The silver lining to waiting in endless lines at Comic-Con was that it finally gave me the opportunity and the excuse to start reading the second Hunger Games book. And read I did. In the course of the five days we were in San Diego, I finished both Catching Fire and Mockingjay; they’re just that good. Fair warning: If you haven’t read the first book, this review will obviously contain some spoilers.
At the end of the Hunger Games, we left Catniss and Peeta as they were returning home to District 12. Did she love him? Did she love Gale? Would President Snow leave them alone? The second book picks up about six months after the end of the games as Catniss and Peeta are about to embark on their victory tour of all the districts. Life is more stable for the family of Catniss but she is still miserable; torn between Gale and Peeta, trying to forget the games. Of course, the victory tour is strategically placed to make forgetting impossible. This tour, however, is not like the others before it. Catniss and Peeta defied the Capital by forcing the gamemakers to name them both winners. Little did they know that their small act of defiance could seed thoughts of rebellion in the citizens of the districts. President Snow, on the other hand, is all to aware and pays Catniss a visit before the tour; threatening to take everything away if she does not sell the story that she and Peeta were so in love that they could not help themselves. And she comes to realize that, for the rest of her life, she will have to perpetuate that lie if the Capital is to be satisfied.
Along the route of the victory tour we learn a little more about each of the districts; about what they look like and what they produce. These descriptions fill out the setting of the series a bit more and, since this takes place in the former USA, makes it possible to think about what former states or regions each district occupies. During the tour, each district throws a celebration for the victors. On this victory tour, some of the celebrations veer from their normal course. Catniss, despite her best intentions, serves only to further ignite the rebellious feelings that she sparked during the games. When they finally return to District 12 (the last stop) Catniss inadvertently sees proof that she has failed at the mission that President Snow had given her.
The year after Catniss and Peeta win is the year of the 75th annual Hunger Games. It is special because every 25 years, the Capital comes up with something uniquely horrific for the “Quarter Quell.” For this one, it is declared that the tributes must come from the pool of living winners in each district. Which, in District 12, means that Catniss has to go and will be accompanied by either Peeta or Haymitch. Devastated and feeling guilty, she devises a plan with Haymitch to ensure that Peeta goes to the games and will emerge victorious. Little does she know that Haymitch has a plan of his own for both of them. Catniss gets the feeling that she is being used in a scheme, the details of which she is not privy to. That feeling only intensifies as those around her hint at greater plans and/or are singled out and beaten by the Capital. These games have a much different outcome than what was intended.