Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy (Catching Fire)
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Episode Two: The One With The Hamilton Memes.
Warning: There's too many damn pop culture references for any man to understand in this review. That includes the previous sentence. For this, I am sorry.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Welcome to The Hunger Games round two. Apologies in advance if you haven't seen Hamilton. Some of the memes may not make sense. However, this is your fault entirely for not watching Hamilton. And for those super clueless, no, it is not a movie about the city Hamilton in New Zealand, it's about the stupid genius founding father of the USA Alexander Hamilton. I'll probably review it at some point, but this site has already branched out from its humble beginnings as a book review blog. I was just going to write book reviews? Yikes.
Yeah, I'm going to be pretty spoiler-heavy again. The plot section is pretty much a summary of Catching Fire. I would recommend this review to either someone uninterested in spoilers or who has read the book and wants my opinion. Also for those who have just seen the movie. Here is where I'd normally say the book is better, but this is one of the best book-to-movie adaptations out there. So the book is (only slightly) better.
I promise this section differs from the one on The Hunger Games (even though the next sentence is verbatim from my last review). First off *coughs in exposition* please skip this section if you've read the books (unless you want to read the lols of my creative and funny commentary on child murder).
Every 25 years the Capitol hosts a "Quarter Quell". These games differ to the standard rules of other Hunger Games.
In the first Quell, the Districts had to vote on the kids that would participate. This was a reminder to the rebels that it was their fault the Games take place now.
The second Quell doubled the reaping, with two boys and two girls chosen from each district. This was to remind the rebels that for each Capitol citizen killed, two rebels died (weird flex but ok). Haymitch won this Quell. The book details it but basically he "outsmarted" the other 47 competitors.
The third Quarter Quell will be described in the review.
There used to be a District 13 that "mined graphite". At one point Katniss meets some refugees from District 8(textiles) who tell her they are messengers to 13 about the uprising. Katniss thinks they're batshit.
Effie gets Peeta a golden necklace and Haymitch a bracelet to match Katniss' mockingjay pin. This becomes important later on.
Peeta's favourite colour is orange, "like the sunset". Katniss' is green, like the forest. So original guys! Just kidding, most teenage boys just say black.
You read it here last time folks:
The Hunger Games Trilogy is all told from Katniss' perspective. It is a first person point of view told in present tense. Writing in present tense is hard ya'll, mass respect.
Parts of the Games are mandatory watching for all of Panem (unless you're dying). This includes things like the reaping and the interviews with the tributes. Reaping Day is a National Holiday, even for the poors. Other than that, the Games are on 24/7 and it is expected that residents watch most of the games either at home or in big gathering areas with giant screens.
Peeta gave Katniss some bread once when she was dying of starvation ofter the mining death of her father. She feels like she owes him for this big courageous act (he threw it in the mud!?) He just did it because he's been in love with her since she was five or whenever you start school in Panem.
Some tributes make pacts and form groups. These tributes are usually from the wealthier districts of 1,2, and 4. They train for the Games and volunteer as tributes, even though training for the games is illegal. For this reason they are called the careers. Careers=baddies (book two: or do they?????)
At the centre of the arena is a cornucopia filled with weapons, food, and survival gear. All the best stuff is in the mouth so that the tributes will head there and an onslaught will begin for the entertainment for those at home for the best goodies.
Cannons are fired after the death of each tribute. They save the cannons from the initial bloodbath until all the fighting is over. At the end of each night stock photos of each tribute are hung in the sky for the other tributes to see and they play the national anthem.
Tributes can be sent gifts in the arena from sponsors. These are negotiated and sent in by the tribute's mentor (in District 12's case, Haymitch)
Muttations (or mutts) are animals genetically engineered by the Capitol for some nefarious purpose or other. I'll be mentioning several in this review.
KatPee are back in District 12 and living in their new pretty houses in the Victor's Village. They're rich beyond their wildest dreams. They also don't talk to each other. Peeta makes bread and cakes. Katniss hunts. Sexy boi Gale works in the mines six days a week so she mainly hunts by herself. He refuses to take her money, but he'll take her game, which is different I guess?
