Welcome back to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in (maybe) a decade. And here you are, just in time for the sequel that actually lived up to it all! I didn’t love Catching Fire the first time I read it, but the more I read it the more I love it.
As always, spoiler alert.
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
Why I Love This Book
- Finally getting to know Peeta and Haymitch as people.
- Seeing the other districts.
- The revolution themes, especially because they are obscured and uncertain.
- Cinna’s amazing design for Katniss’s opening ceremonies outfit.
- How Collins explores that killing a person never really leaves you and Kanitss’s PTSD.
- Seeing Katniss fall in love with Peeta in the arena, and watching everyone else figure it out even though she doesn’t.
- Even though it’s longer and the Games don’t even start until the last 75 pages, it’s still so compulsively readable.
Songs From District 12: Everybody Wants to Rule the World
For the Hunger Games movies, in addition to releasing the instrumental score they released a “soundtrack”. These songs weren’t featured in the movie, though a few did run during the credits. Instead they were inspired by the books and films. The first installment was mostly inspired by District 12, but the songs for the second movie seemed more inspired by the Capitol.
I stinkin’ love this soundtrack. I’ve listened to it so many times. It’s very post-rock, the lyrics are interesting and multi-faceted, and overall it just has a great sound. It’s so hard to pick one song to feature because there are so many I love, but a real standout for me is Everybody Wants to Rule the World. It’s a cover of that classic 80s Tears for Fears hit by the one and only Lorde.
I’m not usually one for covers, but this one is so different from the original. It’s creepy, a little sadistic, and to me perfectly captures the mood of Catching Fire. Lorde obviously has a unique performance style, and I love her interpretation of these lyrics, the almost lazy way she sings them. This version also has really exciting build until it the bridge literally explodes. Then the ending is almost haunting. Highly recommend giving this song a listen if you never have before. Lorde is a genius, but this might be my favorite of her songs. Great collaboration with her producers, so outstanding.
Discussion questions taken from Scholastic. Feel free to play along in the comments. 🙂
1. What emotions does Peeta stir in Katniss? Though she is stiff and formal with him, what are her true feelings? How did the events in the first Games affect their relationship?
At the beginning of the novel Katniss mostly feels confusion about Peeta. She grows through the novel to realize that she really cares about him, but she doesn’t really understand in what way. I think the way in which she was forced to confront those feelings – very publicly and in an attempt to save her own life – make it more confusing for her. And then as well, continuing through with their relationship because she feels like she has to makes her not want to love him. Had Peeta simply approached her in District 12 I don’t think it would have been nearly as difficult for her to sort through her emotions.
Of course, her fear of ever having children also affects her ability to recognize her own emotions, because they are so tainted by fear. Even in the first book she acknowledges that she could never be anything more than a friend to Gale because she never has any intention of getting married. Her protective relationship of Prim, her experience of being unable to save Rue, those really impact and stunt her emotions.
2. How does Gale’s whipping change Katniss’s thinking about escape and her feelings for Gale?
At some point in Mockingjay Gale tells Katniss that she cares more for whichever of them (Gale or Peeta) is in the most pain. While I don’t think it’s a perfect assessment of Katniss’s feelings, in practice it seems to be true. Gale’s suffering reminds Katniss that she cares for him and can never leave him behind. She is so bad at understanding her own emotions, she thinks their power could mean she is in love with him, and Gale hopes that is the case. I think that she knows Gale is family, and she won’t leave him.
However, his whipping also throws into harsh reality for her the points Gale made in the woods about the revolution. She sees that, of course, he is right. His whipping reminds her of what she saw in District 11, of the harsh ways of life Rue told her about, and she realizes that he is right. She can’t run away, she has to be part of the revolution. But then she feels helpless to get it started.
3. Why does the Capitol devise a special reaping procedure for every 25th Game? Do you believe the requirements for this Quarter Quell were decided in the past or were they designed for this Game to force Katniss and Peeta back to the arena?
This is probably the most fascinating question left unanswered in the whole series. I’ve changed my mind about the answer so many times. In the movie they make it seem like it’s Plutarch’s idea, a direct result of Katniss and Peeta’s actions. And it seems so perfect, how could it be a coincidence? But it also seems so sickeningly in line with the first two Quells. And Plutarch is also orchestrating the rebellion at this point (sort of), and Katniss and Peeta are definitely harder to get out of the arena than District 12. Plus, right at the end they talk about the plan just being hatched when the Quell was announced, so presumably Plutarch wasn’t involved with that decision at all.
I don’t know. What do you guys think?
4. What is more harmful to the players in this Game — the physical traumas like the fog and rain of fire, or the emotional trauma of hearing the jabberjays?
While maybe not specifically the jabberjays, both books 2 and 3 make it clear that the emotional trauma of The Hunger Games has a much stronger impact that physical. The physical can be fixed, but Katniss never really heals from her involvement in the Games. Annie is another prime example of that. But I also think you can’t separate the physical trauma from the emotional. Being hurt like that, it leaves more than just physical scars.
5. Why were Katniss and Peeta not aware of the plans for the rebellion? Why were they kept in the dark when other tributes knew about it?
I left this question in, even though Haymitch directly answers it in the last chapter, because I kept asking it of myself the whole time I was reading. Haymitch said it was because they wanted Katniss and Peeta innocent if captured, so there would be less reason to torture them. But I also wonder if he wasn’t fully aware of Katniss’s inability to act. Still, I think it was a mistake not to let Peeta in on the secret, because he is obviously and excellent actor and could have been in the right place at the right time if he had just known what was going on. Still, them being in the dark makes for a much more exciting story.