Have you ever watched a movie in which the wife is married to a jerk? When the man of her dreams comes along, you wish with all your heart that she could leave her slob of a husband and find happiness with the new man? I. Hate. Those. Movies. Because they manipulate me into elevating my flimsy feelings above what I know to be right.
I had similar feelings as I read Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Yes, there is the same heart-thumping action as book one. Yes, the themes of self-sacrifice are very real and powerful. But the love triangle is starting to wear on me. Katniss has strong feelings for Peetah because they’ve been through hell together in the arena, but she reserves her romantic feelings for Gale, her lifelong best friend. When she has bad dreams, however, she allows Peetah to hold her through the night. Blech. She hates herself for using him, but she can’t help it... You feel so sorry for her. She’s got so much to worry about - keeping her friends and family alive, etc. But I don’t like being manipulated into thinking that what she’s doing is justifiable.
And do you really want me to believe that this handsome hulk of a guy holds her through the night with nary a sexual impulse? Is this some feminist theme - that men are there for our needs, but we don’t need to be there for theirs? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want sex in these books. I just think it’s weird that this guy loves her so much that he can pretend that he doesn’t have hormones.
Off my soap box now. There are things to really like about Katniss. She eschews the empty-headed people from the Capitol who care only about clothes, tattoos and outlandish hairdos. She scorns “playboy” Finnik, comparing him to the lascivious Cray. She feels pity for the morphling addicts who need the drug to escape from reality. (She, herself, gets drunk once, but this is shown in a negative light.) In addition, she is constantly reaching out to the kind of people whom the world rejects. The main theme of book two is Katniss’ determination to give her life in exchange for Peetah’s. So aside from her ambivalence toward the men in her life, she is a very moral character.
Catching Fire has more gore than Hunger Games (book one) and more mentions of people in various forms of nakedness (no details though). I’d think twice before giving this to a young girl to read. Although the book ended with a great twist, I'm going to resist checking out the third book until I read a few others with less adrenaline-based plots.