Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Bibliographic Information: Collins, S. (2009). Catching Fire. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.  ISBN: 0439023491.  391 pages.

Spoiler alert: This review discloses the ending of The Hunger Games.

Plot Summary: In Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to district eight and begin an obligatory Victory Tour throughout the districts.  Katniss is still uncomfortable with, but getting used to, being the center of attention with her stylists and interviews and public appearances.  Katniss and Peeta’s survival of the Hunger Games makes them heroes with many in the outer districts, but Katniss’s manipulation of the games to end up with two victors leaves the capitol angry, and perhaps even vengeful.  When President Snow visits Katniss’s home in Victory Village, he makes it clear that the only way to assuage the capitol’s fury is to make sure all the people of Panem believe that Katniss is desperately in love with Peeta, thus explaining her defiance.  But, Katniss’s relationship with Peter is more complicated than ever and her best friend, and potential love interest, Gail does not help matters, as he seems to be distancing himself from her more and more.  And there are rumors that Katniss and Peeta’s Hunger Games performance has sparked talk of rebellion in the districts.  She survived the Hunger Games, can she survive this next chapter of her life, filled with uncertainty and, just as in the games, the constant fear of punishment by the capitol.

Critical Evaluation: Catching Fire was a much-anticipated follow up to the New York Times Bestseller and hugely popular The Hunger Games.  Though Catching Fire contained many of the most compelling and inspiring characters of The Hunger Games, and it was an interesting story, it did not quite measure up in excitement and suspense to its predecessor; though it is still a worthy read.  Admittedly, it would have been a difficult task for Collins to write book two of the trilogy with the same level of energy and tension as the first.  Catching Fire satisfies the reader’s need to find out what happens next, as Katniss and Peeta return to District Eight and begin their lives as “victors.”  Catching Fire is by no means slow moving, though the pace is more subdued, in parts, than the pace of The Hunger Games, probably due to the fact that much of Catching Fire takes place outside of the arena.  Collins introduces, in Catching Fire, additional – and intriguing – plot twists, and readers’ understandings of the main characters deepen.  There is still plenty of action and adventure and excitement, and The Hunger Games fans will need to read Catching Fire, so that they can then go on to read the final book in the trilogy: Mockingjay.   Critics were mixed about Catching Fire, and, while it did receive many positive reviews, there were others less complimentary.  Also, Catching Fire’s list of honors is significantly shorter than The Hunger Games’, but they include: Time Magazine’s #4 top fiction book of 2009, People Magazine’s #8 Best Book of 2009, and Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Book of the Year for 2009.

Reader’s Annotation: When Katniss and Peeta return home after their Hunger Games victory, more awaits them than they expect.

Information about the Author: Suzanne Collins started her writing career in children’s television.  She wrote for several children’s and preschool TV programs and then wrote the first book of a five book series called The Underland ChroniclesThe Underland Chronicles is described as a “fantasy/war series” on Collins’ website (

Catching Fire is the second in the Hunger Games trilogy, The Hunger Games is the first and the third is Mockingjay.

Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy

Subgenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Adventure, Dystopia; Adventure: Survival

Topics Covered: Poverty, Discrimination, Reality TV, Abuse of power, Hunger, Friendship, Love

Curriculum Ties: Social Science, Political Science, Environmental Science, Philosophy, Television Culture

Booktalking Ideas:

  • How would you go about proving that you are passionately and deeply in love with someone when this is not true?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12-19 to Adult

Challenge Issues: The issue most likely to be challenged is violence, as the book contains many and varied acts of violence, but the violence is not gratuitous, it is a integral part of the plot.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.

Why is this book included? As a sequel to The Hunger Games, I had to read Catching Fire to find out what happened next.  I expect other readers of The Hunger Games will feel the same way, so the entire Hunger Games trilogy deserves a place in a quality young adult collection.