PROS: - I freakin' love Penny, the nerdy best friend. She's adorable, self-possessed, and is as sexual as she wants to be. - Natalia (protagonist) likPROS: - I freakin' love Penny, the nerdy best friend. She's adorable, self-possessed, and is as sexual as she wants to be. - Natalia (protagonist) likes purple. My best friend and my boyfriend loves purple.
CONS: - BAD WRITING It's bad X-Men/Heroes/Matrix fanfiction. There was an enormous radioactive spill that affected people worldwide yet there were no fatalities, no environmental impact, and no setbacks. People got superpowers or developed an extra eyeball and technology is supposedly super duper advanced. Natalia's parents are brutally murdered in front of her (from which she never exhibits PTSD from or anything) and she is adopted and admitted into Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters the Talented Organization for Extremely Interesting Citizens (aka TOXIC)...
Might as well come out and call the organization EVIL. Her mentor, Mac, is less like Xavier and more like Magneto. It could have been a cool twist had she not dropped a bajillion hints that were as subtle as a firecracker.
She spends all of her time whining, crying, worrying about boys, and all the other characters are two-dimensional. Natalia is also an exact combination of Charles Xavier (telepathy), Jean Grey (telekinetic), and Eden McCain (mental persuasion). Making characters overpowered creates no conflict, no suspense, and it creates a detachment between them and the reader. That's one reason why this book was so boring, in addition to the excessive amount of exposition. There's no world building and no character development. Not to mention, she'd shift from first person to second person and break the fourth wall. NEVER DO THAT!!!
The writing is just plain bad. In the ways of "I cannot English" and "this is actually a fanfic" but "I can string words together to make you fall asleep." And I've used this book to fall asleep a few times. It works!
There is a shitload of repetition. Here's the word count for phrases/words she can't go without: blue: repeated 10 times in TWO CONSECUTIVE SENTENCES!! communicate: 58 mental ("mental connection, I mentally said"): 178 mind ("I opened my mind"): 247 [feelings] washed over me: 28 willed ("I willed the door open"): 105
Quotes of the awkward writing:
The practice was intense, charged with unspoken anger (Erik), anxiety (Henri), and nerves (me). --- "Because every girl talks about him! He's like the closest thing to famous that we have here!?!" --- "WHAT?!?" my mental voice screamed at him. Was he joking?? This was an initiation ritual?? --- She returned his smile with a high-wattage one of her own. --- I may have transferred the pain to [the bad guy] but I was still the one not-so-slowly bleeding to death.
That last quote there. Natalia transferred the pain she felt from a fresh bullet wound to someone else. If you want real conflict that the audience can relate to, don't make your main character so fucking overpowered. Save it for an epic final battle. Not when they're fighting cardboard dummies and simulations. This was not good writing. She's always able to do something new when it's convenient for her.
[after finding her boyfriend sleeping with another woman] Feelings of betrayal and pain swirled inside of me, fighting to get out. Thunder boomed, rods of electricity streaked across the night sky. A huge explosion reverberated through the cabin, blowing the windows inward and spraying the entire room with shards of glass. ----------- The lead man raised his gun. "NO!" [the bad guy] screamed, but it was too late—the man fired. I deflected the bullets with my mind. He fired again. And again. And again. He emptied the entire clip into the room, but all of his bullets hung uselessly in midair until I let them drop harmlessly to the floor.
Not to nitpick but the even the author's Acknowledgements section wasn't written well. Every single sentence began with "I would like to thank." a;sdflkjas'asd'faksdj.
- SEXISM (femininity) There have been a grand total of FIVE women other than the protagonist out of about ~50 or so characters.
- Penny, the fashionable and nerdy best friend. - The blond woman Natalia's boyfriend cheated on her with. - Natalia's mother—who is murdered in front of her. - Natalia's adoptive mother—who she's uncomfortable around because she showers her with feminine gifts. - The group of fashionista city women that Natalia is uncomfortable being around. Their description sounded a lot like the Capitol citizens in The Hunger Games.
Soooooooo what I got from that was "I hate femininity and if you are a woman, you have to die or I have to hate you. Only got room for one bubbly bestie and that position is filled. Sorry." These authors seriously need to stop demonizing fashion and feminine-coded objects/things and start criticizing the culture for making it a bad thing. Criticize the culture for choosing masculinity over femininity. And yes, The Hunger Games—of my favorite series of all time—is guilty of this as well. MovieBob did an amazing video on our culture of femmephobia in his video, "Pink Is Not The Problem." You all should really check it out. He does a great critique of 300 and The Hunger Games.
