I'll call this a "review", but since I am loathe to give away too many spoilers, this post can more accurately be described as me, adding my voice to the growing group of reviewers and bloggers who have already read this, in saying that it is absolutely brilliant. It's no hyperbole to say that Catching Fire is the most eagerly anticipated new YA novel of the year. I was a reluctant reader of The Hunger Games, the first book in the trilogy, because the premise scared me away; I don't like reality television, and I don't like characters thrown into hopelessly dire predicaments. However, after The Hunger Games won the School Library Journal Battle of the Books, I could put it off no longer. It was, hands down, the most compelling novel I had read in a long time, where concern for the characters' well being literally left me breathless.
And now, for the unbelievably best news--Catching Fire is just as good! The action picks up about nine months after the end of the first book; Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12. They live in the Victor's Village with Haymitch and are awaiting their Victory Tour around Penam. The tour serves as the ceremonial build-up to the next reaping. As with the Hunger Games themselves, the Capital finds the tour to be grand spectacle, while for the subjugated districts the tour is further reminder of their suffering. To add to the garish spectacle, the families of the fallen tributes have to meet and applaud Katniss and Peeta, who by surviving are responsible for the deaths of their children. The whole event is distasteful to say the least, particularly for Katniss who has been threatened by President Snow; her act of self-preservation at the end of the games has become a symbol of resistance, and he has told her in no uncertain terms that any fanning of the revolutionary flames will lead to much heartache for her loved ones.
To summarize any more would give away too much. But I can say that Collins maintains the same level of intensity as she did in the first book, and her capacity to shock and catch her reader with completely unseen plot twists remains. Penam is a fully realised world--one which we (fortunately!) don't recognize but certainly believe exists. Collins has shown herself to be a master of plotting, with not a single throw-away detail in the book; every word counts. This is a stunning, thought-provoking series. Get on your library's waiting list for this book NOW! And if you have not already read The Hunger Games, this is the time to do it, because with a September 1 release date for Catching Fire, you won't have too long of a lag between the two books. Where as I, on the other hand, have an extra long wait until I find out how this whole saga comes to an end.