Catching Fire Discussion, Part 1

REMINDER: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD

It seems fitting to start off with something that plays such a huge part in both books. So, here’s the first question posed to our authors:

When writing series and sequels, it’s important to maintain continuity but avoid repetition. What are your thoughts about Kat and Peeta’s re-entrance to the arena (and their experience there) compared to the previous adventure?

K.A. Holt:
I was initially very disappointed that Kat and Peeta were going back to the arena. I remember thinking that I wanted a *sequel* to the Hunger Games, not a rehashing of it. However, as the Games proceeded, I was caught up in the story and the potential for rebellion and I enjoyed it very much. That said, I do wonder if Collins could have achieved the same messages if she would have tried something different. Maybe Prim and Gale could have been chosen for the Games, in order to punish Kat (and we wouldn’t need the contrivance of the Quarter Quell). Maybe there could have been a switcheroo with mentors, where a Careers district mentor was forced to “mentor” District 12, and Kat and Peeta were forced to “mentor” different districts. This would let us see the Games, behind-the-scenes. And it would give lots of opportunity for duel-purposed strategies and questionable silver parachutes. Too complicated? Probably. I just wanted something a bit different – something to show bolder attempts from Kat and the Capitol to thwart each other.

Joni Sensel:
Personally, I thought the whole Quarter Quell thing was pretty contrived, not just repetitious, and if I were to believe it, an even more egregious example of how President Snow and/or the administration in the book’s world was too stupid to have held onto power even this long (although at least the resulting events demonstrated the failure of their philosophy of control). But I put that reaction aside and certainly enjoyed the story regardless, and I thought Collins did a good job of making the events and emotions that followed different from what happened in the first book. The differences in the game setup the second time around, and the differing relationships with the other players, made the game itself seem very different, so that was also great.

Linda Joy Singleton:
When I first read the part about going back into the arena, I was shocked. I never saw this coming and didn’t want to go through that blood-bath again. It did feel contrived, like just repeating what worked the first time. But it was handled well and the arena was very interesting with the clock design. There were plenty of surprises and the people I cared about most survived. I liked the resourcefulness of Kat and the relationship with Peeta. The ending was partly what I suspected in how Kat connected with others, but a surprise, too. It left me wanting more…definitely a cliff hanger.

P.J. Hoover:
I have to admit I was shocked that Suzanne Collins chose to send Katniss and Peeta back into the arena. My thoughts at the time were, “really?” That said, I trusted the author and, of course, read on. And I have to say Ms. Collins did a great job of glancing over the parts that would have seemed redundant (much of the preparations) and of making the playing field much different. The games felt like more of a bonding experience, and the question was never who was going to die but more how the author would choose to end the novel. And I have to say, I was completely pleased with the ending.

Second question:
Given that this series deals with survival, there will obviously be bloodshed and casualties. How did your view of the violence in this novel compare to the previous one?

Parker Peevyhouse:
I was originally reluctant to pick up the first book in the series because I don’t do well with lots of violence. However, I think in both Catching Fire and The Hunger Games, Collins does well to avoid graphic descriptions and include just enough information for us to understand the horror of violence without being overwhelmed by it. That said, I’m apprehensive about the film treatment Hunger Games is undergoing–seeing someone get killed is much more disturbing than reading a vague description of it.

Jo Whittemore:
That’s funny, because physical violence doesn’t terrify me nearly as much as mental torture.
In fact, I loved the image Collins painted with the phrase:
“her throat slit open in a bright red smile.”
As far as mental torture, this book was so much creepier to me than the first. From the very beginning (where Kat realizes that if she makes one wrong step with the Capitol, all their lives are forfeit) to getting ready for the Quarter Quell (when she runs into her friend who’s now an Avox, and there’s nothing she can do for him) to the spinning clock in the arena (where will the terror come from next?) to specifically the jabberjays (hearing your family members cry out in torture and knowing it’s not them but wondering if it might be because it sounds SO real). If Collins ever went to work for the government, she could get any hardened criminal to spill his deepest, darkest secrets with her torture techniques!