The story opens on the day PeeNiss are to begin their victory tour. It happens halfway between the 74th and 75th games to keep the death fresh in the minds of Panem. They start in District 11 and go down to 1, then go to the Capitol for the final big party. Katniss doesn't want to go, because first why would anyone and second because she'll have to pretend to be in love with Peeta again. And my girl sucks at acting. So much so the President Snow himself shows up at her house and tells her that the only way to keep her family safe it to convince him of the love story (which he knows is a lie). He also knows that Katniss kissed Gale one time. This disturbs her greatly because she doesn't think anyone was looking (even though they were inside District 12, not beyond the fence hunting). Girl, did you forget that you lived in the poorest district and he kissed you near the Hob, the place where all the illegal businesses run. If there's going to be someone snitching, you bet that person hangs out at the Hob.
Anyway, they go on the tour and start in District 11. This was our wee darling petal Rue's district, and also the district of Thresh, the saviour of our saviour. Peeta goes off script and says that they'll give a month's worth of their annual victor's money to each of the families of district 11. Katniss babbles out some impromptu speech that's actually half decent (this becomes a regular occurrence as the books go on). As they prepare to leave the stage an old dude does the Rue whistle and holds up three fingers, a sign in district 12 of respect (Editor's note: forgot to mention that in my last review, whoops!) They are led away but Katniss forgot her flowers, so they go back to the stage to get them and very conveniently see the old man has been pulled out of the crowd and witness him being shot in the head. Haymitch leads them to a secret spot which seems even more convenient than forgetting the flowers and tells them that an uprising is forming and they better get their acts together. The rest of the tour goes by in a flash as they read off cue cards and eat nice food.
Haymitch tells Katniss during the tour that she and Peeta will have to be mentors at future Games, meaning that they'll have to fake their love forever. This seems like a fate worse than death to Katniss, but she has to keep her family safe and alive. If that means fake love with bread boi forever, so be it. They start sleeping together every night on the train to help with their PTSD.
In the Capitol Peeta asks Katniss to marry him and the Capitol citizens go cray. The President makes a speech and shakes his head no at Katniss. She hasn't succeeded, but this takes the weight off her. There's nothing she can do so she decides fuck it, YOLO. While at a soiree at the President's house she meets the new Head Gamekeeper, Plutarch Heavensbee (becaue the old one, Seneca Crane, was executed after he done fucked up with the berries). Plutarch shows her a watch with a mockinjay on it (they're all the rage in the Capitol) and talks about time A LOT. Like last song of Hamilton a lot. I may also use this meme A LOT in this review. I haven't decided yet.
So we've partied and we're back in 12. Katniss has decided to run away with sexy boi Gale and their families so the Capitol doesn't kill them all. He's all into it until she says they have to take Peeta and Haymitch. Sexy boi Gale changes his mind faster than the Capitol killed Seneca Crane after the berry stunt. She then brings it up to both Peeta and Haymitch and they both brush her off. Peeta because he knows she won't leave without Gale, and Haymitch because he's a dick (and also future plot reasons).
One day shit gets real. A new Head Peacekeeper named Thread is assigned to 12 and he's a massive c*nt. Gale is whipped within an inch of his life by Thread when he shows up at his house with game intended to be sold to the old head. He only survives because the victors step in and use their clout to get him out of there. Katniss kisses Gale while he's high on morphling (not the most original name for an addictive painkiller Ms Collins).
Torture devices are set up in the town square, and in an attempt to catch Katniss outside the fence they ensure it's electrified 24/7. She is, in fact, over the fence, and breaks/sprains her ankle (there aren't radiologists in 12) when dropping from a tree to get home. Her and Peeta start spending more time together while she's cooped up in bed, and they form a nice friendship. Cinna sends Katniss some wedding dresses to put on and they have a photo shoot. The citizens of the Capitol will vote on the one she'll wear for the wedding.
Then the shit really hits the fan. The third Quarter Quell is announced. To remind the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the tributes are reaped from the existing pool of victors. That's right, as the only surviving female victor Katniss is going back into the arena. Again, I know this is going to happen and again, I freak out every time I read this scene. Suzanne Collins is a Goddess of suspense.
She has a panic attack and loses track of time. She then goes and gets drunk with Haymitch and asks him to save Peeta. Peeta obviously got there first, and asked for Katniss to be saved. The next morning Peeta throws out all of the alcohol and tells them they're all going to train like careers. They do. Gale helps out on his day off, admitting it's hard to hate bread boi. Katniss' Mum puts them on a bulking diet. They run and use knives and stuff. Basically, BOOK MONTAGE (even Rocky had a montage, MONTAGE!)
