Sparks are igniting, flames are spreading and the Capitol wants revenge.
Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
Okay, remember how we talked about there being very little romance in THG? This one is different. There’s a lot of talk about choices and love and time, the last of which Katniss doesn’t have enough of. She’s confused about where she stands with almost everyone when she returns from the Games. Prim has grown up, her mother is better, and Gale is off to the mines, not allowing Katniss to help his family with her wealth. Peeta lives in the Victors Village, but he and Katniss have a cool relationship at best after the revelations at the end of THG. When Gale is caught bringing in poached game by the new Head Peacekeeper, he’s whipped and Katniss makes her first decision. She chooses Gale, and in a less messed up world, she would have had him. I fully supported her decision to choose Gale when I read the first time, because what she says is true. Her romance with Peeta is Capitol-created, and she can’t trust anything tainted by the Capitol. Sadly, her circumstances change, and her chances with Gale diminish if not completely fade away. By the end of this book, Katniss realizes something that doesn’t change: “I realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me.”
This book is so bittersweet because we get to meet other victors, real people with real lives and children and homes and dreams. Finnick is a particularly hard one to stomach, because he is awesome and hilarious and broken like the rest of them, and his life is not a happy one. Katniss has to make alliances with people she will eventually have to kill, and that is something that really struck me. Katniss is introverted, more likely to consider the scenarios most likely to win than to consider the feelings of others. Haymitch gave up on her in THG during the first round of interviews, calling her sullen and hostile. She still is, of course, and has even more reason to be now, but she finds she can care for people and want to help them while still being trapped in the hell that is the arena.
This book loses a star only because I wanted more horror in the arena. It’s not really the same when a bunch of adults are trying to kill each other. Part of the shock was that there were kids as young as twelve fighting and killing for entertainment. Sure, Katniss’ allies are killed and she kills in return, but there’s none of the uncertainty, none of the overwhelming fear, none of the dread. It’s not quite the same. And the cliffhanger this books ends on should be illegal, which is why I’m zipping right on to Mockingjay next. You’ll see it here soon!