For me, Catching Fire felt slow-going. I loved, LOVED The Hunger Games, so maybe my expectations were too high, but Katniss Everdeen was such a complete bad-ass that I expected her to dive right into the role of leader of the revolution, a role she all but refused to accept. I admired the graceful words of gratitude she offered in District 11 to the families of Thresh and Rue (to everyone of District 11, really) and thought her brave to speak them publicly. The district’s response – the old man’s mockingjay whistle and the unified 3-finger signal the entire district gave to Katniss – was touching and the way her simple expression of thanks moved them to this unified act of dissent made me think she would step up and organize a real uprising. Instead, she makes an internal vow to better play along with President Snow’s agenda. Look, I get it. Really, I do. The old man who whistled quickly got a bullet in his head for his tiny rebellious gesture. I understand why Katniss felt afraid. But after her fearless (and clearly mutinous) behavior in The Hunger Games, I didn’t expect her to succumb to her fear quite so easily.
I forgave her her choice of Gale over Peeta, even though I adore Peeta, after Gale’s public whipping for the wild turkey he poached. Gale became more of a real character throughout this book, more than just the best friend to whom she occasionally alluded. And seeing him so badly hurt finally put her in the mindset she needed to give up her fantasy of fleeing into the woods, telling him she would stay there and “cause all kinds of trouble.” Which led me to believe, once again, she was ready to lead the rebellion. Rattled though she was, fear quickly trumped all else.
I’m actually okay with the whole ‘reluctant hero’ thing, but even the reluctant hero eventually accepts his/her role. I was furious at Katniss’s response to going back into the arena. I thought if anything would force her to step into the role so clearly set out for her, this would be it. If I’d gone through what she and Peeta went through in the arena, no fucking way could anyone get me back in that death trap. I know her options were limited; I just didn’t expect her to accept her doom so quickly. Once inside the arena, however, she did kick back into survival mode (though, this time, it was Peeta’s survival she strove for), and the story immediately picked up. I didn’t see coming the planned rescue arranged primarily by Haymitch and Plutarch Heavensbee and I thought it was perfect. My only complaint was that Peeta had been left behind (though soon into Mockingjay, I realized this was necessary for the rest of the story).
The bottom line: Catching Fire kept me on the hook enough to want to keep reading (though, seriously, it would have taken a LOT to make me not see this story through to the end) but it pales in comparison to what both precedes it and what follows it.
We’ll talk about Mockingjay sometime soon. First, your thoughts on Catching Fire?