Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 24-26)

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After a long weekend, I was very excited to get back into Catching Fire today. It’s strange how some weekends can feel more like work than the work week does. I had so much to do! Yesterday, I did six loads of laundry – not to mention all of the cooking and cleaning I had to do.

Adulting is a lot of work.

Thankfully, I had some free time today to crack open this book. And, by crack open, I mean turning on my phone, of course. While I have a huge soft spot for hard copies of books, particularly books I love, they feel almost impossible to keep on hand at all times. I’m notorious for refusing to carry a purse so there’s just nowhere for me to hide my books. Maybe I should get a backpack?

I do really miss the smell of a new book. It’s unlike anything other.

Even though I was super busy cleaning all weekend, my tasks gave me plenty of time to think about The Hunger Games series. My brain kept coming back to these books over and over again. While I’ve mentioned in previous posts how strongly I feel about this series, I don’t know if I’ve ever taken the time to make direct comparisons between President Snow and the actions of our own politicians. Listening to the news as I cleaned made me realize that many politicians come across just as deceitful and cunning as Snow does. They have the same kind of falsified charm and wit. They spout horrifyingly similar lies about prosperity and caring about the common man.

It’s just crazy the stories you hear on the news and I’ve never really thought about American politicians in the context of The Hunger Games before. At least, not as far as I can recall. This is perhaps due to the fact that I avoid watching the news as much as possible. So much of it comes across as biased propaganda that it’s hard to stomach. Of course, that, too, directly ties into what is put on screen in Panem. Their propaganda is just a little more straight forward about what it is.

However, beyond just hearing things on the news as I cleaned, I also heard a story from a friend of mine that somewhat relates to this concept. They told me about a relatively local aspiring politician who had to step aside from politics and pursue a different career route. They had had big dreams of making wonderful changes for this country, but, when it came down to it, they couldn’t aspire for more than the success they had already obtained. Why? Because, in order to move forward, he would have to compromise on his own values and act in manners that he considered corrupt, or deceitful. He wouldn’t be able to move up in the political world without acting in a manner he considered dishonest.

How horrible is that? The fact that an up and coming politician felt blocked in by refusing to act in a corrupt manner? Considering the upcoming election, things like this scare me. This is how you end up with a dystopian world. This was the first real moment in my life where I could imagine a universe like the one in The Hunger Games emerging. Panem isn’t so far off when our politicians already act like President Snow.

And that’s part of the reason why dystopian fiction matters, at least to me. These things may seem scary and far off, but, as I’ve gotten older and learned more about the world, they feel strangely realistic. It’s gotten progressively easier to imagine a world where the corruption and lies of Panem are commonplace in the real world. The fiction we are fed could be uncannily similar. It’s hard to tell what is actually happening in the world when you can’t trust your leaders. While we may never go to the extremes that a book goes to, it’s scary to think what our limits actually are. Do we have any?

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.


Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, for the chapter that they are covering.

Chapter Twenty Four

Once again I find myself asking how Suzanne Collins comes up with this stuff. Using Prim’s screams as a form of torture against Katniss is just sick and twisted. To be blunt, it’s the work of an absolute sadist. Is there something dangerous to be found in the dark recesses of Collin’s mind? She essentially writes war stories for children. There must be something to say about that. 

Personally, however, I think her work is brilliant. It may be sick and twisted at times, but so is life. The Hunger Games is genius and it calls attention to real world problems in an utterly unique way. Somehow it manages to bring up things like the consequences of pollution, the impact of popular media, and the dangers of unchecked technological innovation without sounding boring. And, of course, it manages to do all of this while also deeply analyzing the human mind and human society at large. 

What would you do to survive in a world that looks like this? What could you justify if your government told you it was the right thing to do? Is it more moral to rebel and potentially cause thousands of deaths, or to slowly watch the people around you suffer and die? Who decides what the right thing to do is? A teenage girl, marked for death by a corrupted, sadistic president? 

However, these questions can be deep and dark. They’re hard to ask and the scenes that surround them can be even harder to process. Some of them are so gory that it almost surprised me that I first started this series at such a young age. I almost understand the groups of people who claim that The Hunger Games takes it too far. While I don’t necessarily agree with book bans, I can see why some schools have banned these books. They’re harsh. They can even be traumatizing for some people. 

Yet, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in no way, shape, or form romanticize the more violent disturbing aspects of the series. They call attention to violence, yes. But they never make it sound like a good idea. Instead, they explain, in explicit details, that violence is terrifying and hard to contain. It has consequences that ripple outwards in ways that no one can accurately foresee. 

In my opinion, that is what makes reading books like these so vital. They’re a great way to teach students about larger social concepts. The content of the books will grab their attention and the subtext can be used to educate teenage students on subjects like social psychology, the side effects of trauma, memory, prejudice, governmental bodies, and even our own history. Plus, the writing is excellent and makes for a wonderful addition to any English curriculum. Provided these books are being taught in the right context, with plenty of discussion, they’re really beneficial in helping young people better understand the real world. 

However, back to the book itself, the idea of a group of adults coming up with the plan of using the voices of loved ones against the tributes is absolutely brutal. It was completely devastating to imagine the pain Katniss felt at hearing Prim and her other loved ones scream for help. They were in agony. Katniss had no idea what was happening and no way to help them. Was Prim being tortured? Was she even alive? Finnick also had to listen to the screams of his loved one, Annie. 

The fact that Beetee later explained that the jabberjays could be programmed to replicate the sound of screams they have never heard themselves has little effect on how horrifying this is. Prim was never tortured. Annie was fine. The mental consequences of spending an hour, trapped, listening to the sounds of their screams? Katniss and Finnick will never be the same, particularly because of how fiercely protective they are of their loved ones.

Considering their involvement in the games, I found myself wondering if both of them are so intensely protective because of the traumas they themselves have faced. They definitely don’t want others to experience what they have experienced, and they both have an understandably deep seeded distrust of Panem. The psychological toll of the games have probably intensified their desire to keep their loved ones safe. They know the dangers of the games.

It is also somewhat interesting that both Katniss and Finnick love people who, arguably, won the game because of sheer luck, not necessarily skill or aptitude. They don’t love vicious killers, but, instead, love people who come across as more innocent and pure than the other victors do. It would have been interesting to see how Finnick interacted with Annie on a regular basis. Did he try to shelter and protect her like Katniss does with Peeta? Did he make a deal with Mags for Mags to volunteer in Annie’s place? How alike are Katniss and Finnick truly?

And yet, even with all of this room for thought, I could never forget out why the Gamemakers felt like this sadistic form of mental torture was necessary to include in the Quarter Quell. Most games, even the previous Quarter Quell, seemed to focus more on physical forms of terror. You’re at risk of dying due to poison or fireballs or floods. Not necessarily so much as risk of going insane because the Gamemakers want to toy with your emotions. Even for them, the inclusion of the jabberjays seems overly sadistics.

