2009 YA

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

I loved The Hunger Games, so was really looking forward to reading Catching Fire. Unfortunately I was disappointed. Perhaps because I have been immersed in the Bookers, I was immediately struck by the poor quality of the writing. I don’t remember having the same problem with The Hunger Games, but then I didn’t read 13 Bookers before starting it!

The first half of the book was also quite slow. It has been 6 months since I read The Hunger Games, so I probably did need to be reminded of some of the smaller plot details, but I became irrated by the continual references to the first book. I felt patronised and bored. It took almost half the book before the plot began to take off, but when it did I was again disappointed. Catching Fire just seemed to take all the best bits from The Hunger Games and repeat them in a less convincing way.

There was a point in the middle when district 13 was mentioned that I began to think things would take a turn for the better, but sadly it veered away from this potentially great thread to follow a much more disappointing one. I am sure that the third book in the trilogy will be great, but I don’t think this one was necessary – it felt like they had taken a great two book story and padded it out into a trilogy, as by the end the plot didn’t seem to have made any progression from the first book.

If you loved The Hunger Games then you’ll have to read this anyway, but please be warned that you may be disappointed. Catching Fire is a quick, mildly entertaining read, but the frustration and disappointment I felt meant that I can’t recommend it.


If you haven’t read Catching Fire yet: What do you hope will happen in it?

I know I’m in the minority with my opinion. What made you love Catching Fire?

Are you more or less excited about the final book in the trilogy after reading this one?

52 replies on “Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins”

Sometimes the sequels just arent as good as the first (for me this happened with The Scecret Speech after Child 44) and sometimes you get so excited about a new book in a series you can overhype it yourself, I know I do.

I do also think when you read a book, your mood etc also can be of effect. As can what you have read before.

Simon , Oh no! I’m listening to (and loving!) Child 44 at the moment. I was looking forward to the sequel, so am sad to hear it isn’t as good. At least I’ll go into that with lower expectations, as oppossed to the rave reviews I keep seeing for this one.

Oh what a shame!
I’ll have to read Hunger Games anyway, but maybe I’ll skip the second in the series and wiat for the third to be brilliant, like you anticipate!

I see you’re reading The Poisonwood Bible – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 🙂

Aimee, I don’t think it is worth skipping Catching Fire. If you loved the Hunger Games then you really should read this one before the final installment, just lower your expectations a bit before picking it up!

I’m about half way though The Poisonwood Bible, but although I am loving the detail I am finding it a slow read. I really hope there is some action soon!

I’ve been seeing the rave reviews, but have suspected this is almost an inevitable after-effect from the hype. My compass for good reads, EW, gave this book a “C”, which seems to jive with your opinion. There are times, unfortunately, when some books in a series are just a means to an end. No doubt, we will end up listening to this book on audio, whenever I can get my hands on a copy!

BTW, I did love The Poisonwood Bible!

Sandy, I don’t mind books being a means to the end, but this one seemed to go no where!

It will probably be better on audio and I’m sure your kids will love it, but i think you might find it a little disappointing.

I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed The Poisonwookd Bible too!

I wrote in my post what I loved about Catching Fire. Some of the reminders irked me as surely everyone who is reading it had read the first one! I think Collins underestimated her readers some but, to be fair, it is a young adult novel and perhaps a detailed refresher is required.

Obviously the writing does not compare to that of the Bookers as they are in a different league. However, I thought that the writing in this was better than, say, Twilight. The writing in Harry Potter isn’t particularly accomplished either but it doesn’t make me any less in love or addicted to the series.

I’m even more excited about the last in the trilogy having read the middle one.

Claire, I think teenagers have more intelligence than that – I don’t remember any excessive repitition in Harry Potter and that was for younger children. I’m not that bothered about the writing quality in a childrens’ book, but the other factors I mentioned really frustrated me. I’m pleased that you enjoyed it more than I did, and I’m sure I’ll be rushing out to buy the next book as soon as it is released, but I think I will be a lot less excited about it.

I hate being disappointed by a book I’ve been anticipating highly.

