Note: This is a very late review, I know. This was meant to be posted at Pinoy Pop, but because of some events, I'll jus...moreOriginal post at One More Page
Note: This is a very late review, I know. This was meant to be posted at Pinoy Pop, but because of some events, I'll just post it here. Plus I need to have this up before I finally write my Mockingjay review. So...yay, finally this is up. This review is written without much references to Mockingjay so let's assume I don't know how the trilogy ends as you read this review. :)
Whenever the word sequel comes to mind, I know a lot of people often cringe. More often than not, people only have one question about sequels: how will it measure up? Sequels – be it in books or movies – are either a hit-or-miss, usually because of the high expectations set by its predecessor. Will the sequel live up to the fans’ expectations? Will it be everything that we loved in it and more? Or will it just disappoint?
Catching Fireby Suzanne Collins is one of those sequels. Released a year after The Hunger Games, Catching Fire was one of the most anticipated books to be released in 2009. While other fans who got the first book when it was released had to wait a year before they got to read it, I was lucky enough to be able to get a copy of Catching Fire at the same time that I got The Hunger Games. Call me a late bloomer, I guess, but it was a blessing in disguise because even if the first book didn’t end with a huge cliffhanger, the waiting time was reduced and I could just get into the action immediately.
If you haven’t read The Hunger Games, then this spoiler warning is for you. Catching Fire starts with the heroine Katniss Everdeen preparing for the Victory Tour with her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark after winning the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss thought winning the games would bring her life back to normal, but instead, it changed everything: Peeta remains cold to her after he found out that Katniss was just playing their romance for show, and her best friend Gale is aloof with her for reasons he knows why. Unknown to Katniss but revealed soon after, her final act at the Hunger Games that meant to save herself and Peeta has fueled the unrest in the other districts, and these rebels have made Katniss the symbol of their rebellion. Just in time for all this unrest is the 75th Hunger Games that is also the Quarter Quell: the rules of the games are changed, raising the stakes higher to remind Panem – and ultimately, Katniss – that the Capitol still owns them, no matter what.
I really didn’t have much doubt that Collins would deliver a great sequel, especially after some of my bookish friends have praised Catching Fire, but I tried to keep my expectations down as I read the book. I think that might have helped because, personally, I thought Catching Fire was all kinds of awesome. Katniss is back, and she was still as great as she was in the first book, fighting against fear and the people that threatened the safety of her family and friends. I liked Katniss more in The Hunger Games, but the sequel shows us a different side of Katniss now that she is thrown into a situation she did not expect would happen if she won the Games in the last book. Her confusion and fear is palpable, and I liked all the moments when she found strength somewhere in her to protect the ones she loves. It's almost like a maternal instinct, which I wouldn't doubt if it is given that she practically raised her family after her dad died. Katniss is still surly and not too charming here despite how she was being packaged to Panem, but she is still that same protagonist that fans of the first book would definitely root for.
This book also gave us more of a glimpse of the people around Katniss, particularly the two guys in her life, Peeta and Gale. In Hunger Games, there was more screen time for Peeta that people tend to gravitate to him instead of Gale. In the sequel, Peeta still gets more screen time but we get to see more of Gale, as much as Katniss sees him, anyway. Here we see and understand a bit more of Katniss and Gale's relationship, as well how Katniss depends on Gale. It's kind of hard to read Gale here at first, but we get a glimpse of how he has been hardened by what he has went through, and even more after what his best friend (and love, perhaps) has gone through. Peeta, on the other hand, really becomes the golden boy here, by the way he manages the pressure and invisible (at least to him in the early story) threat to Katniss. Later, he becomes the "most" protected, which puts him more on spotlight -- again. No wonder more people liked Peeta. :P These two boys provide good contrast over Katniss’ character in the story, and set the dynamics of their relationships is what set the scene in Catching Fire. These boys aren’t perfect, which is a breath of fresh air from all the seemingly perfect YA male leads.
The Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle is also one of the big ones that divided the fans into separate teams, akin to -- yes, I dare mention it -- Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga. Personally, I didn’t make a choice between the two. I like Peeta, but I’m (always) very partial to the best friend. In the end, though, I didn't really care who Katniss would choose, if she will choose. I felt like Katniss doesn’t feel the need to make a choice here. I don’t think she even really understood the weight of the affections of the two guys had for her, which can be frustrating to read, especially since she kept on swinging from one to another. I agree with Adele: Katniss can very well make a choice, but the thing is, will she? Can she make a choice? Does she have enough strength to choose one and let go of the other? Or will she just let romance go altogether? In a way, I can sort of understand Katniss' indecision. More often than not, it's easier to just not make a decision than decide and think of the what-ifs after the choice has been made. I'm pretty sure that is going on in Katniss' mind, and it didn't help that the Capitol is making it hard for her. Talk about really making it hard for her. Love is already hard, and life in Panem for Katniss just makes it harder. :P
But I think the real star of this novel in my opinion is not Katniss or Peeta or Gale, but the Capitol. All throughout the novel, I was trying to think of a justification why the Hunger Games was happening, specifically, why there was a need for a Quarter Quell. I know it’s already been introduced in the first novel, but the cruelty of the Quarter Quell just seemed too senseless that there has to be some kind of good reason why they had to do it. Perhaps I was just being naïve, but I wanted to find something good in the Capitol, to give some kind of justification for this...horror. But as I continued reading, I am always struck by how evil they really were, how senseless the games really were. This realization made me not only really hate the Capitol (and President Snow as the face of the Capitol) but also understand what The Book Smugglers said about dystopian novels having one unifying factor: the Truly Villainous Government. Think your government is bad? Wait till you live in Panem.