For that reason, part of me thinks that the inclusion of the jabberjays and the screams of Katniss’s loved ones was a result of President Snow’s involvement in the games. He hates Katniss more than anybody. He wants her to suffer for the national chaos she “caused.” He also seems to have some understanding with Katniss, similar to the one she has with Haymitch. They don’t necessarily require words in order to understand each other. Perhaps President Snow knew that the sound of her family’s screams would make her weak and vulnerable. It would hurt her and maybe reduce the chance that she would win the games. 

Following that horrifying scene, Peeta’s discussion with Katniss was positively heartbreaking. Listening to him try to convince her to live just shatters me. Promising her a life with her loved ones? It’s obviously something she wants very, very badly and it’s something he very much so wants her to have. Peeta would rather die in the games than have Katniss die, even if it means she’ll grow old and have a happy life with Gale instead of himself. The heroics of this are unimaginable. The romance of it all affects even me. 

Chapter Twenty-Five

During the beginning of this chapter, it was almost strange to me that Katniss had never even considered the possibility of winning. Not even a little bit. Not even when Peeta was practically trying to force her to consider a life with Gale. No matter what, she couldn’t imagine living in a world without Peeta in it. 

It might be romance at its finest, but usually I found thought processes like this more foolhardy than anything else. I’m not necessarily the self sacrificing type. I very much so want to live and have a hard time relating to characters who are willing to die for others. ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ for example, just felt silly. Why would you die for someone you barely know? It was made worse by the fact that both Romeo and Juliet were so young. 

However, unlike my sentiments during most books, I don’t find Katniss’s desire to sacrifice herself for Peeta to be foolish. It isn’t silly for her to sacrifice herself for Peeta. Their love isn’t based off of misplaced teenage illusions of love, but, instead, is based off of mutual suffering, overcoming challenges together, and genuinely getting to know and love each other. Katniss doesn’t want to die because of some fairytale love affair she’s told herself. She doesn’t even want to die. She just wants to save Peeta. 

And that’s romantic in a way that many other series have failed to capture for me. Sacrifice isn’t beautiful if you romanticize death. Instead, it’s disturbing. It’s the emotions behind self sacrifice that make it powerful. The explanation for the sacrifice is almost more important than the sacrifice itself, particularly in works of fiction.

Of course, many people consider ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to be a comedy, or satire, so I’m not necessarily alone in that sentiment. My teachers just never seemed to agree that Shakespeare was likely mocking the concept of true and immediate love. Anyways, before I go off onto a tangent about ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ let’s get back to Catching Fire

When Katniss begins discussing how to kill Brutus and Enobaria with the rest of her alliance, Beetee brings up the Gamemakers’ intervention in their last clash. They had interrupted the epic battle scene in order to move the Cornucopia and reset the arena. From Beetee’s perspective, this may have clued Enobaria and Brutus into the fact that the arena is a clock, particularly when the timing of the regularly scheduled attacks changed. 

What Beetee failed to mention, however, was the fact that the Gamemakers could be playing favorites. Interrupting the battle scene could have saved Brutus and Enobaria’s lives. They were severely outmatched. The Gamemakers might have just wanted a way to keep them alive and in the competition. Knowing that Katniss is so despised by the leaders of Panem, keeping her enemies in the games only makes sense. The more people in the games, the more likely Katniss is to die. In my opinion, that makes more sense than wanting to throw the games off kilter by changing the time table. 

Considering that Beetee’s plans to possibly kill Enobaria and Brutus would disadvantage everyone, I’m not surprised that the Gamemakers didn’t try to foil it. Maybe they assumed a less easy food source would distract Katniss from protecting herself. However, considering their reaction to how Haymitch won his own game by using their devices against his competitors, I wonder if they saw Beetee’s move with the wire coming or if they were similarly enraged by it. 

At the end of the chapter, we get back to the romance of Katniss and Peeta interacting. Unlike the first book, these moments are rare and in between. When she receives the pearl from Peeta, it gets my heart beating. Their relationship would make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, if not for the horrible conditions that they’re always in. 

However, Peeta’s understanding of Katniss is almost uncanny at times. Somehow he knows that his conversation with her about her being the one to return to District 12, and letting him die in the games, had the opposite impact on her. More than ever, she wants him to live. 

Chapter Twenty-Six

Collins really built up the romance these past few chapters just to horrify us by having them leave each other behind. Starting off this chapter by separating Katniss and Peeta was absolutely brutal. Why give me so much love just to turn around and drive me crazy with worry? 

All complaints aside, it’s very good writing and I’m absolutely hooked – even considering the fact that I’ve read this series dozens of times. I’ve just never been able to fully get past the feeling of being absolutely terrified for Katniss and Peeta. How can they stay safe if they split up? The first time I read Catching Fire, I was on the edge of my seat, trying to read as quickly as humanly possible. 

And that feeling is worsened by the fact that Johanna almost immediately turns around and attacks Katniss. Coming at her with a knife, digging it into Katniss’s flesh… It’s brutal. I remember being enraged by this the first time I read the series. How dare Johanna, the girl I admired for being so blunt and honest, be a traitor? 

It was even worse that I could completely understand why Johanna would attack Katniss. It was the best possible time for her to do so. Katniss received a perfect twelve in the interviews, was possibly the youngest and healthiest out of all of the other competitors, and is positively deadly. Killing her almost guarantees there won’t be a winner from District 12, particularly if Finnick was in on it and took out Peeta and Beetee while Katniss was away. It would be a smart move. 

That’s what makes it so confusing when Johanna doesn’t just kill Katniss outright. At least, of course, until you keep reading the book. If you’re reading along with these chapter-by-chapter analyses, keep reading!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 21)

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I cannot recommend this series enough. The Hunger Games series in general is resoundingly powerful writing. The characters, no matter how insignificant, are all dynamic and impactful. The scenarios they are put in come across as real, no matter how far-fetched they can be. Their interactions with each other are just stunning. It is amazing writing and, while I can’t imagine not having read this series yet, I definitely recommend it if you haven’t.

I really wanted to focus on chapter twenty one during this blog post. I think it’s one of the strongest chapters in the entire series. There’s so much going on, but even the smallest details matter. It’s one of those chapters that bring up a lot of things that I think about vaguely in other chapters. It helps make sense of everything that’s going on, but without feeling boring at all. If anything, it’s almost too exciting! There’s something being thrown at Katniss and Peeta every five seconds during this chapter and all of it is, of course, extremely dangerous.

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Twenty One Thoughts

I don’t really know how Suzanne Collins came up with everything she came up with. The Hunger Games universe is so detail oriented and creative that it’s hard to imagine coming up with half of it, let alone all of it. When I looked up what inspired her, it seems like it was a weird mix of reality television and war films. Can you imagine coming up with such an intense world with such a simple inspiration? There are so many levels to Panem that it’s just incredible. 

