Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins - 2009 - 409 pages
Without giving too much away about the first, Katniss once more has to face the peril of the games. We begin with her doing a victory tour around Panem, the aim of which is to settle the districts and to try to prevent an uprising from bubbling to the surface. But Katniss has a habit of doing what is least expected of her so things don't go to plan. Just when she thinks her whole family will be at risk due to her actions she is suddenly flung back into the nightmare she thought she'd escaped. During all this she also has to work out her feelings for the two men in her life, either of which could be a match for her. But her own private fears about the future, as well as her decidedly cautious nature, threaten to ruin both relationships forever.
The biggest changes I saw in Catching Fire was with the development of Katniss' character. In the first book we see her make decisions off the cuff, with little thought or plans beyond surviving for another minute/hour/day. In Catching Fire she begins to see the bigger picture and this has inevitable consequences on how she comes to decisions. But rightly her innate ability to make a quick choice is still present; it's simply that this time she can consider the consequences in full afterwards, for better or worse. Her relationships are also very realistic, and this is a girl who is not about to fall head over heels for anybody (even if they fall head over heels for her). In fact the suggestion in the first is continued here, that Katniss has no idea about the influence she has on others (particularly the males of the species). I enjoyed reading a female protagonist who at no point simpered over the love choices she has in her life, but is nevertheless very confused about what her feelings should be. It's a definite antidote to the Twilight-esque passion-fest - I don't know about others but I certainly was no where near sure of myself at sixteen or seventeen, so Katniss felt a lot more realistic to me than someone like Bella ever could. That and Katniss can shoot arrows like Artemis herself.
I must say here that I got the first book wrong in one way; I thought as Katniss made little fuss about the romance side of her life that it wasn't a major factor. I take it back; in Catching Fire we begin to see the full implications, personally and nationally, that Katniss' romantic entanglements have. And it does not disappoint.
Yet another book I highly recommend, but only after reading The Hunger Games of course. Roll on book number three!