I met up with a friend last summer (2013) and we got around to chatting about books. We moved on to movie adaptations and she said that Catching Fire, the second in The Hunger Games trilogy, was probably confusing to movie-goers who hadn't read the book. This pique my curiosity, having only watched the first movie, which I was repelled by because it was exactly what the author was supposedly attacking in her book, that watching people die was entertainment. Granted, in the movie the people do not die for real, obviously, but I still did not find young people killing each other "entertaining." A catch-22 for the author in some ways, because what she was against was exactly what would be most portrayed in a visual versus print medium.
Fast-forward a few months and I saw books one and two on another friend's shelf. The first book went along pretty much as I'd expected, having watched the movie, but Catching Fire, the second book, left me wishing that the author had made some different choices.
As much as I tried, I just could not like the main character, Katniss. In the first book, it's to be expected that she's a victim and struggling to comes to terms with what is happening. But in the second book, she has supposedly embraced her role as rebel, after realizing that even playing by the capitol's rules won't keep her safe. Yet she has no idea what is going on. I could forgive this perhaps, if the book were not written in first person. I wanted to be in on some secret plot, not contemplating how many times she was waxed or shaved by her stylists.
Katniss misses obvious clues that the author plants, like the man at the party showing her his mockingjay watch. She has contacts she does not use for information, like the mayor's daughter. She does not talk about things with the other characters. The goal was to get the comfortable capitol people to resist as well, so she could have at least asked her three upset stylists to talk about how unfair her imminent death was. She also could have said the wedding dress converting to a mockingjay was her idea since designing was supposed to be her hobby and she was about to die anyway, instead she lets Cinna be arrested. For being the supposed icon of the rebellion, she doesn't seem to be of much use at all.
And the head game designer a rebel? It seems like the author could have used that more to Katniss' advantage, such as putting in some secret helps or less-deadly things somehow, or at least giving her more information.
What I really wanted to happen was for the players to band together and refuse to play at all. They were past winners, they had already played by the rules and won, yet here they were again, set up to die. It seemed to me like they would have revolted from playing by the rules a second time around. Why play by the rules when the people who set the rules are accountable to no one and can change them at will? What a powerful scene that could have been, for them to have secretly arranged to not fight each other. Would the game makers try to kill them off? Would they stop televising the game? Perhaps the players could survive within the clock with the help of the rebel game designer, and then what would the capitol do?
The book did not take this turn.
Catching Fire is one of the few books where I enjoyed the screenplay more than the original. For me, Katniss is a stronger character onscreen then in the book. To be fair to the author, I am not a huge fan of dystopian worlds; I want things to work out. I also like characters who tell it like it is and speak their minds. My preferences are not her fault, so I must also point out that Suzanne Collins did an amazing job creating a believable, alternate world and characters I could care about.