And why am I thinking about this, you may ask? At the end of chapter twenty, an ominous fog starts to roll in. It’s honestly the stuff horror movies are made of with its slow creep towards Katniss’s group of tributes. The horror is furthered when it immediately blisters Katniss’s skin upon contact. 

The fog itself may be a small tiny little detail, but it really adds to the growing fear of the Quarter Quell. Even the fog can kill you. And, while the fog itself is not the most creative invention (again, every horror movie ever seems to capitalize on our nonsensical fear of fog/the unknown), it’s the fog in conjunction with everything else that made me stop and think wow, she really did this. Catching Fire just blows my mind sometimes. 

Regardless, the fog was a really great plot device in general. It brought back to mind the danger of the games themselves while getting rid of the weakest link in Katniss’s alliance with Finnick – without having someone kill off one of the best characters in the entire Hunger Games series. The death of Mags was resoundingly powerful and utterly heroic. She once again sacrificed herself to save the lives of others, others far younger than herself to note. 

It may not have been the most painless death, but it was a huge moment for the series. Katniss has inspired people to sacrifice themselves for others, to stand up for others. While Mags may have sacrificed herself either way had the situation presented itself without Katniss’s involvement, she might not have done so in front of the entire nation. It was another example of someone from the districts sacrificing themselves for someone from another district. 

Because it was such a powerful moment, I wonder how the Gamemakers spun it. Even considering the fact that Mags was so aged compared to the rest of the tributes and no one genuinely expected her to emerge victorious, it must not help their case to have one tribute sacrifice themselves for the lives of others. Self sacrifice is not really the aim of the games. Turning districts into enemies of each other is. Promoting distrust is. Keeping people separate and weak is. Mags’ death didn’t really play into making people hate each other. Instead, everyone in Panem would probably go on to remember her fondly. If anything, her death could be used to bring people together.

And that’s kind of huge by itself, but from a political perspective… It once again draws my attention to the fact that President Snow’s decision to involve victors in the Quarter Quell was a gigantic mistake. If Snow was trying to show how he could still force the strongest of the strong to fight each other, even as life in the districts was falling apart due to the ongoing uprisings, he failed at that task in a lot of small ways. The fights were just not as vicious as previous games and the sacrifices being made by many tributes to protect the lives of others proves my point. The hand-holding at the interviews, the love of Panem for their victors, Mags volunteering for the games to begin with and then sacrificing herself to help save people who hail from outside of her own district… It all adds up and none of it looks good for Snow. Instead of crushing rebellion, he’s giving the uprising hope that they can find aid in other districts. He’s giving the victors a chance to show the first signs of unity and respect between districts since the original uprising. 

However, maybe President Snow had hoped something else would happen. When the fog first began to gravely impact Katniss, she did have a terrible impulse to run from it, abandoning her alliance in an attempt to save herself. She didn’t, but she very well could have. If that had been what took place instead of Mags’ valiant self sacrifice, the national perspective of this scene would probably have been a bit different. It would have shown the world that everyone, even the Mockingjay, is only out to save themselves. There is no point in fighting for someone who will never fight for you.

I don’t know how realistic Snow’s expectations were, though. President Snow gave people who are essentially celebrities, who all know each other, the chance to show that things could be different, not expecting them to actually show that. He didn’t really consider the fact that all of these people have gotten the chance to get to know each other. They have established connections with each other, even friendships. How did President Snow expect the previous victors to kill each other without any heartfelt interactions? Or sacrifices? The victors are connected by the trauma of the games. In a manner of speaking, they understand each other in ways that no one will ever understand them. They’ve lived through the same horrible things. Even if they wanted to kill each other, there would have to be some moments of hesitation or even just some human interactions between them. They’re not props; they’re people. To not foresee any type of detectable connection between them was naive. Considering the fact that President Snow was relying on the victors being heartless killers in order to squash the uprisings, it’s just a stupid move on Snow’s behalf. 

Personally, I wouldn’t hedge my bets on such a narrow chance that all of these people are mindless murderers. It’s perhaps my greatest problem with The Hunger Games as a series that Snow does. Time and time again, President Snow is described as one of the greatest minds in Panem. He is insanely intelligent. He is cunning and quick. More often than not, he is described as a literal snake. And more than that, President Snow obtained power from a very young age and kept it for longer than any other president in Panem’s history. You can’t underestimate your opponents and hold onto power. It just doesn’t work. President Snow would not be so incredibly naive or short sighted. He is too smart for that. The fact that the entire series makes it sound like the Quarter Quell was his last attempt to restore order to his nation is laughable. I just don’t buy it. 

Thankfully, I can blame most of that perception on the fact that we are hearing this story from Katniss’s perspective, not President Snow’s. We don’t know what is actually going on in the Capitol. We actually don’t even know how involved Snow actually is with the games themselves. We don’t even know what the rebellion is up to. All we know is what is directly impacting Katniss as the previous victor of the Hunger Games, as a symbol of rebellion, and as a tribute in the current Quarter Quell. Her perception that so much relies on the success and failures of the games could just be her perception. She is living it. Considering the fact that she’s a teenage girl from the poorest, most ignored district in the entire nation, she’s probably incorrect with that assumption. 

And that’s fine.

I just want to know more about what’s happening outside of the games and outside of Katniss’s limited perception. In particular, I want to know more about what is happening in the Capitol. What is President Snow focusing on instead of the games? How does he really plan to prevent rebellion? How does he make his decisions on how to move forward? Who does he trust? What underground forces is he dealing with? How involved is he in designing the games themselves? 

While I definitely have a lot to look forward to in A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I don’t really think they’ll cover enough about what Snow is thinking during these events. The book seems to focus on President Snow’s rise to power which is, of course, extremely interesting and I’m dying to know more about it. I’d just also like to learn more about what is actually happening outside of what is happening to Katniss.

And that does include learning more about the rebellion itself. I’m dying for a history lesson about it. Who started the ongoing rebellion? How have they maintained themselves following the events of the original uprising? Did the idea of rebellion completely die out after the nation was punished or did it continue in silence? How large is the rebellion organization? What does their power structure look like? While we do get some answers to these questions later on in the series, we don’t get nearly enough to placate my curiosity. Suzanne Collins did manage to answer all of the “big” questions, but her universe is so vast and realistic that it’d be hard not to come up with a million more.

However, getting back to the actual fog itself, it is absolutely terrifying what it can do to people. It not only blisters the skin on contact, but it somehow manages to partially paralyze people as well. Technologies like this make me think that the Hunger Games are just an excuse to show off to the districts how truly powerful the Capitol is. Even their fog kills. I know I’m one hundred percent right that this is one of the reasons that the game exists, but it’s still remarkable that they kill children as a televised fear tactic for preventing national rebellion. Designing deadly technologies just for the sake of torturing people is sadistic and horrifying, but imagining these same technologies being used against thousands upon thousands of people is even worse.