This book gets negative points for shaming women for not being "natural." The character prided herself in having "natural purple-blue eyes" and it was mentioned every fucking opportunity she had. Please, Dita von Teese, lay it down for us:
If people are going to market harmless products for women to use, women should not be shamed and made to feel shitty for using and enjoying it. So you can fuck the fuck off with your "natural is better" bullshit.
There was also a rape culture-perpetuating scene where Natalia was drunk and Erik (love interest) almost has sex with her but stops himself because she's drunk. I was really, really proud of the message...until she whined, cried, and then threw a tantrum because she was literally begging for sex. Just...no. Then it took the potentially good message of "hey, don't take advantage of irrational drunk people" further away by making him sad about being rebound so that the audience feels bad for him instead of the fact that he almost took advantage of her drunk ass. I don't understand life anymore *facedesk.
Natalia was creepy as fuck too—and not because she has PTSD from witnessing her parents' brutal murders as a child—she doesn't have PTSD or exhibit any signs of being disturbed by it. She would purposefully "invade" (literally her words, not mine) people's privacy by reading their thoughts—even against their will. It nearly killed her ex-boyfriend at one point. To justify it, people can read Natalia's thoughts as well when she "opens her mind" to read theirs but nobody does. She spends most of her time invading other people's thoughts when her "mind is open."
Writing your character as constantly whiny, angry, sociopathic, boy-obsessed, and overpowered is not interesting. It's regressive, boring, and creepy.
- RACISM (whitewashing) The protagonist is described as having "olive-toned skin" and "wild dark curls." Lots o' y'all white authors seem to not know what that is so lemme show you:
What "olive skin and wild dark curls" actually looks like:
Versus what most white authors (including this one) think it looks like:
I think you get the picture. You can't just make like Jackson Rathbone and say you'll put on a tan either. By doing that, you just waste another opportunity for a person of color to be visible and represented. Other than the protagonist, there wasn't another person of color in this thing. Shame on you.
It's safe to say I won't be reading the sequel.
"...he pulled away from the kiss just long enough to pull his shirt over his head, and I stared in amazement as his muscles rippled with even the smallest movement" ...more
PROS: - Great ending. - Fairly good set-up for sequel.
CONS: - Expectations were too high so was left disappointed. - Redundancy. - First 2/3's of the booPROS: - Great ending. - Fairly good set-up for sequel.
CONS: - Expectations were too high so was left disappointed. - Redundancy. - First 2/3's of the book dragged on and on; could've been summed up in one chapter. - Unnecessary recaps of the first book. - Deus ex machina abuse.
COMMENTS: I really wanted to like this. I really tried to be patient for the first 50 pages. Really. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you set the bar too high and then the audience expects a brilliant sequel. I couldn't help but feel disappointed after the first book (in all its perfection), especially with the first two thirds of Catching Fire.
Catching Fire felt like being in Harry Potter's head in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—it was excruciatingly painful to read most of the time. Katniss kept thinking about Gale, who is a prick in this book for forcing Katniss into a kind of relationship she doesn't want. While she has every right to be upset, that's all there was to it. Just a weave of thoughts and no action. There was barely any progress for 2/3's of the book. Her thoughts were redundant which made the storytelling bland. I wanted the character to do something about her situation and not just sit there and think about Gale or Snow.
Katniss kept her integrity intact because every action she made was to protect her friends and family. However, it seemed like she felt defeated. Maybe that's how Collins wanted the reader to feel but for 2/3's of the book? It didn't work for me. I wanted that raw power that Katniss had in the first book; I understand she'd tire from all the parading around she had to do and the fight is hard. The emotional turmoil Katniss was suffering in the first 2/3's is understandable but the writing felt too contrived.
Even though I read it in a matter of hours, I felt the pacing was very slow. When I got to the last third of the book, I couldn't help but feel angry that Collins would use the same scenario she used in The Hunger Games. I thought, "Another Hunger Games? Okay...I guess Katniss will do something." That was another reason why I was disappointed. More character manipulation, more killing, and more emotional pain. It was interesting and a good plot twist but it fell kind of short after the slow pace.
I loved the ending and am almost positive that Catching Fire is just setting up for an excellent sequel to end the trilogy. I anticipate on reading and finishing Mockingjay (despite my never wanting the series to end; just like Harry Potter). All in all, for a sequel, Catching Fire was only mediocre and definitely did not live up to the greatness that was and is The Hunger Games.
JAN 2014 EDIT: Four years ago, I myself trivialized Katniss's emotions in this book to the point where I was victim-blaming. After all the shit she'd gone through, she has every right to be tired and selfish. She wants to give up. That's okay. I will do a reread and perhaps update this review if anything's changed....more