Catching Fire - A sequel worth reading

Written by
Suzanne Collins. Published by Scholastic Press September 1, 200-

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One quick note before you begin reading this review. If you have not read the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. There will be parts of this review that will easily ruin the first book if you have not read it.

Katniss and Peeta have returned home to district 12, but now what do they do? Katniss must now face her inner feelings that were squelched during the games. Does she really love Peeta? Does she love Gale? Her comfortable new home does nothing to stop her constant nightmares of death witnessed inside of the arena. Before Katniss has time to evaluate her feelings, she is once again thrown into turmoil. With the Victory Tour fast approaching she must watch her every move carefully. The Capitol is keeping a tight leash on the girl on fire; everything will be watched by the Capitol. One wrong move and it will her family that will pay for it. On top of it all, she must re-assume her pretend relationship with Peeta.

After the tour goes horribly wrong, President Snow announces plans for the Quarter Quell, the 75th anniversary of The Hunger Games. Every 25 years the Capitol comes up with a twist to the reaping. This twist was supposedly written at the time of The Hunger Games creation, but with the amount of resentment the Capitol has towards Katniss, maybe the rules will be changed this year. What will the Capitol do to Katniss? How will she get rid of the target the Capitol has placed on her back? The answers to these questions and more can be found in this spectacular sequel: Catching Fire.

Recommendations for Teachers

Here are a few of the recommendations that were provided by my first group for the first book of The Hunger Games series. Although written for the first book, they still have relevance when reading and teaching Catching Fire as well:

The book is based on a dystrophic society, and has many different themes/elements appeals to adolescents. It also has many parallels to our modern world, and many societies and mythologies in history and other cultures (Such as Greek Mythology's King Minos, the Roman Empire's treatment of it citizens, the death-match killing as a sport in arenas such as the Colosseum This opens the door for a variety of discussions:
  • · Another dystrophic society in literature is the world in George Orwell’s classic 1984, or Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. The Hunger Games could be paired with either of these two books (or even other ones, there are many out there), for comparison and contrast. In The Hunger Games, The Capital takes complete control over the lives of its citizens. The 12 districts are strictly monitored, people have to always watch what they say for fear of being overheard, and the citizens are kept in line due to fear and intimidation. Everyone expresses absolute loyalty to The Capital outwardly, yet no one knows who is actually loyal and who is harboring rebellious desires. Disloyalty yields severe consequences, either death or life as an unwilling servant punished with mutilation. No one knows exactly what the actions of the government are, as they are done in secret and are covered up afterword. The games themselves remove all privacy for the tributes, as they are continuously televised and monitored. All of this has parallels with 1984, and a discussion regarding these similarities could be about some strong critical thinking about the two novels.
  • The entire book is basically about one big reality TV show, where the contestants are killed. Students can relate to this. Reality TV has become quite popular in the last few years, and chances are many students in a class regularly watch some reality TV. Comparing the book’s reality TV show to the ones students watch would get them to put an interesting perspective on how the games are viewed. Show the similarities and differences from today’s shows and the novel.

One specific recommendation for teachers that relates to Catching Fire could be connecting it to other successful second books in trilogies.
  • Use other common second books or films as a way of showing students the importance that book two has to the trilogy as a whole. By nature, the second book serves as a gap between the intro and the conclusion but that does not mean its only goal is to simply push the story ahead. It is a crucial point in the series because the second book can make or break the whole thing. If a reader becomes disinterested in a second book, then they may not read the third. This book does an amazing job at introducing new elements that are crucial to Mockingjay while remembering important themes and concepts from the first book.
  • Look at: Twilight, New Moon, Star Wars: V Empire Strikes Back, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. These are all great examples of second additions to a series that were done successfully. Have your students try to explain why these examples work? Try to see if there are similarities between these examples and Catching Fire. If so, these similarities may help the students create their own second books someday.

The Author: Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games (September 2008) and the following two books: Catching Fire (September 2009) and Mockingjay (August 2010) may be Suzanne Collins most well-known pieces of work but are by no means her only.
Collins began her professional writing career in 1991, writing for the television show Clarissa Explains it All on Nickelodeon. She also wrote for other familiar Nickelodeon shows like The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, Little Bear, and Oswald. Collins also co-wrote the critically acclaimed Christmas special, Santa, Baby!
It was not until she meet author James Proimos that she became serious about writing children’s books. Her first series was titled, The Underland Chronicles, and was inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The first book in the series, Gregor the Overlander, was very well received and she went on to write four more books for the series, one each during the next four years. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane in 2004, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods in 2005, Gregor and the Marks of Secret in 2006, and finally Gregor and the Code of Claws in 2007. This series was very successful and geared towards younger, middle grade readers. It was not until her release of The Hunger Games Trilogy, that Collins tackled writing for 12 and up.
Currently, The Hunger Games has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for more than 60 weeks in a row. Because of the success of the trilogy, Collins was named one of Time magazine's most influential people of 2010.
The movie rights for the first book, The Hunger Games, have been optioned by Lionsgate Films with Collins rumored to be writing the screenplay. Although there is no set cast for the film, Gary Ross has been selected as the director. The filming is set to begin in late spring 2011.


This is a fan made movie trailer from the book. This would be a good example of an example a teacher could use for students. You could ask students what parts of the book they believe are most important. After they have generated a list of important scenes, you could encourage them to film the scenes and compile a trailer like this one.

Additional Resources:
  • Suzanne Collins Home Page - For more information about the author of The Hunger Games Trilogy and a complete list of her works, check out this website.
  • The Hunger Game - Want to see your chances of survival? Play the tribute game to see if you've got what it takes or simply browse the site for current news and additional info.
  • The Hunger Games Movie - Love the book as much as we did? Of course you did! So stay up to date on the release of the movie.
  • Scholastic The Hunger Games Homepage. The publisher is just as important to the book being published as the author is, and here is the website for the publisher regarding the novel. There is information regarding the book, and interview with the author, downloads, games, even other videos regarding the book.
  • UK version of The Hunger Games. Another website for the publisher, for the UK audience. Also includes information regarding the book, downloads, and games.
  • Hunger Games Trilogy - Unofficial Fansite. For the die-hard fans of the series, by the die-hard fans.
  • Mockingjay. One of the first and most popular fan website out there. Includes a ton of information regarding the book, podcasts, forums, videos, information on the movie, favorite quotes, along with many other things.
  • Amazon. To buy the book. Large online book retailer, which has good prices and shipping deals.
  • Discussion Guide - A great document for teachers to promote educational use of the book.
  • The Hunger Games and Marxism- A link to some underlying themes present throughout the books.
  • Why I'm Team Katniss- Love triangle or not, this writer thinks Katniss steals the show
  • "The Hunger Games" vs. "Twilight"- Which heroine do you think is better, Bella or Katniss?
  • Unlocking "The Hunger Games": The Surface, Moral, Allegorical, and Sublime Meanings- This "professor" compares the trilogy to many things, including Dante's inferno.
  • Hunger Games Film - The official IMDB page for the first of the trilogy, set to be release on March 23, 2012

--Kurt McCool