It’s intelligent design, but horrible nonetheless. 

It would be even more horrible if the fog had been what had killed off their entire alliance. Would any of the Gamemakers have stepped in? One death from fog may be “entertaining” enough for Panem, but killing off four tributes in one violent strike seems a bit much… even for them. It would bring the games to a close too early. Plus, I can’t imagine that the fog would be a brutal enough death for two tributes that have caused the Capitol so much trouble. President Snow would want their deaths to be gory and violent, possibly even slow. A relatively quick death by fog wouldn’t placate his desire to punish Katniss for inspiring rebellion. He’d want more of a show.

Not that I think that killing off Katniss is the correct political move. Like I’ve said before, I actually think that involving her in the games to begin with is too risky. It gives the nation someone to stand up for. There’s not much he can do considering she’s already in the games, but having her die is definitely the incorrect move. It would be the smartest move to have Katniss survive the Quarter Quell. It doesn’t make sense to kill her off and risk turning her into a martyr for the rebellion. Even though I’ve repeated myself a million times with this sentiment, I’ve just never been able to understand what Snow was thinking. Her death has the potential to do more for the uprising than her life would. 

Curiously enough, though, I’m surprised that none of the Gamemakers used Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick’s weakness to draw other tributes towards them. Death at the hands of other tributes would probably be right up their alley. However, it probably wouldn’t be “appealing” to watch a group of defenseless tributes get attacked by other tributes. Even the most sadistic individuals can only do so much to make a death like that entertaining.

Plus, watching these tributes heal each other was probably enough for a bored audience. While everyone enjoys an action scene, just watching Finnick swim sounds entertaining enough for me. Many of their interactions with each other also add an element of humor that would help the audience destress. I’m assuming many members of the audience are rooting for Katniss in particular to win the games because of her alleged pregnancy alone, not to mention the events of the previous game and her dynamic relationship with Peeta. 

And it’s not like they had a long time to be bored by that either. As soon as the three were feeling better, they were attacked by monkeys. Once again: it’s crazy how even the most ridiculous sounding sentence can feel entirely realistic in this series. Attacked by murderous monkeys? Not super surprised. It’s the Quarter Quell! 

Of course, when the morphling from District 6 throws herself in the way of one of the monkeys trying to kill Peeta, it does throw me for a loop. I’m sure most of Panem is shocked. Why would she sacrifice herself for a tribute she barely knows? Another sacrifice was made to save the tributes from District 12. And why? Personally I’ve never been able to one hundred percent know what the morphling was thinking. Part of me thinks that she just wanted to be a part of something greater than herself. She knew about the rebellion, hated the Capitol, and wanted to protect the people who inspired the nation to fight back. But another part of me thinks she did it without thinking about it. Someone was in danger. She saved them. Both options are powerful and are definitely not what President Snow wanted from this game.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 19 – 20)

To be perfectly honest, I had to force myself to stop reading yesterday. I really wanted to read chapter after chapter of this book. But something about the end of chapter eighteen made me say “take a break, make one post about that, read more tomorrow.” It was just a complete overload of information and events. It felt like everything that could happen was happening. The announcement Peeta made, the subsequent reaction of the Capitol, and ending with the attack on Cinna? It was a lot to process and I didn’t want to overdo it in a single post.

Plus, I felt like the beginning of the 75th annual Hunger Game deserved it’s own nook on my blog. It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for this entire time. Katniss is back in the arena, ready to fight for her (and Peeta’s) life. Can you imagine going into something like completely expecting to die? And then having to do it again the next year? It’s horrifying. 

Of course, that’s the point, but still. I’m always blown away by how impossible this situation feels without coming across as unrealistic. The characters and scenarios they are put in are absolutely unbelievable, but I still believe them. It’s the mark of a good writer to make me feel like the unrealistic is approachable, believable, and even worthy of acclaim. Even though The Hunger Games series in general has received accolades for it’s writing, all of the books could use a little bit more. They’re just that good. 

And the movies really aren’t bad either now that I think about it.. Although, again, to be honest, I haven’t actually finished all of them. I still need to see the last movie! I rewatched the others while rereading the first book, but felt like I should say ‘Mockingjay Part 2’ for after I reread the last book. Maybe I’ll make a party of it! What could I do for themed foods? Poison berries? Lamb stew? Heck, I could even serve katniss herself. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Nineteen Thoughts

At the beginning of chapter nineteen, Katniss is left reeling after the attack on Cinna. She has just entered into the arena for the Quarter Quell after watching a group of Peacekeepers brutally attack the poor man. Having seen them drag Cinna away, of course she’s frantically trying to figure out what President Snow plans on doing to him. Undermining the President’s desire to have Katniss displayed as a disheartened bride, and turning her dress into a symbol of rebellion instead, was masterful work, but it also put Cinna in grave danger. 

Will he become an avox? Will he be tortured? Or will he just be killed outright? And how will they use whatever they do to Cinna against Katniss going into the future? Having read the series many, many times, I know that Cinna is (spoiler alert) dead or soon to be dead.

What I never found out, through all of my rereads, is whether or not he truly expected that to be the punishment for what he did. I know he planned for his death to happen, at least in part, at least theoretically. He made too many plans for after his death to not expect it to some degree. But did he truly believe he would die? Or was he hoping for another outcome?

And if he did truly expect to die soon then why did he do it? I am dying to know more about Cinna’s background. I understand that he probably wanted to punish the Capitol for their horrible behaviors and nonchalant attitude towards torture and death, but most citizens in his shoes don’t even notice how cruel Panem is. Even if they do, they fear President Snow too much to do anything about it. How did Cinna get the guts to stand up to President Snow? How was he brave enough to make a show of rebellion, fully knowing he could die for it? Cinna is possibly the bravest out of everyone. I wish he had survived this series. 

In a way, the terror of Cinna’s death does detract from the terror of the beginning of the Quarter Quell in my opinion. My fear at him being attacked overshadows my fear for Katniss instead of adding to it. However, I could see it amplifying the fear and excitement for other readers. Katniss has barely a minute to process the attack on Cinna before being plunged head-first into the games. Personally, I would never be able to pull myself away from the anguish of watching Cinna be attacked in time to make a headstart to the Cornucopia before the other tributes do. 

Thankfully, Katniss has stronger survival instincts than I do. Before the gong has been struck, she has analyzed the situation to the best of her ability. She knows she will have to swim, she knows that she will be swimming in salt water, she knows where the other tributes are, and she knows she absolutely needs to get her hands on a weapon as soon as possible. There is no room for mistakes. When every tribute is a victor of a previous game, everyone needs to act like a career tribute. 