Thinking back (um, to last week!) I do concede that the inactivity of the first section was frustrating, and in comparison to the third/ending, which was rushed, the action could have been better spread out. I did think that Collins sustained the action from the first book well but it wasn’t well-proportioned. I loved the social and political commentary and that last line… I think a lot happened in this to set the scene for the next as well as maintaining my interest enough during.

Claire, I do like the last line, but I wish I had seen that action instead of what we did read!

Nevermind – I’ll just transfer my excitement to Her Fearful Symmetry. Audrey Niffenegger won’t let me down!

Rebecca, I would love to know your thoughts on The Hunger Games. I really enjoyed it and you like childrens’ books, so I think that you’ll love it.

I find it very interesting – although not surprising – that the reading of the Booker long list has influenced your opinion on what constitutes ‘good’ writing. This is precisely what I try to teach my students: the difference between great literature and a “good” book can only be appreciated if you add great literature to your reading pile.

I am sorry that Catching Fire is a disappointment. I really enjoyed Hunger Games, but I did not absolutely love it (as much of the book bloggers reported in their reviews). I will read the sequel – sometime – and have a feeling that you are right about the final book in the trilogy.

Molly, Perhaps it was bad for me to read so much good writing in a row as it has ruined my chances of liking other books!

Let’s just hope that the final book makes up for this one!

Reading both Hunger Games and Catching Fire was uncomfortable for me because of the whole desolation and the Lord of the Rings vibe. I think because it deals with killing from children, the survival of the fittest.

I will say I had a roller coaster of emotion while reading and Collins writing is great. The ending to Catching Fire is a true cliffhanger that makes me want to read the third book.

katiebabs, I was worried about the violence before I started reading, but I think the fact we want Katniss to survive and that all the deaths occur out of view distanced me from that aspect of it. The ending was a good cliffhanger and I am looking forward to the next one. I’m sure it will be great!

I enjoyed The Hunger Games a lot – to read once – but I don’t need to own it – and I expect I’ll feel the same about Catching Fire. I want to read it just to see what happens! So I think I’m probably immune to disappointment. 😛

Really interesting review, even though I haven’t read any books in the series thus far! I think it’s always hard when one’s anticipation and expectations are built so high from one book; My favourite book in the HP series is number 4, so you can imagine how eager I was for number 5 and then how disappointed by it I was! But I thought your account was fair, and I personally appreciated that you took into consideration that you’ve recently finished reading 13 very accomplished books before you started this one. Comparing it to the Bookers might not be fair, since this certainly doesn’t aspire to be on that level, BUT at the same time saying “well it’s better than Twilight” isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation either! 😉 I know there are so many huge YA proponents in the book blogosphere, and I certainly respect their views, but it’s also nice for someone to point out the potential weaknesses of the genre as well.

Steph, I haven’t read Twilight yet, so can’t comment on whether it was better than that yet. I have loved many YA books. Simple doesn’t have to mean bad. Books like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas are a great example of how simple can be brilliant.

I’m sure that teenagers will love these books, but as an adult I often find them disappointing. Hopefully the next one will be better!

I did love this one, but it’s hard to articulate just why. I think it was because I didn’t know what was going to happen and enough unpredictabilities popped up to keep me satisfied. Also, I’m totally reading for character and character relationships and I love Katniss and her issues. So I guess that’s why. I didn’t need the reminders, but I don’t remember them bugging me either.

Meghan, I’m pleased that you enjoyed it, but I also found Katniss’s character to be much weaker in Catching Fire. She seemed to be more easily led and less proactive. Let’s hope we both agree the next book is amazing!

LOL I must like weaker female characters because I much preferred Katniss in this book! I loved this book and wasn’t at all disappointed. I also recently read a Booker shortlist and had to force myself to finish. I must be shallow.

Amy, I don’t think you’re shallow. We all enjoy different books and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Hopefully we’ll both enjoy the third book in the trilogy though.

I liked it but not loved it. I did gave it a higher rating than yours a little, because of the entertainment factor, but there were things that disappointed me. Mainly, Katniss. I still liked it and am dying to read the next one though!

Kay, It did have a little entertainment factor, but this was mainly in the last third of the book and that seemed to very similar to The Hunger Games. I agree that Katniss was a lot weaker in this book – I wanted to slap her at some points! I’m happy to wait a year for the next book – perhaps my memories of this one will have faded a bit by then!

I haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, but I just bought it along with Catching Fire and plan to read them both back-to-back, so chances are the repetitions will REALLY irritate me at that point :-).

It’s always interesting to read a minority opinion on a book that’s gotten so much love. It helps me temper my own expectations a bit. However, you may have a point about the timing of your read. I know that when I’ve just finished a book that amazed me – let alone 13 of them! – it’s hard for the next one to make a strong impression.

Florinda, I look forward to your experiences of reading them back – to – back. That will be one long emotional rollercoaster!

Perhaps next time I should save up loads of weaker books to read back-to-back. Perhaps I’ll love the new Dan Brown after reading the entire Twilight series?!

I can see how reading just about anything after the bookers would be tough, but especially YA…IDK, I don’t read a lot of YA myself, but when I do I find that there is a lack of description and intricate writing.

J.T. I don’t read many YA and haven’t really had a problem before. I’m still not sure whether it was the book, or just the timing of my reading it. I guess we’ll never know.

I’m currently reading it. In fact, I’m right at the District 13 part, so I’m a bit bummed that’s not going to pan out.

I’m finding it a bit lack-luster. It’s enjoyable, but I’m certainly not racing it through it. And Katniss needs to make up her freakin’ mind! About a number of things.

softdrink, Sorry for the mini spoiler. Perhaps it is better to know and not raise your hopes for it. I look forward to reading your review.

I loved The Hunger Games, and I’m really looking forward to reading this one. It seems like I’m the last person to have read this book as I’m still waiting for it to arrive! 🙁

This is probably the first review I’ve read of Catching Fire that is less than 4 stars 🙂

I haven’t read any of the 2, but do plan to read both. I hope I’m not dissapointed as you are.

Violet, I am sure you’ll love The Hunger Games. I hope you manage to get hold of a copy soon – I think it may well be one of your favourite books.

I finished this a couple days ago. I enjoyed reading more about Katniss and Panem, but honestly, I thought the main plot was cheap. It seemed like the Quarter Quell (don’t want to say exactly what it was because of spoilers) was just an excuse to recycle the main plot of the first book. I did enjoy the growing tension and outbreaks between the government and the Districts, and I really think that book three will be great because it’ll go a lot further with that plot.

Shannon, That is exactly how I felt! I am pleased to hear that I am not alone! The Quarter Quell really ruined the book for me – I just wish they had sneaked off to 13! Hopefully they will in the third book.

I haven’t read either THE HUNGER GAMES or CATCHING FIRE, so I can’t chime in with an opinion, but I wanted to say how refreshing it is to really a review that says CATCHING FIRE isn’t all that 🙂

You may be on to something with your assessment of the writing; it pales in comparison to the Bookers you were reading.

I just added a link to this review on my post. I just want to say, I don’t think it’s because you’ve read so many bookers that the writing on CF felt awful. It really wasn’t the best. The Hunger Games is spectacularly written. I’ve read it three times in three different circumstances, and all three times I’ve noted how excellently written it was. CF on the other hand isn’t the best. It’s sloppy, messy, and needed some more drafting. I honestly wish The Hunger Games had been a standalone book.

Amanda, It is good to know that The Hunger Games was well written and that it wasn’t just me being fussy about the writing in this book. Thank you for explaining it all for me!

Oh, I loved Catching Fire! I didn’t feel it was too slow, but that may have been because I was reading it out loud to my friends for fourteen hours straight. We’d been waiting months for the ARC I received from being a runner-up in the writing contest. I felt that it was packed full of twists, and I could never have put it down. I will agree that one certain big twist with the Quarter Quell exasperated me. I was literally saying, “You. Are. Kidding. Me. That’s the lamest excuse for an interesting twist I’ve ever seen. It was stupid even from a writer’s point of view”. I just did not want to go there. Other than that, however, I enjoyed it. As the book is written from Katniss’s point of view, I felt that the writing was true to character. The partial sentences were perfect for Katniss… and Peeta’s so darn nice. ( :

I did find meeting all those new people (wink, wink) interesting. I agree, though, that I hope the next book is better… and believe it will be!

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