March 2, 2012

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games 2)

Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins


(March 2, 2012)

Dramatic and effective sequel to The Hunger Games, this book shares its strengths and discomforts. Katniss Everdeen is more than a swashbuckling fantasy heroine: she’s a kid, and her childishness is exceptionally well realized. She makes wild plans, she doesn’t think things through, she’s impetuous and impatient, she doesn’t know her own mind. And she’s a hero. Pullman does a fine job of showing how Lyra grows, but even at the outset, playing in robing room closet, Lyra knows herself a lot better than Katniss does.

One exception to Katniss’s realism is that her age is wrong. She is said to be seventeen. Katniss has two casual boyfriends with whom she thinks she’s probably in love, though in an entirely hypothetical way. She kisses her boyfriends sometimes, but doesn’t really care for it, and can assure the jealous Peeta that she only kissed Gale once. (In my experience, a jealous seventeen-year-old boyfriend will want assurance that you only slept with the other guy once.) She has no intention of marrying or having children. She has no physical desire in the first book, though she experiences first stirrings in the second. She doesn’t act like she’s seventeen; why not give her the age that accords with her character?

Collins is the master of the grand moment. This book has one. Lord Dunsany has one. Good enough.