Sunday, May 6, 2012

Overview of CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins


CATCHING FIRE is the second book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy. CATCHING FIRE focuses on the third Quarter Quell, an especially intense version of the Hunger Games that occurs every twenty-five years. The seventy-fifth annual Hunger Games is thus the third Quarter Quell.

CATCHING FIRE opens with Katniss and Peeta, victors of the seventy-fourth Hunger Games, going on their victory tour. Half-way between each Hunger Games, the previous year's victor is required to participate in a victory tour, visiting each district and the Capitol. This keeps the Hunger Games in the forefront of the districts' minds and forces the districts to celebrate the victor of the Games in which their own children were killed. The victory tour of Katniss and Peeta reveals that several of the districts are on the verge of rebelling against the Capitol.

Most of CATCHING FIRE is devoted to the seventy-fifth Hunger Games, or the third Quarter Quell. In the first Quarter Quell (the twenty-fifth Hunger Games), the districts were required to vote on the boy and girl tribute rather than have them chosen by lot. In the second Quarter Quell (the fiftieth Hunger games), each district was required to send twice as many tributes, so that there were two boy and two girl tributes from each of the twelve districts. This was the year that Katniss and Peeta's mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, became victor.

For the third Quarter Quell, the tributes are reaped, not from the pool of all 12- to 18-year-old boys and girls in each district, but from the pool of existing victors in each district. In District 12, Katniss is the only living female tribute, and Peeta and Haymitch are the only living male tributes. Katniss inevitably becomes the female tribute from District 12, and when Haymitch's name is drawn in the Reaping, Peeta volunteers to take his place. So Katniss and Peeta are forced to participate in the Hunger Games two years in a row.

The arena for the seventy-fifth annual Hunger Games is perfectly round. Upon being raised into the arena, the tributes find themselves standing on metal plates surrounded by water. They must swim to an island in the middle of the arena.

It becomes apparent that the arena is a clock. A different horror is triggered, hour by hour, in each succeeding wedge of the clock, beginning with an electric storm at midnight and at noon. Other hours trigger a poisonous fog, attacks by vicious monkeys, jabberjays screaming torturously in the voices of the tributes' loved ones, a bloody wave, clicking insects, and some sort of beast that tears its prey to pieces.

Katniss and Peeta form an alliance with Beetee of District 3, Finnick Odair of District 4, and Johanna Mason of District 7. Two other members of the alliance, Wiress of District 3 and Mags of District 4, are killed. Unexpectedly, a hovercraft appears on Day 3 and rescues Katniss, Beetee, and Finnick. Peeta and Johanna are captured by the Capitol, along with the one other surviving tribute, Enobaria of District 2.

Upon being rescued, Katniss, Beetee, and Finnick are taken to District 13, which really does exist, after all. Katniss learns that District 12 has been destroyed by the Capitol. Those who survived from District 12, including Gale, are now living in District 13.

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