The Hunger Games are over, but Katniss Everdeen still can’t relax, for their shadow casts a pall over her life. Oh, sure, she has more money than she knows what to do with, and her family is no longer in any danger of starvation, but her best friend in the world is keeping her at arm’s length, and the one person she’d come to rely on during the games – Peeta Mellark, the boy sent there with her – has frozen her out completely. To make matters worse, the two of them have to pretend to be deliriously in love during the upcoming Victory Tour when they will tour each of the twelve Districts, so that the Capitol won’t devise some sort of horrible punishment for their daring to beat them at their own Game.
All this might be bearable, might change with time, but what Katniss is about to learn is that time is one thing that she doesn’t have. Soon enough she will discover that the Games didn’t end when she and Peeta left the arena. In fact, the Games are just beginning…
I enjoyed this book. It didn’t capture me as well as the last, but it was a good read, and the characters stayed consistent, which is lovely to see. Have to admit that while I don’t particularly find Katniss likeable as a character, I do find her real. She tends towards the selfish, and is so absorbed in her own world and its problems that she really can’t see what is going on around her; can’t put the pieces together in enough time to save the one she most wants to, and I think that is what makes her relatable, because it is so true to life. Katniss’ real fault is being unable to clearly see those around her – we saw this in The Hunger Games when she didn’t realize until the end that Peeta was really in love with her (although the entire world could see it), and we see it again in Catching Firewith her “allies” (I understood fairly quickly what was going on there, but I like that Katniss didn’t – it keeps with her character). I adored Peeta and Katniss’ dedication to keeping the other alive at all costs, and their heated arguments over who should be the one to return home. I did (and do) feel sad when I think that Peeta has no one to live for aside from Katniss, and I think that is where the book lost its five-star rating with me. I know that some people find it romantic when one of the pair cannot live without the other, but I don’t. I mean, I’m sure (I hope) that Peeta is deliberately playing the melodrama to convince Katniss that she should be the one to live, but it still makes me twitch uncomfortably. There is life outside of your romantic partner, kiddo, go out and find it.
That said, I once again enjoyed the side characters (still don’t particularly care for Haymitch; I really think it was Woody Harrelson that made him likeable in the movie), especially Finnick and Johanna. President Snow was properly creepy, and I liked that his worry over what Katniss represents is showing through tighter control on the Districts. I also like that he was playing with her as much as he feels she played with him during the first Hunger Games. It isn’t nice, no, but it fits. Oh, does it fit.