So when the gong is struck, she swims. 

Having arrived at the Cornucopia at the same time as Finnick Odair, the tribute from District 4, Katniss is put in a tough position. She can either fight it out with Finnick in an arena that seems to cater to his strengths… or she can make an alliance with him. At first, it seems like they’re going to fight, but when Katniss sees a flash of gold on Finnick’s wrist, she realizes that Haymitch wanted her to ally herself with him. 

Even though I’ve read Catching Fire many times before, I’ve never fully understood why Haymitch chose Finnick to be Katniss’s ally. Perhaps it’s that he knows Finnick’s affection for Mags will wear down Katniss’s walls. Or perhaps it’s Finnick’s easy access to Capitol secrets that appeals to Haymitch. I’ve never been able to imagine that Haymitch and Finnick were close friends in the same way that Haymitch befriended other tributes like Brutus. It’s also been slightly confusing to me that he wouldn’t choose a friend to ally with Katniss, even knowing how brutal his friends are. Considering the events that take place later in the book, why couldn’t he trust his friends? I don’t remember any clear explanation for that. 

Another part of me thinks that the arena plays to Finnick’s strengths on purpose and that Haymitch knew it would. Finnick is the darling for many people in the Capitol. They love him. Perhaps forcing the tributes to swim was meant to give him an advantage. Many people must be rooting for him to survive. Who knows?

Not me.

I’m also not crystal clear on why the Gamemakers made the decision to only include weapons at the Cornucopia. Most years they provide food and some tools for survival. On one hand, I think the failure to provide those things was a smart movie from an entertainment perspective. It would add some diversity to the games. Instead of everyone focusing on killing each other all the time, everyone would at some point have to focus on finding food and water. It wouldn’t just be a constant bloodbath. 

But on the other hand… The Gamemakers have made their distaste for Katniss readily apparent. They made her a target by giving her an impossibly high score. President Snow, also very obviously, wants her dead. Every person in Panem knows that Katniss can take care of herself. Finding food would never be a problem for her. Why not provide other tributes with food and tools that they could use to their advantage? They probably aren’t as adept at hunting as she is and even slight advantages can mean the difference between life or death in the arena. At least four of them, coming from districts where they trained as career tributes, could probably use the help getting food. They were trained for battle, not to hunt. 

The battle scenes somewhat distracted me from this train of thought, but to be honest I mostly glaze over battle scenes in general. They don’t hold the same appeal to me as they do to others. I find them interesting, but not necessarily comment worthy. I always spend the majority of my time reading them looking for clues about a book’s storyline. In Catching Fire, I’m always looking for clues about what President Snow is trying to do, or looking for interesting plot devices, not necessarily for blood. 

When Katniss and Finnick begin fighting with the other tributes, I’m mostly disinterested. At least until Finnick offers to save Peeta from the dangerous water and uses Katniss’s “condition” as an excuse. Finnick is extremely intelligent. He is cunning. In a manner of speaking, he almost reminds me of Foxface from the first book in the series. He must know that Katniss’s pregnancy is a ruse Peeta told Panem to get them upset about the Quarter Quell. Playing that up is smart of him. It may get them more support from sponsors. 

And then, when Katniss and her newly made alliance (Mags, Finnick, Peeta) enter the jungle, she starts thinking about how little the interviews the night before impacted the actual events of the game. Even though the tributes had made a grand display of unity by interlocking hands, they were still killing each other in the arena today. From her perspective, their moment of unity meant very little. They didn’t show any reluctance to kill each other when they came down to it. They didn’t throw down their weapons or curse the Capitol. They killed. Violently. 

While I completely understand where she’s coming from with this thought process, it’s impossible to say I wouldn’t do the same as victors. When it comes down to life or death, a lot of people will choose life. Even if it means killing someone else. I also wouldn’t say that their display of unity was meaningless just because they fought in the arena. It wasn’t meaningless at all. It was one of the first steps in showing a connection between the citizens of Panem, especially between people from separate districts. The Hunger Games were specifically designed to make people from different districts hate and distrust each other. The moment where every victor locks hands is one of the first moments of unity between districts since the uprising that caused the games to be invented. It shows that the games are not a perfect way to inspire hate and distrust between people. Even if they turned around and attacked each other the next day, it’s a moment of progress. 

However positive that is, it’s not what Katniss realized. Instead, she realized she should probably kill Finnick while he’s defenseless. Getting attached to him could cost her her life in the future. Thankfully, Finnick knows where her mind went during their trek. He understands what she’s thinking and puts himself in a defensive position. His mind probably went to a similar place considering he follows it up with an explanation that no one in the Quarter Quell, except for possibly Peeta, was a victor by mistake. Their moment of unity the night before meant something, but would never prevent people like the victors from doing what they have to do to survive. What they do in the arena may not necessarily reflect what would happen in the real world. 

While they’re seemingly calculating the amount of risk involved in killing the other person, Peeta steps in between them. Katniss seems to believe that he did it on accident, not knowing what the two of them were thinking about, but it was definitely on purpose. Peeta may be kinder and more compassionate than the other victors, but he isn’t stupid. He’s amazing at reading body language and probably wanted to prevent violence between their alliance. 

Chapter Twenty Thoughts

When Peeta collides with the forcefield at the end of chapter nineteen, his heart stops and mine does too. When I first read Catching Fire, I really thought he was going to die. I was shocked that Collins would kill him off, especially so quickly, but it kind of tied right into classic dystopic fictions. In the classics, a corrupt world will take everything from you so I wasn’t necessarily surprised that a modern dystopic fiction would go the same route. It didn’t feel unrealistic or without precedent. 

However, it didn’t feel right. Catching Fire and The Hunger Games series in general is far more upbeat than most classic dystopian fiction. Their universe goes extremely far in the pursuit of creating a perfect world for people of the Capitol to live in, but it doesn’t go as far as other universes do. For example, there’s little in the way of completing altering and changing everyone’s mind through direct mind controlling technologies or through extensive drugging. The idea that Collins would fail to include those facets of a dystopian world, but would take Peeta from Katniss felt somewhat far-fetched. She couldn’t kill him. It was just a little too dark for the world she had created.

That’s part of why it’s so relieving when Peeta survives. Finnick saves his life, thus creating a newfound trust with Katniss that will likely prevent future violent clashes. 

When Katniss begins to sob after Peeta is restored to life, it’s the first moment where the whole world gets to see how she genuinely feels for Peeta. While a lot of their romance had been a show for the sake of the audience, Katniss genuinely loves Peeta. It isn’t all an act. She cares for him deeply. The idea of losing him terrifies her. Even Finnick, who questioned their love affair from the get-go, seems confused by her display of love and fear for Peeta’s life. He wasn’t expecting it to be anything but an act.