Third and final question today (since this post is looong).
Thoughts on the Gale/Kat/Peeta love triangle?

P.J. Hoover:
A couple thoughts here. Gale seems the more desirable choice, as he portrays “the bad boy”. Peeta is just too nice. I’m not sure how many teen girls will pick the nice guy over the “bad boy.” That said, Gale is not given much screen time. I found myself wanting him on screen much more (and I’m sure this is because I want Katniss to choose him because he is the “bad boy”). I really hope in book three we get to see more of Gale. It’s set up for this to be the case.

Parker Peevyhouse:
I have to say it–I was so bored by the love triangle this time around. In fact, I didn’t really like the story until the games started. I wouldn’t have minded skipping all the set-up–all of Katniss’s anxiety about her two loves and her indecision about whether to run away with either/both of them. But I still feel invested in Katniss’s future with either Peeta or Gale, and I think the only way she can really choose between them is for one of them to die. Probably Peeta will sacrifice his life for Katniss, and Katniss and Gale will be the reluctant new leaders of the Districts.

Sound off, readers! Even if you disagree, we’d love to hear from you!

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26 Comments

Filed under Joni Sensel, K. A. Holt, Linda Joy Singleton, P. J. Hoover, Parker Peevyhouse

26 responses to “Catching Fire Discussion, Part 1

  1. Oooh, I can’t wait to hear what other people think! Let the discussion begin!

  2. In response to Question 1, I felt like many of you did that going back to the arena was retreading old territory. Collins did manage to make it exciting, but I would have loved to see more of a twist. If the participants had refused to take part in the game, if they’d banded together and protested, now THAT would have been a twist!

    That said, I still raced through the book, eating up every word, and I can’t wait for the third one to come out. So even though I felt she might have missed an opportunity for something different by choosing to revisit a familiar theme, it was still a total page-turner.

    • One of the good things I can say about the arena experience is that it didn’t take up the entire book but was merely one of the sections, so that was nice. But yes, a slight bit of “Again?” at going back into battle.

  3. I love, love, love this book so I’m going to jump right into this discussion.
    (1)”What are your thoughts about Kat and Peeta’s re-entrance to the arena?”
    Eh. It wasn’t my favorite because it had been done before. I would have rather been taken behind the scenes (with Gale or someone else in the games) to see how Katniss worked from the other angle. We know she can survive in the games. But how would she handle being a mentor? That said, I still love everything about Katniss, so even though re-entering the Hunger Games was contrived, I still loved it. And it did provide my favorite kissing scene in the book :)

    (2) “How did your view of the violence in this novel compare to the previous one?”
    I’ve never felt particularly affected by violence in books, so neither book bothered me in that aspect. I will cringe if the movies are gory or overly bloody.

    (3) Thoughts on the Gale/Kat/Peeta love triangle?
    I can’t decide who I love more. They’re both devoted and reliable guys. I usually feel Team Peeta, but I think it’s because I feel a bit sorry for him. He’s such a great guy and so utterly in love with a girl that can’t express her feelings for him. It’s gut wrenching. Gale on the other hand is masculine and sexy and yummy. I’ve loved him since the beginning of the first book, when he peeled Prim off Katniss. And my heart goes out to his pain, in watching the girl he loves get publicly engaged to another guy. Ouch.

    • I’m also a Team Peeta member. Yes, Gale is a great guy, but Peeta let himself get beaten when he was a kid so that Kat could have food. His heart is so freaking huge, I would be crushed if Kat crushed HIM.

    • “But how would she handle being a mentor?”

      Me, too! I was REALLY looking forward to seeing that… having her character have to care for somebody she maybe didn’t already care for, or have the frustration of knowing what needed to be done in the arena but unable to do it herself, or realize that her decisions for when to send help and what to send might risk someone else’s life, not just hers, etc. So I was pretty disappointed that route wasn’t taken (and, it would seem, won’t be). It would have been a terrific character crucible.

