We're guessing you've read The Hunger Games. We're right, aren't we? (Yes, Shmoop has been known to have telepathic powers.) That means you'll get it when pose a very important question:
What could possibly be worse than being a tribute in the Hunger Games?
If you thought we were going to spoil the second book in the series, think again. Catching Fire picks up where the first book left off, which is a good thing, because the ending of The Hunger Games was a serious cliffhanger. Now we get to find out what happens to people who actually win the Games, and how Katniss and Peeta's lives change forever because of their victory. By the middle of the book, their lives are turned upside down all over again. (Yep, that's the "what could possibly be worse than being a tribute in the Hunger Games" thing we were referring to.)
When Catching Fire came out in 2009, it quickly turned out to be a bestseller, just like the first book in the series. While the book had its detractors (in her review for Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Reese gave the book a grade of "C"), the other glowing reviews it received make it sound pretty darn good. In The New York Times, for example, another author, Gabrielle Zevin, wrote, "I loved it. [...] Collins has done that rare thing. She has written a sequel that improves upon the first book" (source).
Zevin is right: sequel writing is a fine art, and it's pretty difficult to top a great first book, especially one with the instant popularity and commercial appeal of The Hunger Games. With Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins didn't just have to follow up her first book at the same level, she also had to ratchet up the stakes and create even more anticipation for the conclusion of the trilogy, Mockingjay, which came out in 2010. Translation: Be prepared for some intense action, not to mention another cliffhanger ending.
On that note, here's a bit of advice from your friends at Shmoop: buy Mockingjay now, before you even start Catching Fire, because fast as Amazon.com shipping can be, it will seem way to slow when Katniss and Peeta's lives are hanging in the balance.
Why Should I Care?
Okay, we hear you. The reason you care about Catching Fire is obvious: The Hunger Games ended on a CRAZY cliffhanger. How could you not want to pick up the second book in the trilogy?
But this book offers more than just the entertainment value of finding out whether Katniss hearts Peeta or Gale, and learning whether Katniss is going to lead a revolution against the evil Capitol of Panem. Part of what makes Katniss' story so gripping is that we (probably) share some of her experiences. Her life is kind of like ours on steroids. Don't believe us? We bet you can relate to some of these experiences:
- Have you ever lied about something in the heat of the moment only to have it come back to bite you in the butt? Really hard?
- Do you sometimes feel like you are managing your public image endlessly? Do you ever try to maintain a specific image of yourself, maybe on your Facebook profile, that isn't entirely true to who you really are?
- Have you ever sparked a fire that started burning way out of control? (Either literally or metaphorically?)
- Do you ever feel like reality TV is going a little too far – becoming too invasive in people's personal lives or pushing people toward some kind of sketchy actions?
We bet that after you indulge in the delicious drama in Panem, you'll find that Katniss' story also has some interesting parallels to your life.