||I thought there was no way this book could be as good
as the first one, but hoped it was, and also hoped that my excitement
for it wouldn't diminish it. I need not have worried. This book is
almost as good as its predecessor, and in different ways.
The sequel picks up six months after
The Hunger Games
ended, with the Capitol still furious and impotent to do anything about Katniss. Peeta has kept his distance after her revelation at the end of
the last book, and Haymitch continues to drink heavily. It's a wonder
that Katniss hasn't started! Things have changed in District 12, though
Katniss doesn't really change. She still likes to go out hunting, and is
angered by the constant media attention that doesn't let her sneak out
of the District fence. The winners have moved into an area of the
district that has huge houses, and they are supplied with considerable
food. Katniss is poor no longer. When she finally does escape into the
woods, she realizes that Gale did understand what she had to do to
survive, and to prove it, gives her a big kiss.
But halfway to the next Hunger Games comes the Victory
Tour. Katniss and Peeta take a train through the twelve districts, where
they get to see how different the world is. We get a lot of detail from
District 11, because this is where Rue was from. Unlike District 12,
this one has a live fence to keep the people in. Peeta gives a nice warm
speech at the ceremony, and just as they are ready to leave the balcony
in the square, Katniss suddenly gives a heartfelt speech of her own, praising Rue
and earning cheers from the crowd. But people take up the mockingjay
call, which results in a television shutdown and the victors being
ushered away. Nobody is permitted to show any act of defiance toward the
Capitol, and at least a couple of them have been shot in public view.
It turns out the other districts are ready for
revolution as well, which is good, because otherwise this world is truly
a depressing one. The first book looked like a young girl beating
adversity, but it was much more than that. Katniss and Peeta's last act
of defiance at the end of the Hunger Games stirred up revolts in several
districts. Her mockingjay pin has become a symbol for the rebellion.
And because of her and Peeta's defiant speeches during
the public tour, things in District 12 change again, but not for the
better -who could think it could get worse? One day while she and Gale go out into the forest, they have a
fight, and when she gets back in, she sees that Gale has been captured
by new police and is being whipped. She tries to intervene and gets
lashings, herself, which upsets her make-up artists when they arrive (so
naive, those people from the Capitol).
For at the end of their tour, Peeta proposed to
Katniss, so their wedding is being planned now, for the public. The
President himself has told Katniss to try harder at making her love for
Peeta real, to avoid stirring up trouble for
the Capitol, but by the end of the tour, she has failed. He promises to have
her mother, sister and Gale tortured or killed. Katniss really has two
choices, and she does both. She sulks around, wondering what her life is
worth now, then she talks to Gale and they think of ways they could stir
up rebellion in District 12.
But with the new police force, things are harder for
everyone, especially the black market, which goes up in smoke one day.
Then, when Katniss sneaks out again, they electrify the fence, and she
has trouble getting back in. Fortunately, a massive snowstorm stalls
everything in the district for a couple of weeks, and things settle down
That's when the next bombshell is dropped: in
celebration of the 75th Hunger Games, twenty four previous winners will
be sent back! Being the only female from District 12 means Katniss once
again gets to go.
The detail in the first person perspective by this
author is incredible. Every emotion from the teenage main character is
raw. She jumps to conclusions, takes rash action, and wonders about
everything she holds dear, which is so very little, anymore. Especially
since she understands, now, the larger world, and how the Capitol is
exploiting it. The people who live there are completely unaware of how
tough it is to live in some of the districts.
And they really enjoy the Hunger Games.
As can be imagined, Katniss doesn't take well to
getting back in the Games. At the training, she is detached, not wanting
to get to know all the others, some of whom are very old, and others who
are in the prime of their lives. But she trains before the Games, and
she trains in the Capitol, watching videos of the winners of the
previous games, to better learn their styles and skills. Instead of
impressing the judges with her prowess with a bow (she does gain the
admiration of most candidates as she shoots down target after target,
though), she mocks them, and so does Peeta, in his own way.
It might seem like a cheat, having the characters go
through the Arena twice in two books. But the arenas and the moods are
very different from one another. For one thing, all the candidates have
been in an arena before, and won. They know how to play the game. For
another, most of them are playing a different game, now. During the
interview, they all say how sad it is that this couple, which the
Capitol loved so much, are being forced to fight again. Cinna, Katniss'
designer, turns her wedding-interview gown into a burning mockingjay for
all the Districts to see. Peeta, being such a good speaker, tells the
crowd how they already are married in the ways of District 12, and that
Katniss is pregnant (both lies, of course, but used to stir up sympathy).
Meanwhile, Katniss is still made to suffer. The old
peacekeeper chief from District 12 has been rendered mute and forced to
serve her. Just before she is raised into the arena, Cinna is beaten and
taken away before her eyes for his act of defiance. Inside the arena,
she hears mockingjays screeching in terror with Prim's voice.
But almost all of the candidates are coming to protect
Peeta when he is in need. One uses CPR training to revive him after he
hits a forcefield. Another sacrifices herself to a deadly fog so
somebody can carry Peeta to safety. Still another takes a vicious monkey
bite to the chest, dying, after throwing herself between the monkey and
Peeta. Katniss doesn't understand, but her goal in this game is to make
Peeta survive, so as long as their goals are the same as hers, she
doesn't question it out loud. Inside, though, she wonders what is going
on, and this is the real strength of the book. It should seem obvious to
the reader that everyone is rebelling against the Capitol by trying to
save Peeta. But Katniss is distrustful by nature, and it's nice to see
her jump to the wrong conclusions. It's also interesting to see her fool
herself. She has convinced herself that she no longer cares about
anything in this world, and that it would be best for everyone if she
dies in the arena. That way, there would be no point in the Capitol
torturing her mother or sister or Gale. But she wants to protect Peeta,
to make sure that good heart survives. But she doesn't really understand
what kind of survivor she is, and it is with that she is able to fool
The Arena this time is shaped like a clock, and every
hour something new appears in one-twelfth of it, from the mockingjays,
to lightning, the monkeys, a huge tidal wave, flesh-devouring bugs, the
fog, and others. When the candidates are thinned considerably, one
electrical specialist, Beetee, devises a plan to use the lightning to
electrocute the players who are not part of their group. But this, too,
is a ruse, to fool the Capitol. Instead, he was supposed to deflect the
lightning with his wire and his knife into the forcefield, shorting it
But as usual, nobody's plans go as planned, and Beetee
dies somehow -possibly from one of the non-aligned players. At the last
moment, to thwart everybody and save Peeta, she shoots a wire-coated
arrow into the forcefield, which serves the same purpose, but does a lot
more bodily damage. The last two chapters of the book are a sort of
chaos, as the survivors closest to the lightning tree are picked up by
the rebels, which include Haymitch and the creator of the clock-Arena.
But their enemies have taken Peeta, who Katniss could not abandon if she
tried. Then Gale is there with them, telling her that District 12 has
been bombed out of existence! And that they are headed for District 13,
the old district that revolted and was presumed to be completely
destroyed, too. Rumor has it that this district is thriving, and with
their nuclear weapon threat the Capitol has not gone to war with them.
So this book ends on a cliff-hanger, too, but it is
much more of a desperate one, which makes the reader want even more, and
soon. I doubt I'll be able to wait so long before reading the third book
in the trilogy after this. But at the same time, I didn't want this book
to end, so I tried to spread out the end over several days before
finally finishing it. That's kind of how I feel about the series, too.