True to its title, Catching Fire is a fiery read. I think this may be the first time that I have loved the sequel more than I loved the first book. Re-reading it in preparation for Mockingjay didn’t change my initial opinions of it – in fact, it was even better the second time around. Catching Fire is truly a heart-pounding, explosive, adrenaline-inducing, page-turning read. Definitely my favorite among the three books. :)(less)
I was never a fan of dystopian or post-apocalyptic literature. The thought of reading a book where the world I know has been d...moreFull review at Pinoy Pop
I was never a fan of dystopian or post-apocalyptic literature. The thought of reading a book where the world I know has been destroyed by natural or human forces (or both), or one ruled over by oppressive totalitarian government is depressing. With all the bad news on TV and in the papers, I don’t need to escape to another reality that pains an even bleaker picture of the future. So when I first heard of The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins from a fellow Filipino book blogger, I just skimmed over her review. Kids killing other kids--dystopia and gore? No, thanks.
Then, at last year's Manila International Book Fair last year, I stopped at the central display of National Bookstore. There was a huge display for The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire, and a TV interview of Suzanne Collins playing on loop. The lady beside me was so enthusiastic about the books and, not wanting to waste my trip to the fair, I ended up getting both books despite my apprehension. Book-wise, that choice was probably the best I made last year.
The Hunger Games is set in the future in a nation called Panem, formerly known as North America, before a series of disasters decimated the once successful nation. Panem is ruled by the Capitol and divided into thirteen districts, each with a specific industry that sates the Capitol's lavish needs. Seventy-four years ago, the thirteen districts revolted against the Capitol but were defeated. To prevent further uprisings, the surviving 12 districts were punished through the annual Hunger Games: each district provides “tributes” -- a boy and a girl between the age of 12 and 18 -- through a lottery called “reaping.” The tributes, after much pomp and ceremony, are sent to the Hunger Games arena where they are made to fight each other to the death in a televised extravaganza, until only one remains. The last remaining survivor is declared winner, ensuring that his/her family and neighbors will have enough food for the rest of the year.
We meet the heroine, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, on the morning before the reaping, with her best friend Gale, in the woods outside of District 12. In the course of the first few pages of the book, we learn a lot about her family background, her role as provider for her family, and the fact that her entire existence revolves around keeping her sister, Prim, safe. When Prim's name is drawn in the reaping, Katniss volunteers in her stead, knowing that her decision likely means her death.
Katniss has to compete not only against tributes from the richer districts, many of whom have been training to participate in the Hunger Games all their lives, but with Peeta Mellark, a young man she has a history with. As the Games go on and the tributes fall one by one, Katniss has to draw both on her learned skills and rock-hard determination not only to survive, but to make the hard decisions necessary to make it back to her family.
The premise may seem a bit complicated, but Collins weaves it into the story in a manner that makes it comprehensible and unobtrusive, as readers are plunged right into the action. The first thing readers will notice in The Hunger Games is the solid world building. Panem, the Capitol and its Districts, were described in such a matter-of-fact tone and detail that it felt real. It wasn’t exactly the numerous details that made the world so convincing, but the way that Panem was portrayed not just as a place, but as a living, breathing character in the novel. The contrast between the rich Capitol and poor District 12 was stark, and disturbingly familiar, almost a mirror to the societal division between the rich and the poor here in the Philippines. Click here to read the rest of the review.(less)
The characters in this novel were strong and unique, each of them having a different voice, even if it’s just a minor character. The supporting charac...moreThe characters in this novel were strong and unique, each of them having a different voice, even if it’s just a minor character. The supporting characters, Lena and Marjorie, were fun, and convincing, while Kimmy, the main antagonist, was just as hateful. The story was painted over a setting that was very believable, and I could actually imagine where they went at this party or
I think the strength of My Imaginary Ex is not just in its characters, but in how the story was told. The jumps back in time is enough to show us how Jasmine and Zack’s friendship grew, and how he met his exes and how things changed. The transitions between the past and present were straightforward so it wouldn’t leave you wondering where you are in the novel’s time line. And I absolutely loved it when Jasmine came to an epiphany — I felt like I was with Lena and Marjorie, heaving a sigh of relief when Jasmine finally agreed to their plan.
My Imaginary Ex is the type of story where you’ll find yourself rooting for the characters to get together in the end, because if they don’t…well, what’s the use? While I didn’t really liked a particular scene in the book (sorry, I’m just conservative, I guess), the ending was still very satisfying, and would make you want a Zack of your own. I know I did.(less)
It was okay, with all the typical Sarah Dessen elements in it. I liked how descriptive it was of the places that mattered to Ruby, and the people as w...moreIt was okay, with all the typical Sarah Dessen elements in it. I liked how descriptive it was of the places that mattered to Ruby, and the people as well. However, the book read a lot too much like Love Walked In by Marisa delos Santos, with the abandoning mother and all. It's not that the book didn't have a resolution...it did, but not a WHOLE one, and I like it that way, really. It leaves a future full of possibilities for Ruby, which is closer to real life.
And I really, really loved how many Easter Eggs I found here! I love the scene where Kristy and Bert showed up. :) It's not the best Dessen book I've read, but it's good enough. :)(less)