Catching Fire, a Review

This is the review for the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  This should not be read by anyone who has not read the book, as it does contain spoilers.  As in my review on the first book, I will be going over the book with a really big magnifying glass, picking out anything I don’t like.  I won’t bother with a summary, because if you’re reading any farther than the second sentence, you’ve read the book.

Overall, I think this book shouldn’t have been written.  It was like watching a pot boil.  There is almost no story except the ever-present love triangle, and it gets kind of ridiculous when over half the book has gone by with nothing except the Victory Tour happening.  I think the author would have been better off tacking the first half to the end of the first book, and the last half to the beginning of the third book.  Thus, we have two books, both extremely action-packed, and none is left to say “Oh, that’s the worst one in the series.”  Unfortunately, that’s what I’m doing with this book.  I think it was a horrible follow-up to the Hunger Games.  This becomes distressingly clear as you analyze the book as I did.

One of the main things I hated about the book: the author seemed to realize that her books were going into the YA section instead of the children’s section, and all of a sudden raised the bar for what would be considered inappropriate.  I don’t think that should have happened.  It’s distressing to me to see what’s become the norm for teenage literature.  I won’t describe the exact things I hated, but I think if you were to put a rating on the first two books, the first would be PG-13 for just violence, and the second would be nearly R for other things that I don’t like to talk about.

As with the first, this book is overpopulated in terms of author cliches.  I think the author really likes rodents… especially large, carnivorous rats.  That one was from one of Katniss’s dreams in the arena.

In the beginning, I noticed the author forgetting details of Katniss’s situation, then inserting them as she remembered.  That isn’t very good writing.  You don’t want to go back and say “Oh, and she did that, too, but I forgot to mention it before.”

The author makes connections that don’t exist, like President Snow having a headache in the same spot that Katniss usually has headaches.  Stuff like that is trivial!  What is she trying to do, make the protagonist identify with the antagonist?  You don’t do that.  It defeats any good the reader sees in the protagonist, and you’d be hard-pressed to find much good in Katniss anyway.

The fact that the author says “the boy from District 1” all through book one, then has Katniss realize his name later, it’s no good.  I could feel the author do a facepalm, saying “Why didn’t I know that before?” through Katniss.  *blinking red “MISTAKE” sign appears*

Now, about Katniss herself.  She’s just as selfish and self-centered as in the first book, but she’s finally realized that there are other people in the world.  She thinks about Peeta and Gale more than herself now, making the story change from a story of survival into a love story.  (Another reason I don’t like this book; it’s a romance, not the story of surviving against all odds that defined the first book.  That in itself puts this book on a much lower level than the its prequel.)  Katniss is also extremely annoying through the thing.  Now, annoying characters are great (look at all of my Phils!), but when your protagonist is more annoying than anyone else, that’s a pretty bad character!  That reflects on the author, and that makes the author pretty bad too.  For example, when Katniss chooses Peeta as the love of her life, she thinks of Gale until she changes her mind, at which point she thinks of Peeta overmuch.  It’s this indecision, the wishy-washy personality that Lucy always hated about Charlie Brown, that is so annoying.  If Peeta had known what would have happened in the next few months, he would have killed Katniss without hesitation at the end of the 74th Hunger Games.  Next thing about Katniss: in the first book, she made a huge deal about how she had just killed a human, not just an animal.  In this book, she goes around shooting to kill.  She’s changed drastically, and I’m not sure it was just the experience of the first Games.  If not, it’s an author flaw.

The supporting characters are too complying.  When Katniss suggests running away, both Gale and Peeta immediately say, “Yeah, let’s do it!”  Then she decides to stay, with which decision everyone is fine.  She suggests a riot, and everyone agrees, except one of the only smart people in the book: Haymitch.  She could suggest that they all stick their heads in dangerous places, and they would trip over themselves to follow.  I believe that signals that the supporting characters are too weak.  It makes it quite easy for the author, but really stupid.

Again, I must complain about the grammar.  It’s horrible!  The author is trying to make it seem like a teenage girl is writing it, which sadly enough succeeds.

District 13 is pretty hard to swallow.  Its survival means that it must have been plotting its revolution since it was founded.  All those bunkers underground?  They didn’t just dig those when they decided to revolt.  It’s pretty hard to believe.  Sorry, I just spilled into book three a bit, which we’ll get to tomorrow.

By the end of the book, I was pretty tired of suspenseful chapter endings.  It’s really annoying after a while, which is why I now give this book the award for THE MOST ANNOYING BOOK IN THE SERIES.

