Well, it's only a few days away now. You can practically taste it, can't you? You know, I really hadn't planned on waiting this long to review Catching Fire. Honestly, I don't know what was wrong with me. I started it over a month ago and was totally into it. I got to the halfway point and started to feel more and more anxious. Like twitchy anxious. And since gone are the days of sitting around all day doing nothing but reading a single book, I found myself moving through my regular day thinking about it constantly, worrying about the characters I care about so much that at night when I went to pick it up I COULDN'T BRING MYSELF TO DO IT. The steady building up of tension and pain that Suzanne Collins does so fiendishly well was too much and my mind skittered away from it in favor of less treacherous waters. I'm not proud of it. But there it is. On to the spoiler-free review.
Katniss and Peeta are home once more. Heralded as heroes they reluctantly take up residence in the mansions reserved for Hunger Games victors in their beleaguered District 12. Given the Capitol's idea of "enough time" to recover and lick their wounds, they must soon set off on the obligatory Victory Tour of the districts of Panem. As always, they are accompanied by their mentor--the irascible Haymitch--as well as Katniss' faithful entourage, including the savvy stylist Cinna. As always, they are under the watchful eye of President Snow. For in the interim time between Katniss' unprecedented ending of the Hunger Games and the launch of the Victory Tour, the Powers That Be have learned a thing or two about just how much of a survivor Katniss is and what and most particularly who she cares about. Knowing what they know, and without any doubt at all of what horror will rain down on her head should she set one toe out of line or let fall one word off script, Katniss herself must do what she does best and figure out a way to stay alive.
Remember how you felt the whole time you were reading The Hunger Games? Like you might never find the bottom of your stomach again? Like the tips of your fingers were permanently flattened from pressing too hard on the book? Well, multiply those feelings by ten and add to it the interminable guessing game of what will happen next and you will have the approximate effect of Catching Fire. That is why I put it down halfway through. It was just too stressful! I could feel all the pain laid out neatly in a row just waiting to befall Katniss and Peeta and Gale. And honestly it made me a bit angry because it felt like I was trapped in there with them and there was nothing was going to stop the inevitable heinousness. This is not to say it's not a fabulous book. Because it is. Seriously enjoyable. I just had to stop and let my fingernails grow back a bit before I could continue on. Because when I did pick it up again I sat down and read it through to the end. Suzanne Collins brings the intensity like you can't believe. Even having read The Hunger Games, I wasn't prepared for it. And it's so much worse when you're already hurting for the characters when you open the book. But that's also the lovely thing about it and it is why I loved this one more than the first. There's more Gale (Team Gale!), more Peeta (the boy really is rather alarmingly sweet), more Haymitch (grrr), more Cinna (yay!), more Effie and Co. (hehe). You get to know them better, you care about them more, but what I loved most about this sequel is Katniss. Strong, dogged, always herself Katniss. She has moments of weakness, moments of sweetness, moments of humor, and a couple of hardcore moments when she is made of awesome. I may have punched the air once in solidarity. And then, just when you don't think you can take another shock to the system, it ends. Just like you knew it would.