'm anxious to finish that one.


Deborah said...

I sort of agree, but I think you left out something important about Katniss's development. In the first book, she had some emotional baggage for sure, but nowhere near the baggage she had in the second. In the first, her experiences had taught her to be focused on survival, so she was well prepared to do whatever it took to survive--hence appearing very strong in the situation in which she found herself. To a lesser extent, she also had been prepared to care for those weaker than herself, so she came across as a rather likeable human, too. By the time Catching Fire starts, she's scarred in a whole new way. Now survival takes on a whole new meaning, as she struggles with the horrific experience she's been through, and she's forced to deal with a situation where physical survival may not be the outcome she wants most--after surviving the Hunger Games, it seems like most of the winners "check out" of life in some way, and Katniss is no different. I think it's a very real portrayal of the psychological scarring that would be experienced by someone who had to deal with such a horrific event. I could say something about Mockingjay here but I won't :) Biting my tongue ... anyway, I think Katniss is weaker in Catching Fire, not just because she's in less familiar situations, but because she really is in a more fragile, brittle place psychologically, due to the events of Hunger Games.

Puphigirl said...

I felt the 2nd book ended as a cliffhanger and I was dying until I could start reading the 3rd book. Many people told me they didn't like the second book because it couldn't stand on its own and there's not closure. Others tell me they only liked the 1st book and that they didn't like how the 3rd book ended. Or that it ended too fast/abrupt.

I liked all three books. I felt Katniss was a strong young woman. To those who think she came off as weak, it is just because she didn't not fully understand her influence or she wasn't informed of someone else's plan. It is hard to play the game when you don't know the game plan, the rules or the playing field. I felt she did the best with what she had.

I saw recently some articles that were anti-Hunger Games because they felt the books were justifying or glorifying the killings. True, we live in a society with the mind-set of "kill or be killed". They argued that it would be better to be killed because then you are not sinning by killing. I can understand that argument, but in the heat of the moment you have the 'fight or flight' instinct. We value life so much that we want to protect it. That is why Katniss did all she could to save Peeta and herself. That is why she generally only killed when there immediate threat or as a mercy to another.

I loved the books, and still have yet to see the movie.

EmmaP said...

Thanks for that, Deborah. I was actually thinking too about her emotional scarring... Just couldn't figure out how to explain it without giving three book away. You said it perfectly. :)

EmmaP said...

The... Not three. Dumb autocorrect.

Puphigirl said...

I agree with Deborah about the psychological effects the Hunger Games had on Katniss. She entered the second round with a different mindest than the first. Also, she entered the round in the 3rd book differently based on her previous experiences.

I wonder how any of us would have performed in her situation. Would we kill or be killed? Would I have the stamina, the strength, the mind-set or wherewithal to do what needed to be done? What skills do I have? How would I deal with the post-traumatic stress of the events?

Deborah said...

Puphigirl, that's something I thought of throughout the whole book--I always seem to put myself in the main character's place when I read! I think Katniss was very on point, very goal-oriented, in the first book: She had to protect Prim. First, she was feeding her. Then, she took her place. Finally, she had to survive so that she could continue to care for Prim. I don't have an innocent little sister who needs me, but I do have an innocent little daughter. I can say with certainty: If I were placed in a situation even remotely like Katniss's, I would do whatever I had to do to come home to my daughter, because she needs me. (I'm a believer in gun rights, and if I were in a place where I could conceal carry, I would, so you know I've thought this through and can say that I absolutely would be willing to kill in self-defense.) At least I would try to do what Katniss did--I'd probably fail, because I'm not as capable as Katniss. I'd not on on the offensive, not sneak up on people and kill them, but just try to hide and outlast most of them, hoping I had it in me to kill the last one, similar to how Katniss played it, but like Katniss, if someone threatened me and I could defend myself, I would. It isn't right, but it's what I owe my daughter, just like it's what Katniss owed Prim.

In the second book, she's still trying to protect Prim, but the "how" is so nebulous, and she's so messed up already, that she loses focus. She knows her goal but she doesn't know how to accomplish it, and it eventually gets to the point where Prim doesn't need her so much, so she really starts to feel lost. That gets even worse in the third book. But I do see myself doing--or trying to do--the same things she did in the first book. I hope I wouldn't get so lost afterward, but ... she sacrificed so much to protect Prim, and she succeeded ... but when you've given so much of yourself to meet a goal, what do you do once that goal is met and you're left with the shell of a person you've turned into?