Reaping day comes and Katniss' name is drawn. Bit hard for the odds to be in her favor if she's the only one in the bowl. Then Haymitch's name is drawn and Peeta instantly volunteers. Then, straight on the train (no goodbyes this time). Cue a repeat of the last pre-Games activities, but this time everyone is friends and, wait a minute, is that Finnick Odair???
Finnick. My favourite character in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Why? Best. Character Arc. Ever! Dude has been through some shit and then some and still manages to be funny, smart, empathetic, and an all round top guy. Three candy canes for Finnick Odair!
Finnick, obviously. His district's specialty is seafood. He was hella cute as a tribute so an extremely rich sponsor or two sent him a trident in his Games. He fucked shit up like Poseidon possessed him. He's been a favorite in the Capitol for years, picking up and dropping lovers like nothing. He does it for "secrets" apparently. We'll see.
The coal outfits that Cinna creates for the opening ceremony. I mean I guess Portia helps too, but does she???
The introduction to Johanna Mason, a boss bitch who gets naked in the lift. Another great character.
The introduction to Beetee aka Volts. His Wiki bio says his weapon is wire, which is true but honestly made me cackle. He points our that a forcefield has been put in front of the Gamekeepers, which can be seen by a little rippling square. A "chink" in the [plot] armor.
Peeta painting Rue on the gym floor and then Katniss hanging a dummy that says Seneca Crane on it. Peeta came to protest but Katniss came to riot!
Haymitch telling them to look for victors to form alliances with. Katniss chooses Betee and his district three partner Wiress (also known as Nuts), as well as Mags, Finnick's district four partner who just so happens to be ancient and toothless. Haymitch is unimpressed by her choices. Haymitch is always unimpressed, but I think he has good reason in most cases.
King Cinna the Great turning Katniss' wedding dress into a MockingJay costume during the interviews. Man. Myth Legend.
Peeta telling everyone during his interview that he and Katniss already got married and she's pregnant. People in the audience start calling for the Games to be cancelled, but nah Fam, President Snow has some old women and kids to kill.
PeeNiss spend their last night of freedom on the roof having a picnic. It's a really nice moment where Suzanne let's you catch your breath before the Games.
Before you know it, but not really, since the Quell starts 67 percent of the way into the book (thanks Kindle for showing book progress!) we're back in the Games. But not before Katniss witnesses the beating of Cinna before she is risen into the arena. Way to make my fitness watch think I'm sprinting with my heart rate Suzanne! Just kidding, we all know I don't wear my fitness watch, it just hangs on my jewelry stand. Maybe I'd wear it if when you rubbed your finger across it there was a secret Mockingjay. But probably not.
Anyway, here we are in the Games and Katniss is trying to get her bearings after watching what happened to Cinna. That's when we find out that the tributes have been put on podiums in the middle of what appears to be a lake with waves (we later find out it's salt water). Luckily, Katniss has some plot armor in the fact that her Dad taught her to swim in a lake on the other side of the fence. The tributes are wearing floatation devices but don't know this. Katniss can't see Peeta. When the gong goes she careers the hell out of it and swims straight for the cornucopia. There are some spokes of sand that come out of the water so she gets on land and gets there first.
She has her bow and arrow and almost kills Finnick before he shows her Haymitch's bracelet and says their allies, before swiftly saving her life with his golden trident. There's nothing at the cornucopia but weapons. There's some killing, then they go and rescue Peeta and head for cover, which is a rainforest a few metres from the sandy beach of the lake.
Peeta is leading the pack and whacking leaves out of the way with his machete when he runs straight into a forcefield seconds after Katniss sees the ripple. He dies. Finnick uses CPR and brings him back to life. PSA: As someone with a First Aid certificate, can I just point out that CPR does not restart someone's heart. It keeps oxygen going to their brain and vital organs while you wait for someone to come with a defibrillator and electrically restart their heart. This trope comes up so often in TV, books, and movies and is so dangerous. If you're in the middle of nowhere without cell phone reception or access to a defibrillator and someone's heart stops beating, I'm sorry, but they're probably dead. Literally don't waste your breath. TL;DR, Peeta is dead.
But it works. No cannon for Mary "Peeta" Sue, three more candy canes for Finnick. Katniss is confused as to why Finnick saved a clearly dead Peeta (she doesn't know about CPR so wouldn't have known there was a way to save him). Finnick is confused about how Katniss knew about the forcefield. She lies and says she can hear it because the Capitol accidentally gave her super hearing while fixing her up last year (really she doesn't want the Capitol to know about the "chink" and find a way for her not to be able to see it). I'm confused about why CPR saved Peeta's life.
