Saturday, 17 March 2012

Catching Fire - a single spark that sets the whole country on fire

The second book of the trilogy picks up where the first one left us off - Katniss and Peeta have managed to set a precedent in the 74 years history of the hunger games by becoming the first two winners. Through carefully manipulating the public with their tragic love story, they won on their side not only the citizens of the capital, but the whole country. The Capitol, in fear of a massive rebellion, had no other choice but to let both of them live.

It seems that everything can now go back to normal. Katniss and Peeta return to district 12 as heroes. They don't need to worry anymore how to feed their families as the privileges of winning the hunger games secure them a wealthy and affluent life. Peeta is still madly in love with Katniss, while she is torn between her best friend, who has always been there for her and the boy who saved her life in the games. Unfortunately, president Snow doesn't plan to leave her a choice. Katniss's actions during the hunger games have provoked massive uprisings in the other districts. People have long been angry with the regime but haven't had the courage and strength to oppose. Now, they have a leader in the face of Katniss and a symbol in the form of her mocking-jay broche. The 17th old girl that had the courage to stand against the rules of the Capitol unconsciously gave the districts strength and motivation. Many of them start doubting the reality of the love story and see Katniss's actions as the long awaited trigger against the Capitol. President Snow is furious; he sets an ultimatum to Katniss - she either has to prove to everyone that she acted out of love or everyone she loves will be hurt. On their annual tour as winners Katniss and Peeta are all over each other and even decide to marry. However, people already see them as symbols of the change. Many of the districts openly show their readiness for rebellion. The solution is only one - Katniss needs to die and she needs to do it in the hunger games.

Yes, the annual 75 hunger games offer a spectacle never seen before. The names of the contestant are to be chosen among all of the winners and very soon Katniss and Peeta are back on the arena. This time the gamemakers have worked hard to ensure that they will not come back alive. Instad of fighting against children like themselves, Katniss and Peeta are set in front of the most skilled and violent killers in the country. As usual, Katniss tries to save Peeta and vice versa. However, weird alliances on the arena seem to lead to the conclusion that everyone is trying to save actually both of them. It is brutal on the Arena, where Katniss is trying to understand and survive, but it is much more brutal outside, where people have released an anger hidden for 75 years.

Catching Fire continues with the amazing trend set by The Hunger Games. Much darker and much more violent, the second book is a turning point in the story. On a first glance, the first two parts are mirror-like. Katniss and Peeta are back in the games, but this time the purpose is not to kill the others and stay alive but to escape. Just like a fire needs a single match to spread, the districts need a single spark in the face of Katniss, to rise against the Capitol. I read the second part in exactly 1 day. Collins is still infatuating and obsessive; her talent creates multi-faced characters, who are neither all good or all bad. The author portrays a realistic and obsessive tale of a controlled regime and the rebellions of the masses, who are like a giant snowball on the verge of a mountain - they need a small push to destroy everything on their way. That is why Katniss needs to surve - to stand as an example of a successful rebellion against the Capitol and to push the people towards change. The girl, herself, is not sure whether she wants to be a symbol for that, but is sure for one thing - she wouldn't be if Peeta dies.

The Hunger Games is much more than a young adult novel. It is about courage and strength in the face of an enemy too strong to be defeated. It is about inner conflicts to do the right thing or to save yourself and your family. It is about sacrifice for someone else and for a whole idea. Even though it is fantastical, the trilogy is closer to contemporary society than we can possibly imagine.

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