    • Parker Peevyhouse

      Megan, I too thought that it would have been interesting to see how Katniss did as a mentor. I thought that’s what this book would be about.

      But am I the only one that ended up being glad that we went back into the arena? I thought that was the most interesting part of the book.

  4. I was surprised about the Quarter Quell, but it worked for me. The clock set up in the arena I found odd.

    The ending was a muddle. Once Katniss hits the force field and everyone’s rescued, it was hard for me to buy the rebellion underway, the secrecy, all that.

    I love the idea someone mentioned earlier about Gale and Prim having to go into the arena. That would have been interesting.

    As for the love triangle, I feel sorry for Gale. He has no chance with Peeta around. PJ, I can’t see what’s “bad boy” about him. His desire to rebel? I have to say it was frustrating in The Hunger Games that Katniss couldn’t get it through her head that he truly liked her. I found this a bit unbelieveable.

    Overall, I’m really enjoying this series and think the “violence as entertainment” theme is so important to address in our culture.

    • Anonymous

      When I read Catching Fire I was not expecting them to go back into the arena, I was expecting books 2 and 3 more about Katniss bringing down the Capitol, but it worked for me anyways

      I love the Hunger Games and Catching Fire,and I can’t wait for book 3 and the movie. :D

      Themockingjay.vndv.com

  5. When writing series and sequels, it’s important to maintain continuity but avoid repetition. What are your thoughts about Kat and Peeta’s re-entrance to the arena (and their experience there) compared to the previous adventure?

    -You know, I agree that the re-appearance of the Games was weak–contrived and repetitive. I was initially disappointed, then I felt better about it when I realized most of the players were in on the rebellion, then, when I finished the book, I found myself wishing that Katniss had been more of a part of the rebellion. What made the first book so good is that Katniss fought back. Everything, from hamming to the camera to the berries at the end, was a form of rebellion–she knew the game within the Game, and she was playing it. That made it enticing. But here–she was playing for survival, not rebellion. She’d practically given up rebellion–and that made the second Games less exciting.

    Second question:
    Given that this series deals with survival, there will obviously be bloodshed and casualties. How did your view of the violence in this novel compare to the previous one?

    -I was totally cool with it. Loved it.

    Third and final question today (since this post is looong).
    Thoughts on the Gale/Kat/Peeta love triangle?

    I thought for sure that the second book would focus on Gale, and the third would be the big decision maker.

    But now I think that the second book–which focused more on Peeta–was just a catalyst for laying in the groundwork that Peeta will be chosen.

    I’m not sure if Collins wanted a triangle. I think she wanted Katniss with Peeta from the beginning, and set the entire series up as a way to show Katniss’s evolution from Gale to Peeta.

    • “I think she wanted Katniss with Peeta from the beginning, and set the entire series up as a way to show Katniss’s evolution from Gale to Peeta.”

      I love that statement.

    • Parker Peevyhouse

      Interesting thoughts on Gale and Peeta! You might be right about Gale being “the guy from the past” rather than a current contender for Katniss’s affections.

    • Sunny

      I think she never wanted Peeta and Kat to fall in love, and I don’t think they ever will, once Kat has an actual choice (without the capitol on her heels) she’ll choose Gale. She doesn’t love Peeta, she wants someone to connect with, which, I think, is why is seems like they are in love, but really she is only with him because he is the only other person there. Gale, on the other hand, is meant for her and shares her rebelious personality.

  6. Beth, I certainly hope you are right with that. I don’t want our bread boy to die. He’s just so sweet. And I can’t personally believe he is going to die, not at least at first because way too much groundwork was laid for him being a great speaker and being able to move people with his words. That has to come to fruition.

    I LOVE everyone’s comments on the re-entrance of the Hunger Games. I had never thought of a “behind the scenes” build up of the rebellion and not knowing who to trust, but I think that is brilliant. I think there was some serious lost potential there (and a great opportunity to know and understand the other winners). However, I really did like seeing how the Games could change and the serious threats they came up with this time around. It really did make for a new experience.