Thank you for reading.  Feel free to argue, but only if you’ll allow me to argue back.  I’ll write up a review for Mockingjay tomorrow.

Leave a comment


  1. i agree with u that i didnt like how the surviving in the games story changed to a love triangle romance. but i happen to like the character katniss

    • I liked her too, but if you really study her, you’d realize that you really don’t want to identify with her. Wait until tomorrow; I’ll go into this more deeply. Maybe.

  2. Erin

     /  April 8, 2012

    NOTE: I love debating. I took a debate class a couple years ago and loved it. So I will find no offense if you argue back. Beside, it’s not really serious arguing – it’s more like playful banter, so argue away!

    1. I actually thought that Catching Fire may have been the best book out of the trilogy, so I don’t agree with you on everything. Granted, it’s been a couple months since I read the book, but most of it is still pretty fresh in my mind. I do agree that Collins took way too long on getting to the actual Games, and because the Games happened so late in the book, it felt somewhat rushed, especially toward the end. I also agree that the author should have just left out those tiny little details, namely the one you mentioned about President Snow. This has nothing to do with the story and should have just been left out. I also didn’t like the R rated material, though I don’t think Collins stuck that in there totally on purpose. If I remember correctly, most of that…stuff was done by Johanna, who wasn’t exactly an angel of a character. I think Collins was trying to show us that. That said, I think Collins took that too far.

    2. Personally, I thought the love triangle was handled well. I could feel Katniss’ confusion on whether she loved Peeta or Gale, and I think that’s how Collins wanted the reader to feel. I think part of the reason Collins does a nice job with the love triangle is because we don’t actually know (at least I didn’t) who Katniss was going to end up with in the end, and it creates suspense. Now, did romance play a bigger part in Catching Fire than it did in the Hunger Games? Perhaps. But I felt that it balanced well with the action in the Games in the second book. (I realize that maybe the reason I didn’t have a problem with the romance is because I’m a girl. Who knows?)

    3. I don’t think Katniss enjoyed killing in any of the books. I think the type of attitude she has toward killing people (especially when they attack the Capitol) is similar to what soldiers who fight for their country might think. Though they don’t find pleasure in shooting people, they’ll do it to protect their country and their freedom. In the 75th Games, Katniss is determines to keep Peeta alive, and so she’ll do whatever she has to to achieve that goal. The same goes for when she is in the Capitol in Mockingjay fighting for Panem’s freedom. That said, by the end of the trilogy, I did get a slight feeling that she’s turned into some sort of zombie, who remains impassive when she kills, and we’re not really sure if she still hates killing, or if she’s just like, “Whatever” about it. But I felt that more toward the end of Mockingjay, not really in Catching Fire.

    4. True, sometimes the books aren’t written the greatest. But I think readers need to keep in mind that this is Katniss: a poor, 16 year old who basically learned “The Capitol controls everyone. Don’t disobey them”, in school. Something tells me they didn’t care too much about the kids’ education in District 12. And because we’re inside Katniss’ head the entire trilogy, we aren’t expecting her to talk like Shakespeare. Though the dialogue isn’t my favorite either, it fits with the book and makes the whole story feel more realistic.

    I’ll stop now, because one, this is a very long comment, and two, my siblings are dying Easter Eggs downstairs. But all that said, I appreciate your harsh reviews. It shoves some reality into the faces’ of people who can only talk about how awesome Peeta is and how much they want to marry him. 😉

    • Note: Okey-dokey.

      1. The R-rated material wasn’t all from Johanna. I agree that she was the main venue for unsettling things, but it was all through the book. Things like Katniss’s pregnancy (aired by Peeta, who is supposedly an angel), as well as them sleeping together, set me off; Finnick was also a source of unsettling material, and many more things. I believe there is also some of this in Mockingjay, but it was more covered by the active storyline, so it wasn’t so obvious as here.

      2. Okay, your take is fine. I still think Katniss was extremely annoying about choosing, and wanted to shout at her “If nothing else, use Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Mo!”

      3. I’ll let something slip that I wanted to save for my review of Mockingjay tomorrow. By the end of the trilogy, I was convinced that Katniss was a complete lunatic. If she were alive today, with the same mindset as she has in either Catching Fire or Mockingjay, she would be carted off to the loony bin and slapped in a straight-jacket before you could say “Liam, you were right.” She was a maniacal killer by the end of the second book, and it made her even less endearing.

