Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Catching Fire

Last year, my literary world literally exploded when I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I had not read a book that was so gripping, violent (yet not gory), disturbing (but not overly), and complicated all at the same time.  One might ask, "What's so complicated?  She takes her sister's place, the boy falls in love with her, kids kill kids, and she defies the government."  This is all true, but Collins captures a depth, a complexity in the character of Katniss Everdene that is rarely achieved by any author, ever.  In the first book, the reader was intrigued and drawn into Katniss's struggle.  Not only her struggle for survival, but for identity.  Due to the horrible situation that she is in, it is easy to forget that she is only a 16 year old girl (in the first book); she is still trying to find out who she really is.  As the second book, Catching Fire, begins, the reader is led further down the path she is traveling towards adulthood and maturity.

That being said, I HATE Katniss Everdene!  Let me explain: I do not hate her existence and I do not hate that she is the way she is.  In order for this series to be as entertaining as it is, Katniss must enrage the reader (or cause the reader to sympathize with her).  I am sure more female readers who are attracted to or can identify with the choices Katniss must make between two boys that she has feelings for will be more apt to sympathize with her.  But as a male, I cannot help but detest her.  I think she is selfish, rash, uncaring, and too impulsive. 

I realize, of course, that she is going through a difficult situation that I cannot by any means identify with; I have never been the face of a national rebellion nor have I had to fight to death.  Such a situation would certainly have psychological effects on a person, and while Collins does not mention them specifically, she portrays them in the character of Katniss (and the other tributes) masterfully.

Why then do I hate her?  I cannot help but feel that any friend she has, any selfless action she does, or any action left undone has an ulterior, selfish motive.  When she has to choose which boy to be with (and she will have to make that choice), she cannot choose and plays both of them like a set of fiddles.  Again, I know the circumstances; I know she did not choose for one of them to come into her life.  But he did, and she reciprocated his feelings, made him believe she loved him too.

Catching Fire is engrossing, entertaining, and simply a master piece.  All of these emotions the reader has about the characters are extended and built upon in the second book.  This is not a one chapter a day book; this is a "I must finish this book in at least two days or I will not be able to live on" books.

I realize I spent a lot of time on Katniss, and even though I don't like her, I love the fact the she exists in literature.  I am looking forward to finishing the trilogy so that I can better and more completely understand her.  When I do, watch out for the blog/essay that compares Katniss Everdene with Lisabeth Salander.

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