  7. I enjoyed the boo, but did feel the whole quarter quell thing and rentering the games was contrived. Really Snow could have just offed Kat without too much trouble right from the get go, IMO.

    That said, I did like the unity perspective in the games. It meant the whole thing wasn’t a rehash, but I have to admit KA Holt’s idea of how the book could have come about with Kat and Peeta mentoring Kat’s sister could have shown us a much more unique book. I love your ideas KA!

    The love triangle…meh. Wasn’t much of a triangle if you ask me. Gale was barely in the book. When he was strapped to the pole, I was worried Collins might go for the cheap shot and kill him off to make it easier for Kat to choose Peeta, and I was very glad she didn’t do it.

  8. Evannejalina

    I want to bring up a subject that rely bugs me about the first book. After the games when shes in the hospital and finds that all her scars have been removed, it rely upsets me. Now, before you call me crazy, here is why. Those scars where a mark of the hardship she had endured throughout the entire games, her whole life, and to have them taken away was almost like the capitol was taking away her trophy of endurence, almost like they were covering up just how brutal the games are. She earned every one of those scars and they where taken away! Any thoughts?

    • I think it is to show even more how much control they have. They can’t even let you have proof of your endurance and that they can strip even that from you. I thought that was a powerful message of control. At first I was very angry as well, and then I realized why. To strip that identity from you, when it is something you have earned and fought for, that is invasive in a way that is cruel. I thought it was very well done. It made me hate the Capital all the more because of that one simple act.

    • Sunny

      I think that is the very reason they took away her scars, to show she never really did anything. Even if she did win, the government needs to keep down what makes her look strong, she has to look like she is under the control of the government.

  9. Megan

    In response to the first question, it seemed like Collins repeated just enough of the Hunger Games so you knew what was going on. A friend of mine read Catching Fire without reading the Hunger Games, and she says that it still makes sense because Collins explains everything well. Although, in my opinion, the games are the most important part of the story, and they were my favorite part, too, so I was sad that Katniss and Peeta weren’t in the games longer.

  10. jenny

    I do have a question and I’m eager to see what everyone’s thoughts are. At the end of the book, Gale says to Katniss “there is no district 12″. Could it be that district 12 never existed?

    The capital parades them thru district 12, whereas 13 is thought to be destroyed (although now we know otherwise).

    It’s just that “there is no district 12″ sounds more like it was never part of panem and never existed at all than “district 12 was destroyed”.

    Thoughts?

  11. BBLibaraian

    I agree – some people say they thought it meant District 12 was destroyed, but that doesn’t sit right with me. It’s something more mysterious and sinister….

  12. Sunny

    I have three ideas: I think “there is no district 12″ is just Gales way of saying everyone else Katniss ever knew is now dead and gone. If he had said “district 12 was destroyed” it gives a lot less impact than “there is no district 12″. Also if district 12 wasn’t destroyed, why would Kitniss’s family have had to be rescued? Or else maybe, he means the capitol will treat 12 like they do 13, by telling everyone it doesn’t exist, the people from 12 could hide underground in the mines. Or maybe Gale and the rest of the people doing the rescue are all lying, maybe they are lying to try to keep Katniss from running away, back to 12. We know she wants to rebel, and we know she loves many people in the Seam, so she would be willing to go back.

  13. Kendall

    Th eony thing that i bothered me in Catching Fire was the ‘prgnancey’. Wouldn’t the capitol test her or something to see if she really was pregnant?

  14. Melanie

    I thought it was kind of strange too when Peeta said how there was no District 12. To me it seemed like he meant that there have never been a district 12 either, but then what would it actually be?

    I also was a little skeptical when they went into another Hunger Games, since in my opinion it seemed like one was plenty. But soon I got into the plot and it was also good that the second Hunger Games didn’t take up the entire book. I liked how Collins made the second Hunger Games different from the first, too, by including the former surviving tributes.

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