      4. Since I don’t really like Katniss’s character anyway after analyzing the book, I still don’t like the style of storytelling. I think we should have been less in her head. First person storytelling would be fine, yes, but a less involved sort. Every other paragraph is filled with her conflicting thoughts. This means that the author skips from topic to topic in conversations, with thoughts in between. It doesn’t seem to jarring while you’re reading, but when you look at just the conversation, you realize that none of it follows. Again, I was planning on leaving that for Mockingjay, but it works for all three books.

      The time I spent answering your comment was supposed to be spent writing the Mockingjay review tomorrow, but it’s fine. I like arguing about books.

      • Erin

         /  April 10, 2012

        1. It’s been awhile since I read Catching Fire, so I don’t actually remember all the R rated material. I just remember the scenes with Johanna. But as I said before, I hated all that just as much as you do. And I hope you realize that Katniss’ pregnancy was a fake, yes?

        2. It was a little annoying at times, but overall, I had no problem with it.

        3. I think that partly the reason Katniss was a maniacal killer was because of the Hunger Games. I think this affected her greatly. That said, Peeta was also in the Games, and didn’t turn into the killer that Katniss was. Hm…you know, I’d really have to go reread the book to really figure out how I feel about this whole killing thing. I didn’t really pay much attention to it during my first read.

        4. I happened to like Katniss, so this may be the reason why we disagree on this. Granted, she wasn’t my favorite character, and I didn’t like her as much in Mockingjay, but I still enjoyed her character.

      • 1. Of course it was fake. I knew that, but still, just the idea that the perfect Peeta would think up something like that, even as a lie, is pretty horrible.

      • Erin

         /  April 13, 2012

        Just making sure. I’m pretty sure some people actually thought it was real. And yes, it was pretty horrible, but I guess that Peeta was desperate to save Katniss’ life and would do anything to succeed.

  3. I agree with you more about this one, but I actually thought that this book was just as good as the first whereas I didn’t like the 3rd one at all. Now that I think about it, Katniss did change drastically didn’t she! You do lead a tough review! Have you read the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld? I wonder what you would have to say about that! Just a suggestion unless you’ve already read it!

    • I haven’t read the Uglies series. What’s it about?

      • It takes place in the future and when you turn 16 you get a surgery that makes you uber pretty, like flawless and you can do anything you want with your body and you get to live in Prettyville where you get to party, like, all day. Well, Tally Youngblood is a 15 year old girl who’s birthday is in a month and she meets a new friend Shay who doesn’t want to become pretty. Shay tries to get Tally to run off with her to a place in the wild where there are rumors that “uglies” live there, but Tally is dying to become pretty like her best friend Peris so she doesn’t go. On her birthday when she goes in for her surgery, they tell her that she can not get turned pretty until she finds Shay and uncovers the people who live in the wilderness. So Tally is sent off with a locket to activate only when she found them and then they will turn her pretty. I can’t really explain more without giving the entire book away…… but I probably only explain the first 30-40 pages so don’t worry even though it seems like I explained a lot, I didn’t give anything major away. Anyway, yo follow Tally through the adventures of the wilderness and… OH I CAN’T SAY THAT! It will give it away! Sorry. There are four books in the series, I could deal with two, but the third, huge mistake. The fourth, it was good, not as good as the others, and not even about Tally, but about a girl named Aya instead. I hope you read them and tell me what you think!

      • My initial reaction was this: “Oh… Gosh.” I might read the series, but what do you want me to do? Give it a crushing review like I just did, or just tell you my thoughts as a reader, not an editor?

      • Also I’ve been meaning to ask you. What’s a phil?

      • “Phil”, in the sense that I’m using it, is short for Philosopher. Thus, the Phils are the Philosophers. Unfortunately, they don’t philosophize much. But it’s a funny name for them.
        Other than that, all the Phils are characters from various things I’ve written. So getting them together in one place is quite chaotic, as you can tell.

      • I want to especially know (when and if you read them) what you think of them as your first opinion! Also, I would like to know what you think about the second, third and fourth books being written…

      • My first opinion is almost always wrong, but I’ll try to find them. If no review pops up within a month, you can either remind me, or just let me forget about it.

  4. I thought this book needed the most work, but enjoyed it. I think you are wrong about the supporting characters being too compliant. Think about Peeta’s insistence on working to save Katniss, while she is trying to save him. Also his use of the pregnancy rumor. There are definitely some instances where he decides to “go rogue” and think for himself.

    • The compliance of those characters comes and goes. Sometimes they’re free thinkers, and other times they’re too obviously sheep.

      • yeah, I would argue that’s true of most people. That sometimes we do things for our selves and other times we do things for people we love. I think sheep is a little bit strong.

