Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire

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Catching Fire Summary

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Catching Fire (2009),a young adult novel by American novelist Suzanne Collins, is the second installment in the wildly popular The Hunger Games trilogy, preceded by The Hunger Games and followed by Mockingjay. Catching Fire continues the story of rebel Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the poorest area of the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. Having triumphed in the previous year’s edition of the Hunger Games, where two young people from each state in Panem are forced to compete in an elaborate battle to the death, she and fellow survivor, Peeta Mellark, return to District Twelve where they become symbols of resistance to the oppressive regime. However, the evil President Snow, threatened by their rising presence, arranges a second game where past champions must return to the arena to fight for their lives once again. Serving as an allegory for resistance to oppressive government and exploring themes of mass media and reality shows, along with the danger for resistance fighters of becoming the very thing they fight, Catching Fire is part of one of the most successful book series of all time. A successful film adaptation was released in 2013 and went on to become the top-grossing film of that year.

Catching Fire begins as Katniss and Peeta return home to District 12, having triumphed in the seventy-fourth Hunger Games. As she and Peeta are supposed to start a victory tour of the country, President Snow visits and tells Katniss that her defiance of the rules of the Hunger Games (where she engineered two survivors instead of the proscribed one) have inspired rebellion in the country. He orders her to convince the people that her actions were due to love for Peeta, rather than rebellion. The first stop is District 11, home of Rue, who died in the game after forming a close bond with Katniss, and Thresh, who spared Katniss’ life in the games. She gives a heartfelt speech expressing her love for them, and an old man hums the tune that Rue used to communicate with Katniss in the arena. Everyone joins in, but Capitol guards quickly sweep in and execute the old man before Katniss’ eyes. They continue their tour, and Peeta proposes to Katniss during an interview in the Capitol in an attempt to placate Snow. Although Katniss accepts, Snow is not pleased with her and she fears for her loved ones. When she returns to District 12, she finds out that fighting has broken out in District 8. She meets two refugees named Bonnie and Twill, who tell her they are trying to reach the supposedly destroyed District 13.

It is time for the seventy-fifth Hunger Games, and this is the third “quarter quell,” where the Capitol institutes a special twist. This time, Snow announces that the tributes will be from the previous survivors. Katniss is the only female survivor of District 12, so she will automatically be forced into another Hunger Games along with Peeta or her mentor, Haymitch. Katniss tries to keep Peeta alive, convincing Haymitch to volunteer for him if he is picked, but when Haymitch is picked, Peeta volunteers to take his place. Haymitch tries to guide Katniss towards aligning with the strongest tributes, but Katniss gravitates towards some of the weaker ones, feeling compassion towards them. They are sent to an arena resembling a jungle with a lake in the center. Katniss and Peeta align with Finnick Odair, a handsome young man who was District 4’s youngest-ever winner, along with his eighty-year-old mentor, Mags, who volunteered to protect the younger winners from the district.

The group encounters an invisible force field, which nearly kills Peeta when he runs into it, along with poisonous fog. Mags sacrifices herself to protect the rest of the group, and the three survivors align with the ruthless Johanna Mason from District 7, along with the older scientist couple Beetee and Wiress. Wiress figures out the arena is arranged like a clock and each danger happens at a specific time. Wiress is killed by a sneak attack from the Careers, professional tributes from richer districts who spend their lives training for the games. The tributes manage to pick off most of the careers, but two — Brutus and Enobaria — survive. With Beetee’s knowledge and Katniss’ bravery and archery skills, the tributes are able to harness lightning and use it to blow up the force field and destroy the arena. Knocked unconscious by the impact, she wakes up as she is being transported to District 13 by Finnick, Beetee, and Haymitch. Peeta and Johanna have been captured. She learns that she has become the living embodiment of the rebellion, and the tributes made a pact to rescue her. She is visited by her close childhood friend Gale, who tells her that while her family is safe, District 12 was destroyed in retaliation.

Suzanne Collins is a best-selling American author, best known for her two successful series — the high fantasy The Underland Chronicles, taking place in a subterranean world filled with fantasy creatures, and The Hunger Games trilogy. A former TV writer for Nickelodeon, she has received awards from the American Library Association, KIRKUS, and Publishers Weekly.