They make a camp and it turns out that Finnick and Mags are really good at weaving. They wave them a little hut and some bowls and they eat some weird possum thing and some nuts that don't seem poisonous. They cook them on the forcefield. It's too hot for a fire and they don't want to give off their location while Peeta is recovering. They get a gift but they don't know what it is. This is where I like the movie. Katniss just straight up says "it's a spile" and they have water. Hooray! It takes them a while to figure it out in the books, and it's a boring plot point. I'm guessing it's so Katniss can be scared she'll nearly die of dehydration again? Meh, boring.
Cannons fire and the anthem and dead victors flash in the sky. Katniss is saddened by the death of Cecelia, who was shown on television during the reaping surrounded by her children. She feels for Mags and Finnick who had known the other tributes for years. Her and Finnick take turns to keep guard. On Katniss' shift, a man made fog comes out of the forest that causes boils and attacks nerves. They run from it, but between them Finnick and Katniss can't carry both Mags and Peeta. Mags sacrifices herself by running straight into the fog. The others escape onto the beach and the fog stops at the edge of the forest. Katniss puts her hand in the sea water and sees the fog comes out of the boils (honestly the saying "clever cookie" should be changed to "clever Katniss"). Her and Peeta cleanse themselves then slowly revive a passed out Finnick. They get medicine and nobody is worse for wear (besides Mags).
While on the beach Peeta goes to get some water from a tree. Because it's Peeta this means he's somehow put himself in imminent danger. Katniss and Finnick notice that there's a bunch of monkeys staring down at him. They ask him to come to them and not look up, but nope, the monkeys attack. They spend an undetermined (at that point) times fighting monkeys. When one is about to kill Peeta, a morphling addict from district six jumps out and takes the hit for him. She dies. Now Peeta and Katniss are very confused as to why people keep dying for Peeta. He could have carked it at least four times by now and it's only the morning of day two. In conclusion, intentional plot armor is intentional. Hamilton also couldn't seem to die, and look how that turned out for him and his family.
Back on the beach cleaning their weapons they meet up a with blood soaked Johanna with Wiress and Beetee. He's pretty fucked up from the blood bath at the cornucopia, because he went in to get some, you fucking guessed it, wire. It wasn't the greatest weapon at that point, and he took a knife to the back. Wiress just keeps saying "tick tock", because she's officially gone "nuts". Johanna has bought them to Katniss so they can seal their alliance. Katniss trusts her less than she trusted Finnick. She's almost certain they'll end up killing each other eventually. They are covered in blood from a weird rain (lame Gamekeepers, where's the death in that). There's also been a mini tsunami.
Can I just say from a game watcher's perspective in the Capitol, this Quell is pretty lame. Apart from the bloodbath at the start, the rest of the deaths have been caused by the Gamekeepers' traps. I thought the Games was all about watching people bludgeon each other to death? People drowning is booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooring. Katniss reckons the Gamekeepers are trying to get the Games over ASAP because they're so unpopular in the Capitol.
Clever Katniss figures out that Wiress is saying tick tock because the arena is shaped like a clock. I guess it was only a matter of time before someone figured it out (sorry, I couldn't say no to this joke). She still hasn't figured out the hints that Plutarch was throwing at her.
They go to the cornucopia to get their bearings and pick over the remaining weapons. They're drawing a map and adding the traps for each hour when they are attacked by Cashmere and Gloss who kill Wiress. They're quickly taken out and the Gamekeepers spin the cornucopia to confuse Katniss + Co.
They go back to the beach and Katniss and Finnick get trapped in a section with jabberjays that scream like their loved ones. After an hour they come out traumatised and Peeta reminds Katniss they can't hurt her sister or family because they need them for tv interviews. Finnick and Katniss seem unconvinced. Have they not seen the shit the Gamekeepers can create? Why does sound distortion seem so hard to believe? Shit, I'm pretty sure after a couple of YouTube tutorials I'd be able to do it!
It's night. Sixteen of 24 tributes are dead and it's day two. Damn! They get some bread that Beetee and Finnick seem very interested in. Peeta and Katniss take watch and he gives her his necklace, which is also a locket. He opens it and there's a picture of her Mum and Prim on one side, and Gale on the other. The Capitol must be questioning why there's a picture of her sexy cousin in the locket. At least have him holding his baby sister or something!? It just hardens her resolve to save him. At this point she firmly believes the plan is for Peeta to be the victor, since all the other tributes keep saving him and he's good with words and can lift heavy bags of flour. Also other reasons. He's pretty good at decorating cakes. Yes, I know he's an amazing painter, but I think that's not too useful in the scheme of things (she says as an amateur painter). At least maybe he can convince people to join a rebellion because he can make them cake with the flour he carried. Everyone loves cake!