      • Sheep might be a bit strong, yes… Instead, let’s say lemmings. They’d all follow Katniss off a cliff if asked. (Just kidding, but sometimes that’s how it feels.)

  5. Greg

     /  April 8, 2012

    I watched the movie. Then read Hunger Games. Hooked. Read Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Like a lot of folks, I found myself in a state of shock after finishing Mockingjay. So I decided to re-read starting from the beginning, Hunger Games.

    My re-read of Hunger Games was just as gripping and compelling as the first read. I noticed a few things like how cold and hardened Katniss is from the get-go. Also, like others, I found myself entangled in the love story between Peeta and Katniss. But I couldn’t put the book down, again.

    But, I’m stuck about half way through my re-read of Catching Fire. I may be simple minded because I find myself caught up in the love triangle, Katniss-Gale-Peeta. I’m just tired of Katniss and her inability to make a decision. Whether it’s to run off with Gale, or Peeta, or Hamich or all of them. Or to stay and fight or ??. Then the romance triangle is annoying this time around. Gale: “I love you”, Katnis: “I know”. WHAT? Reminded me of the parachute that Hamich sent Katniss and Peeta in the movie: “You call that a kiss response?”. Hamich to Katniss, re: Peeta: “you could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him”. Katniss: “I know, he the superior one in this trio”. “He’s the superior one”? I know she’s been traumatized by years of being responsible to put meat on the table. But it is annoying in my re-read of Catching Fire. It does help to keep in mind that she’s still just 17. But on the first read the suspense regarding “will it be Gale or will it be Peeta” was compelling. Not the second time.

    The other story lines are still interesting, how the Capital continues to use intimidation. How they use Katniss. How the rebellion is getting hold. The Quell. You can feel the build up to Mockingjay, the war storyline becoming a central theme.

    I’ll probably press on through Catching Fire and get back to Mockingjay. I really want to re-read Mockingjay. I want to see what my reaction to the book is after a re-read.

  6. ktd

     /  July 25, 2012

    I can’t stand this book! So annoying… so much back and forth and all characters annoyed me.
    I had to forced myself to read it all.
    But now… I have Mocking Jay to read because I purchased the books online in a bundle, I must read it as well but have only gone about 3 pages in the past month and am already getting sick of it. OMG please give me strengh to get through another annoying book! :(…..

    • Well, just keep an open mind. Don’t be prejudiced because of what I wrote here, please. Mockingjay actually is better than CF. A little bit.

  7. I just finished my review of Mockingjay (which took a long time as I am not very good at writing reviews). Afterwards I searched your blog and read your analysis of Mockingjay. After that I read your Hunger Games analysis, and then this.

    Most of the things you mentioned in your analysis of The Hunger Games were, in my opinion, fairly trivial (though well pointed out). I really liked that book actually; I think I rated it 5 stars on my Kindle.

    Your problems with Catching Fire and Mockingjay are a lot more serious. From your take it looks like Mockingjay had a lot of flaws, but Catching Fire was just a plain bad book. When I read the books for myself, I liked Catching Fire better than Mockingjay, but looking at your problems with it I think it mightn’t be much better. I hadn’t really noticed when I read it that Catching Fire really has little plot, no story goal.

    And one of my least favourite parts in the whole series is when Cinna turns Katniss into a Mockingjay – a very inspiring act of defiance – and then Peeta follows it up with some lies. I found Peeta’s lies extremely anticlimactic.

    • The beauty of that trilogy is that they give such a good first impression. Everyone loved the Hunger Games until they thought about it in retrospect. That doesn’t always mean that people then think its horrible, but I don’t think the Hunger Games is going to be an enduring tale.

      The reason you (and I, I confess) thought that Catching Fire was better than Mockingjay was that Mockingjay was deprressing. The entire trilogy is a chronicle of Katniss getting more and more depressed, but in HG and CF that wasn’t so prominent yet.

      Hope I haven’t put you off with this. I’d love to read yor review.

      • Ah yes, what you have said makes good sense. Mockingjay on the whole was better than Catching Fire: it was just more depressing.

        And as you saw, my review wasn’t exactly rave anyway so you didn’t really put me off!

      • I’ve learned something about books like that– people don’t like depressing books, especially when they have the full potential to be anything but depressing. And that’s Collins’s gift, unfortunately.

        And I’m glad.

  1. Mockingjay, a Review « This Page Intentionally Left Blank
  2. Book Review: Catching Fire | Musings From Neville's Navel
  3. Review: Catching Fire | Musings From Neville's Navel

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