A large part of me wants to see what President Snow was thinking during all of this. Did any part of him feel regret for putting Peeta and Katniss in such a terrible position? Did he pity them at all? Or did he feel encouraged by a sign that Katniss loved Peeta? He wanted her to show Panem that her act of defiance was one of love, not rebellion. He finally got that. Was it enough to satisfy him or did he still want more out of them?

And how did he react to Finnick’s involvement in saving Peeta’s love? It’s difficult to justify saving the life of another tribute in the games. President Snow had to have known that there was something more to Finnick’s heroic deed. Did he ever expect the rebellion to involve themselves in the Quarter Quell? And if he didn’t… Why didn’t he? For someone so intelligent, President Snow always comes across as one step behind. He underestimates his opponents to his own detriment. He focuses more on killing Katniss and ruining her image than on solving the readily apparent problems in his country.

Not a very good move for a president if you ask me. 

When Katniss realizes that Peeta’s token is a mockingjay necklace meant to emulate her own pin, I’d love to see Snow’s face then as well. It takes any amount of progress their moment of love might have made with the rebellion and very likely turns it into encouragement of the rebellion. Was he enraged? Did he throw things? 

Of course, I’d also like to know why Katniss is even bothered by the idea of death any more. Both her and Peeta seem to be taunting President Snow at times. At this point even Peeta has to realize that Katniss has turned into a symbol of rebellion. Everything she touches is tainted by her affiliation with the uprising, the mockingjay symbol in particular. So why did he wear it?

For the most part, I think that Peeta wore the symbol because he wanted to be a part of the rebellion, even in a small way. More than any other tribute described in the series, Peeta didn’t want the games to change who he was. He also wanted to hold the Gamemakers accountable for the terrible acts performed in their game. Of course he’d want to be a part of a rebellion against all of these horrible things, even a little bit. 

And of course it made him feel more connected with Katniss and isn’t that just the cutest thing ever? 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 18)

My allergies have hit me in full force this year and, to be honest, it’s just not a great year for having allergies. I’m constantly coughing or sneezing, my head hurts, and I sound like death. Every time I go out into public, I’m uncomfortable and worried about what everyone else thinks of me. Is she sick? Will I catch it? How dare she be out in public? It’s hard to explain that I’m just incredibly allergic to trees and it feels like I’m either explaining or avoiding explaining that fact every five seconds. 

So, all in all, I’ve spent the last week in bed avoiding all forms of social contact. Hence the lack of posts. I haven’t felt like reading at all. Between the anxiety of having a cough to begin with and the headache that comes naturally with allergies, I just haven’t wanted to do anything except sleep. Thankfully, my allergy medicine is FINALLY starting to do its job and I can exist again! 

And the fact that my head has finally stopped hurting means I’m finally willing to pick up a book! We don’t give allergy medicine nearly enough credit for the good work it does. I’d be useless for the next two months without it. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Eighteen Thoughts

Sometimes when Katniss is interacting with minor characters, I wonder about what their lives look like outside of their conversations. Caesar in particular really interests me. What does he look like when he’s not on screen? What is he involved with outside of the games? Does he have a family? How deep does his influence go in Panem? What access does he have to new information? After Katniss’s transition from bridal to bird during their interview, Caesar’s eyes flash in a way that makes it clear he understands all of the implications of her transformation. The Mockingjay isn’t just Katniss’s token; it’s a symbol of rebellion. How does Caesar know that?

And who tells him? 

A large part of me likes to assume that Caesar is very, very well-informed. You don’t get to where he is and stay there without some level of inside knowledge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some type of relationship with President Snow himself. Perhaps the protection of Snow is what keeps Caesar safe. 

Plus, I’m almost positive Caesar must have some degree of importance outside of being the interviewer for the games. The games are such a small part of the show and Caesar is so well-known and well-liked throughout the districts. I can’t imagine just anyone getting the right to have everyone in Panem know their name considering how closed off and hostile the world is. I’d love to know more about Caesar and what he does to try to figure out how he ended up in the position he is in. 

Caesar’s interactions with Peeta did nothing to dissuade me from wanting to know more, of course. Caesar comes across as so intensely kind and generous. He’s intuitive. He tries to bring out the best in each tribute. Plus, his banter with Peeta is appealing even when you know most of it has to be for show.

Speaking of Peeta, he always blows me away in this chapter. He is normally such a quiet and calm character. His presence in Catching Fire almost always relaxes me – even when he’s being Katniss and Haymitch’s drill sergeant. The fact that he was capable of dropping such a huge bomb on the entire nation in less than three minutes is just astounding. He’s shocking. 

And starting off slow with the announcement that Katniss and him were already married was pure genius. We were all rooting for them! We all loved them! How could anyone genuinely want to doom such beautiful young love to death in the Quarter Quells? How could anyone stomach it?

And then… Peeta makes it worse. It’s the announcement that Katniss is pregnant that genuinely blows me away every single time I read this book. It is such a calculated move on Peeta’s behalf. Even knowing it’s going to happen, I never really feel prepared. 

Why? Because the concept is just so horrifying. The idea of The Hunger Games in general is horrible. Having children fight each other to the death as a form of entertainment is degrading to the sanctity of human life. But having a pregnant woman involved in these games? That’s a new level of cruelty. Even Panem, a nation that cheers when watching children as young as twelve prepare for their death, cannot possibly allow a pregnant woman to compete and die in their brutal yearly ritual. 

Unsurprisingly, the audience watching this is blown away and horrified. Part of me understands the horror obviously. It’s a horrendous thing. But another part of me does find their reaction a bit hypocritical. Even when I was younger, reading these books, I was shocked at how strongly they felt over Katniss’s alleged pregnancy. I understood why, but it still felt hypocritical. They had no problem killing people off, adults and children, but an unborn child is a completely separate thing. They want to protect that, not kill it.

Of course, in my opinion, that makes Catching Fire feel far more realistic. The complexities of the human mind are insane to think about. Wanting to see a strong, healthy, young tribute fight with other tributes to the death is one thing. Watching a pregnant woman struggle to survive in a violent atmosphere is another. Yes, yes, both are bad, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying one is far worse. 

Especially if you consider that the worst part of the games, the youngness of the tributes, can be somewhat ignored during the Quarter Quells. All of the tributes for the Quarter Quells are adults. They are victors. They have fought and lived before. In normal games, the average tribute is barely more than a child. None of them have had the chance to live their lives. Children as young as twelve years old die. Morality wise, that’s an even grayer area between having a pregnant woman fight for her life and a twelve year old child fight for theirs. Most of Panem had probably never even really considered their tributes to be what they are: children. 

