Warning - if you have not read The Hunger Games there are spoilers for that book contained herein. Be warned...
Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy and Collins really steps it up a notch, with nearly six months having passed since the end of Katniss and Peeta's extraordinary double victory in the brutal Hunger Games.
Now, we find the pair midway through the year visiting each district on the Victory Tour. But Katniss senses trouble in the districts. Trouble instigated by her gaming the Hunger Games system by forcing the double win.
After seeing open rebellion and realizing that her mocking jay is being used as a symbol for the rebels she is sent home to a very changed District 12.
The novel heightens the stakes and choices that Katniss must make as she comes to understand that she is the catalyst for rebellion. She must maintain her facade of romance with Peeta, despite her attraction to Gale. She must decide how far to push against the Capitol.
Finally President Snow has had enough and pushes back. Katniss, Peeta, and Gale are all shocked by the President's announcement regarding the upcoming 75th Annual Hunger Games. Every twenty-five years there is a special Quarter Quell, each one designed to be more bloody than the last. But when the President says, "On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors," Katniss' life is changed forever.
This middle book of the trilogy moves like a blitzkreig, hammering through a terrific plot and causing massive damage to the heroes and villians alike. Collins has crafted another terrific book and there is good reason this trilogy was on the bestseller lists for months. I am eager to read the finale. I can't imagine the impatience that those who read the books as they were released must have experienced in waiting for the next part.
While these books are published by Schoolastic as Yound Adult novels (I know first hand how much that audience loves these books - my son is 12 and my daughter is 14) there is little that makes them "kids books." Yes, there is no overly profane language or explicit sexual action, but neither of those are the measuring stick for great books and as an adult and a life-long fan of science fiction, I can attest without reservation that these are great books that any adult can enjoy.
Sometimes books become best sellers simply because they are great.
I give Catching Fire a 9.5 out of ten. I am withholding that half point due to my kids saying the last really is best. The cover art is by Tim O'Brien and the cover design is by Elizabeth B. Parisi.