Book Review: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins was inspired by a blend of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, a program on TV where people were competing, and another where kids were fighting a war while the author was channel surfing. According to Wikipedia, “[Collins] describes the Hunger Games as ‘an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment.’ Collins also explains that the name Panem came from the Roman saying “Panem et Circenses” which means “Bread and Circuses”.”

The Hunger Games trilogy
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At the end of the first instalment of the trilogy, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have returned to District 12 after winning the annual televised Hunger Games event in the Capitol. This annual event is hosted by the powerful government of Panem (The Hunger Games is This Year’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta have to go on the victory circuit, making an appearance in all the districts and in the Capitol. Both have to keep up the appearance of being in love. The president of Panem, President Coriolanus Snow is upset because he has been outmanoeuvred by Katniss. There should only have been one winner at the games. Snow changes the rules of the games, and now all the winners of all the Hungers Games that are still alive have to compete against each other in what is called the Quarter Quell, which is also the 75th Hunger Games.

These winners feel betrayed because they were never supposed to compete in another game. They had already endured, and they know each other and have bonded over the years. How can you kill a friend? Some of the living winners are as old as 80 years. Would a leader go that far to punish one person who he perceived made him look foolish?

Once again, the competitors go through the training, the parade, and team members form alliance to survive the games. For the Quarter Quell, far more competitors died in the first few days than in the previous game in which Katniss competed. Katniss also noticed that the team members who she has formed an alliance with are working to keep her alive and she doesn’t understand why.

Before the 75th Hunger Games are completed Katniss is rescued and Peeta is captured, why?

District 12 where Katniss and Peeta are from has been demolished by the Capitol, and her friend Gale who she hunted with rescued both his and her family and they are now safely living in District 13. Peeta’s family wasn’t that lucky and they perished in the blast.

As it turned out, District 13 was not wiped out completely by the Capitol as previously thought. They survived and have been gaining strength underground. The Capitol knew that but chose not to bother them because they have nuclear weapon capability. Through suppression of information, the Capitol has been able to fool its nationals.

The people who rescued Katniss along with her mentor Haymitch have been working secretly with District 13. Without her knowledge, she has been chosen to be the face of District 13 because of what she stands for. She is deemed a leader, and they want her to be their Mockingjay. When Katniss is not scripted, she is charismatic, and is capable of rallying a crowd.

Katniss doesn’t want the role of Mockingjay that is bestowed on her, but she really has no choice but to accept it. In Mockingjay, as the story unfolds you see Katniss rallying the people who are rebelling and causing uprisings in the various districts. In the mean time, the Capitol has brainwashed Peeta and programmed him to kill Katniss. Because Katniss is concerned so much about Peeta, she isn’t functioning properly so District 13 stages a rescue, but the Capitol knew that would happen and that’s exactly what they wanted so the mission was a success. So Peeta is now in District 13 and they have to deprogram him.

Throughout instalment three, District 13 and the Capitol are both trying to get an advantage over each other. District 13 infiltrates the Capitol’s computer systems and have public service announcements with Katniss mostly as the star. The final showdown takes place in the Capitol, where an elite team from District 13 goes there to destabilize the regime. The freedom fighters in the Districts are gaining control.

Similar with real life, when you push people too far, they start to push back eventually, especially when they have someone leading them, someone who genuinely cares about them. And in the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is that person.

Throughout the Hunger Games trilogy, you see the pretend love between Katniss and Peeta developing into the real thing. And Katniss evolves as a person and becomes a more caring person to those outside her family. She becomes fully human, and better understand Peeta. The books deal with very serious issues such as hunger, starvation, poverty, oppression, abuse of power….And during the games you see strategy unfolding and competitors using their strengths to succeed or gain competitive advantage.

Though this science fantasy was written for young adults, it’s ideal for adults. It’s worth the time investment to read all three books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

After reading instalment one I asked myself, “Will Katniss destabilize the oppressive government? Did the underdog win? Who will she marry – Gale or Peeta? Will there be long lasting change in Panem?” I had so many questions that I had to get the other books to find out how the story unfolded.

In my opinion, book two, Catching Fire is the weakest, from the perspective that it cannot really stand by itself, and book three, Mockingjay feels like an entire chapter is missing. I am not comfortable with the way the regime is overthrown – some of the senseless sacrifices. From the way the story evolves you get a sense that Peeta will get his girl Katniss in the end, and he does. But for me, I’m not comfortable because there are these gaps in the story and I feel like there is this big hole inside of me – that’s the price you pay for being an active reader. I do not feel that Katniss got as much as she deserved for the role she played as the protagonist. Despite that, I recommend The Hunger Games trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Life seldom works out exactly the way we want it to, and why should fiction.

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