So in a way that makes me hope that Peeta made them think about it more. I’m sure he did. You don’t hear an announcement like his and forget about it. It was a smart move to force Panem into questioning the legality and morality of the Quarter Quell. I swear if Peeta weren’t doomed to be a tribute in the games, he’d make an excellent politician. 

At the end of the chapter, Snow does retaliate against Katniss for all of this. He has Cinna killed right before her eyes just as she is descending into the games. Once again, I fail to be impressed by the idea of a grown man mentally torturing a teenage girl, but I suppose that’s not the point of this scene. It’s to horrify me. And it does.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 15)

Again, not a lot to say during this opener. I only had time to read one measly chapter today – I’m hoping for more time this weekend. Let’s get into it! 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Fifteen Thoughts

I feel like too few people really understand the amount of work emotional labor is. Feeling things is hard. Dealing with other people’s emotions can sometimes be even harder. When Katniss is discussing how difficult it is for her to get through her prep time with Flavius, Venia, and Octavia, all I’m thinking about is how exhausting that must be. Can you imagine having to painstakingly prepare for your own death, let alone having to listen to everyone else cry about it? The closest picture I have in my head to how horrible that sounds is having to work in a retail job and obviously that’s not even close.

Retail does suck though.

Speaking of, fanfic idea: Katniss works in retail. Will she help the customers or argue with them? Find out on the next episode of The Hunger Games Grocer Edition!

Anyways, all jokes aside, it is so flabbergastingly immature of Katniss’s prep team to make her potential death all about them. People from the Capitol never fail to surprise me with how selfish they are. They make other people’s death all about themselves. Considering the fact that I’m pretty sure all of Katniss’s prep team is five to ten years older than her and it kind of makes me angry on behalf. 

In a manner of speaking, all of the people of the Capitol are children compared to her. At least mentally. Even the individuals who come across as decades older than her (how old is Effie?) are emotionally stunted. They’re grown children, not adults. But somehow they are the same people who are expected to lead the entire country. 

Personally, I don’t understand how that works. How can these be Panem’s leaders? Or raise Panem’s future leaders? On one hand, I think we must be misinformed on how the Capitol works. The majority of the population is far too childlike to lead a country. There must be some type of divide between the class of people who wear pretty clothes and party all the time versus the people who spend their lives making tough calls. Perhaps they drug anyone who isn’t in the ruling class. I don’t know how it works, but I’d love to. There has to be something going on. Maybe A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will tell us. 

Even as much as I don’t appreciate how the people of the Capitol act, it does make for some interesting ponderings. Plus, I do appreciate the obvious clue towards how people of the Capitol feel about the Quarter Quell. I never thought the majority of people would be excited to see their previous victors fight to the death. Even now, dozens of times after the first time I’ve read this series, I appreciate the confirmation. It’s like they’re losing friends, not strangers. The fact that President Snow didn’t think that would be a problem confounds me.

And I also appreciate the little bit of foreshadowing on behalf of Cinna’s comment to Katniss: “…I always channel my emotions in my work. That way I don’t hurt anyone but myself.” I’ve never really recognized that for the foreshadowing that it so obviously is. How have I never noticed? 

Knowing what I know now, however, I wish we had gotten more time with Cinna. He is such an exceptional individual considering that he comes from the most conceited, selfish, horrible society on earth. How is he so different from everyone else from the Capitol? How did he grow a conscience? I want to know more about him. 

Plus, I’m dying to know how he comes up with his outfits for Katniss. The description of her outfit for the opening ceremonies of the games always gives me chills. I don’t think that the Catching Fire movie did it justice because in the book Katniss sounds absolutely godlike. She is unforgiving and wrathful. She is powerful. 

I wonder why more stylists didn’t take an angrier approach with their own designs. Maybe it was too close to treason. Katniss’s outfit is obviously a statement about her hatred towards the games. However, considering how obvious most of the victor’s anger over this decision is… it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to play that up. The Capitol has wronged them.

I’d also have loved to learn more about Finnick somewhere in the series. We had far too little time to explore the recesses of his mind. He is perhaps one of the most dynamic characters in the series and I loved him from the moment Collins introduced him. But I don’t feel quite as upset about the lack of information as I do with Cinna. We got way more information about Finnick than him. Cinna is somewhat of a mystery.

When the ceremony starts, Katniss and Peeta obviously decide to hold hands on the chariot. Why wouldn’t they? Once more, they are going into the games as a team. Even though I had just gotten chills over Katniss’s outfit, I got them again over this moment where they lock hands. It’s amazing, but also slightly annoying because it is way too cold out today to be getting chills every five seconds. Does Suzanne want me to freeze to death? I’m shaking!

But really it’s just very good writing and I cannot seem to emphasize enough how impressed I am with The Hunger Games series. Even after reading it so many times, I love it. Moments like these never fail to captivate me. Do you have any books or series like that? I can think of a few more. Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore are definitely another. I also love books like The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. 

Back to Catching Fire though. When Katniss starts to describe the outfits of other victors, I am once again surprised that their stylists couldn’t come up with anything better. These people are supposed to be the best of the best and, yet, their designs are utterly lacking. How can they even compare to stylists like Portia and Cinna? Are stylists in limited supply or something? They could do better.

Thankfully Collins quickly makes up for the let-down when Katniss begins speaking to Seeder, a woman from District 11. The families of Thresh and Rue survived the riot that took place during Katniss and Peeta’s Victory Tour. They weren’t killed by the Capitol. I wonder if that was supposed to be one of Panem’s great mercies or just meant to be kept as a tool to use against Katniss. 

Considering the involvement of Darius as one of Katniss’s avoxes, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the latter. President Snow loves to use mind games against her. It’s kind of sickening when you consider the fact that he is a grown man and she is barely more than a child. And once again that really ties into how much maturity the people of the Capitol lack. How have we all failed to acknowledge that the biggest thorn in the President of Panem’s side is a sixteen or seventeen year old girl? It’s honestly unbelievable. 

President Snow is a grown man fighting with a child. Ugh. 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 10 – 11)

It’s hard to choose what to focus on while reading Catching Fire. So much is happening in such few pages. Should you focus on the budding rebellion? The complicated love story? The details of day-to-day survival? It’s hard to decide. 

In a way, that makes this book that much better to reread. Each time you read it, you find yourself catching new details and analyzing new things. During these chapters, I was newly surprised by something as simple as what plays on tv. Do they really have so few options?

That really makes me wonder what people in the Capitol do to pass their time. I always thought of them as an entertainment district so to speak. They make clothes and hairstyles. They throw parties. I kind of thought they made television shows as well. Apparently not though. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Ten Thoughts

When Katniss enters the forest at the end of the previous chapter, she encounters a woman dressed in a white Peacekeeper uniform. The woman is out of place. She stands out against the backdrop of forest ground. When Katniss aims her bow at the woman, the woman shows her a cracker with Katniss’s mockingjay stamped inside the center of it. At the beginning of chapter ten, the unknown woman explains that the stamp means she is on Katniss’s side. 