Day three dawns and Beetee comes up with a convoluted plan involving his wire and electrocuting the other tributes. He won his games this way, so they agree to go with it. There's a tree that gets struck with lightening at midnight and midday. The plan is to run the wire down onto the beach from the electricity tree and hope the other tributes will be on the beach because Katniss + Co aren't there and it's the safest place to be. The beach should be wet from the tsunami at 10.00pm. Fair enough, you do you Beetee.
They get some more bread that Beetee and Finnick seem very interested in. It's just bread guys, or is it????? They head up to the tree and Beetee asks Johanna and Katniss to take the wire down, splitting up PeeNiss. Katniss really doesn't want to, but sees the logic as her and Johanna are the best in the forest (Johanna's district's trade is lumber). She also see it might be a good opportunity to off Johanna for Peeta. As they're taking the wire down the tension goes out of it. Then everything turns to chaos. Brutus and Enobaria (the baddies I guess, if being forced to fight for your life makes you a baddie) attack. Before they can get to them, Johanna slices open Katniss' arm and tells her to stay down.
The Baddies think that she's as good as dead so leave her to chase Johanna. She's pretty fucked, but she stuffs the wound with this plot moss that seems to save everyone from near death and bandages it up. She goes back to the lightning tree and finds Beetee incapacitated with a knife attached to the wire. Finnick calls out to her and when she goes to shoot him (thinking the alliance is through and that Finnick was working with Johanna) he reminds her to think of who the real enemy is. She puts two and two together about what Beetee was planning to do (stab the "chink" in the forcefield at midnight to break it). She ties the wire to an arrow instead and shoots the forcefield just as the clock strikes midnight. It paralyses her and her last thoughts occur as she's being picked up in a hovercraft.
While all this is happening (outside of Katniss' perspective so we don't know until after the fact) Peeta goes to find Katniss when the wire goes loose. He sees Brutus kill Chaff, Haymitch's best friend, and then he kills Chaff. Him, Johanna and Enobaria are picked up by a separate hovercraft.
Katniss wakes up in a hospital bed next to Beetee, thinking they are in the Capitol's hands and that they will be tortured. Luckily for Beetee, her main priority is fining Peeta and killing him before they can hurt him, then she'll some back for him. What she actually discovers is Finnick, Haymitch and Plutarch talking in another room. Haymitch site her down and explains the rebel plot and what happened to Peeta. Johanna cut her tracker out. The other tributes only kept Peeta alive to keep her on their side. It was her they wanted all along. She goes apeshit that they let Peeta get captured and she tears Haymitch's face open with her nails before they can sedate her. Katniss goes on about how bad she would be in hand to hand combat, but she got some serious damage in before they could stop her.
We end the book with her waking up in a room next to sexy boi Gale. Had you forgotten about him? I had. He tells her that they're in District 13, which really does exist. Do you know what doesn't exist anymore? District 12.
The Characters and the Audio Book
Usually in each review I'd give a detailed review of main characters here. In this case I think they're either summarised pretty fairly here or in my review of book one. My review of the audio book is verbatim from my last review.
I'll just say that I think overall we had some great characters. I really liked Madge, so I was sad to see her cut out of the book. She seemed really normal and kind, and was just a character you don't really see in dystopian YA. I also really liked the relationship that was built up between Katniss and Peeta. So often in YA books it's like a Disney movie, one look and they're in love. In Catching Fire, it's more of a slow burn. And I don't even know if it's love or some other deep emotion akin to it.
My only gripe would again be the lack of LGBTQ+, Asian and Indigenous characters.
This book is for you if:
You read the first one. In my opinion, this is he best of the three.
You saw the movie. The book is only just better.
You need a book crush and you realise most guys are dicks in books (just books? Not all men ok). Finnick may just be your answer. I know some people hate Finnick, but he's great and you won't change my mind.
This book is for you if:
TL;DR The Hunger Games is one of my favourite trilogies of all time. Scratch that. It is my favourite trilogy of all time. And Catching Fire is my favourite of the three. Adrenaline packed, great characters, and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend this book.
Phew, now I know why they break movies into two parts. That was a lot. Come back soon for my Mockingjay review!