Saturday, September 25, 2010

Catching Fire: Dystopian world with scary parallels to our own

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating:
4 of 5 stars

Just finished Catching Fire this evening, and now I can get back to my life! :)

Catching Fire is an outstanding sequel to The Hunger Games--Collins really knows how to spin a thought-provoking tale. At times the storyline got slightly bogged down by the author's attempts to tie back to the events that occurred in The Hunger Games, which I appreciated most of the time--because it's been awhile since I read it, and I also tend not to have a great retention rate. This often happens in sequels, although I can't imagine why anyone would want to start a series with Book #2.

These books are best read by mature middle schoolers on up who can discuss them with a teacher or a parent. They are full of violence and disturbing imagery, akin to novels or memoirs about the Holocaust...or Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Katniss is a truly multilayered heroine and an unwilling inspiration for the boiling rebellion in the districts. These books cannot help but make readers wonder about the nature of evil, the influence and power of privilege, and the ethical question of "what would I do if I were in this same situation?"

A reviewer on Goodreads pointed out that we--the developed world--are the Capitol, and powerless people in the developing world are the people in the districts. The politicians seem to have all the power and be pulling the strings. Victims of violence, oppression, and injustice day in and day out...we might not be cheering on their deaths, but are we doing anything to try to prevent their oppression?

It's interesting that Collins hasn't tackled the idea of big business and corporations influencing the politicians--where is big business in Panem?

This is political commentary at its best. That's why teenagers need to be able to discuss this book with adults. And why I wish I were in a book group now so I could discuss this with other people. My 14-year-old son has read both of the first two books, so I will be having a discussion with him.

I just put Mockingjay (Book #3 in the series) on hold at the library, and it's going to take a long time to get here...which is good. I need to recover from this book before I sink into the next one. It's hard not to read these books without feeling culpable in our privileged existence.

I just read this evening that there are plans to put these books into film. I find that idea disturbing. Some people believe that kids are attracted to these books because of the violence. The idea of having kids watch this story on the screen is too much akin to the whole idea behind these books--a captive audience watching innocents pitted against each other to the death.

If you have not read these books and you know me, I can imagine you might be surprised that I would like this series. Collins is an imaginative, creative writer. If you can stand reading dystopic books, I highly recommend this series. The violence is upsetting and disturbing, but so was Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia, and so many other evil acts of genocide in our modern-day world. If anything, these books are cautionary tales for all of us.

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