She, and a young girl who emerges from a cabin in the forest, explains that they’re on their way to District 13, the district that was supposedly destroyed in the rebellion that caused the Hunger Games to be created in punishment. They tell Katniss that they believe District 13 still exists because the Capitol replays the same footage every year about it being destroyed. Ironically, a mockingjay in the right corner is what clued them in. It’s always there. 

They also explain the details behind the uprisings in District 8. Katniss had only heard vague stories about them prior. They tell Katniss that discontent in the district had been growing since the previous Hunger Games and that her actions during the games inspired people to take action against the Capitol, instead of just talking about how much they hate their lives. The people of District 8 rehearsed their rebellion while Katniss visited District 8 during the Victor’s Tour. They began rebelling the day Katniss announced her engagement to Peeta, using the live broadcast as an excuse to be in public spaces. 

Can you imagine hearing that your actions have caused a full-out rebellion against the government? One small choice, thousands dead. It sounds especially stressful if you consider the fact that the forest is supposed to be Katniss’s safe place. It is her escape from the stress of Panem and the games. Personally, I would be utterly overwhelmed. Putting myself in Katniss’s shoes always sounds like too much to me. 

And it gets worse from there.

The women explain how the rebellion in District 8 ends. A flood of Peacekeepers enter District 8. The Capitol even bombs rebellion strongholds. People barely survived and, instead of this being a victory against the Capitol, it turned into a fight to stay alive at all. Instead of winning their freedom, most of District 8 is on lock down for two weeks. Even after the lockdown, the Capitol bombs their own factories where they believe the ideas of dissent emerged. 

It’s hard to imagine a country that is completely willing to bomb its own people. Towards the beginning of this year, I watched a Netflix series about Waco. During the Waco siege, a government agency shot at and killed members of a cult. It is unsure who started firing first, the government or the people inside. Even that turned my stomach completely.

Panem takes that to a new extreme. They kill unarmed, innocent people just to discourage the idea of dissent. They bomb their own cities. They kill thousands. A government that doesn’t know the worth of human life isn’t a government worth having. 

The fact that, in the case of the Capitol, they prioritize luxury goods and high standards of living over the lives of their citizens is especially disgusting. They would rather make sure a certain percentage of the population lives in luxury than make sure everyone is well-fed. No one is equal. 

I completely agree with Katniss when she begins to muse about President Snow treating her like a fool. There is no way that a love story could actually solve the problem of uprising in the districts. Like I’ve said before, people aren’t upset that her and Peeta survived. Resentment had been building up for a long, long time. 

However, I don’t think she fully understands the point of the wedding. While it will definitely help distract people in the Capitol, I don’t think that is it’s only purpose. It will also create a divide between her and the people in the districts. President Snow’s hope is that if he shows the nation how well she’s living in comparison to them, they’ll resent her too and maybe step away from the idea of rebelling. 

Chapter Eleven Thoughts

When Katniss goes to leave the woods and return home, she finds that the fence has been electrified. She wonders if it was intentional. Did Thread, the new Head Peacekeeper of District 12, want an excuse to arrest her? Or is it just to make his rule of the district more strict? How will she get back inside? And how did they know she had left for the woods to begin with? The timing of when electricity was restored to the fence couldn’t be a complete coincidence. 

I don’t know if I agree with her idea that there are cameras built into the districts, though. If there were, the Capitol would have found out about the possibility of an uprising in 8 long before they did. I also don’t think it would be worth the investment to stock a poor, underdeveloped district with a ton of cameras. 

I do, however, think that there might be cameras locked onto Katniss at all times. Considering Panem’s technological feats, I wouldn’t be surprised if she were constantly tracked by hard to detect cameras. They could be as small as a speck of dust in the air. How else would President Snow have learned about Gale and her kissing, deep in the forest? Is anyone brave enough, or sneaky enough, to follow two well-trained hunters, completely undetected?

When Katniss arrives home, our suspicions are confirmed. Peacekeepers are waiting for her to arrive. They knew she had entered the woods. Someone must have been watching her. However, it’s not confirmed how. I still doubt the fact that a spy could be following Katniss 24/7 undetected. Cameras feel more likely.

Which makes me wonder about what would have happened had Katniss really tried to leave District 12. Would they have been detected instantly? Perhaps it’s a good thing Gale wasn’t into the idea of leaving. They all would have been punished as traitors to the nation, assuredly in some type of sadistic and cruel way.

Can you imagine how stressful it would be, though, waiting for Katniss to return? Peeta and Haymitch were also in the home when Katniss arrived. No one had any real idea of where Katniss went. She didn’t tell her mother. The dread of having to sit there and wait for hours must have been absolutely dreadful. 

What’s also dreadful is what the Capitol considers appropriate television. It seems like their only forms of entertainment are propaganda clips for the Capitol and clips from previous Hunger Games. Any other type of television show seems nonexistent. Perhaps they want to avoid the creation of celebrities. If they share power with famous people, they’ll have less of a monopoly on power. 

However, that may be stupid on their behalf. They make tributes the only type of celebrity there is, giving people who suffer in the districts and under the abuse of the Capitol the only other type of power people of Panem have: fame. Everyone knows and loves their victors. Is it a mistake to give power to people you’ve hurt? Obviously so. If they didn’t give victors so much power, they may have avoided the rebellion.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 7 – 9)

Sometimes I find myself wondering what characters from books would be like if you met them in our world. Would they be the same people in their hearts if they didn’t have to go through whatever they go through that’s interesting enough to write a book about? Who are they if they don’t have to live their lives?

I ask myself that question a lot during Catching Fire. Who would Katniss be if she wasn’t raised in Panem? What would her character traits be? Would she still be as strong and as passionate as she is during The Hunger Games series? How much does the world around her shape her personality?

That exact line of questions is probably the reason why fan-fics are so popular amongst readers. They want to know what their favorite characters would look like if they lived lives more similar to their own. I’ve never really been able to get into fan fiction though. The characters I love so much seem unrecognizable when I read about them in different storylines. Their story is an integral part of who they are. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Seven Thoughts

To be honest, I wish we learned more about Madge sometime during this series. The information we get about her just isn’t enough. Her relationship with Katniss allows the reader to take a tiny glance at how the other part (the more well off part) of District 12 lives. Compared to the starvation and constant neglect most citizens of District 12 experience, Madge’s life almost seems like a life of luxury and glam. She has enough food to eat and that’s huge.

Of course, compared to the lives of people who live in the Capitol, Madge’s life isn’t glamorous at all. Madge could even still be entered into the game. Her father being mayor doesn’t exempt her from the possibility of having to fight for her life. The divide between the people who are starving in District 12 and those who have food may seem gigantic, but it’s more of an illusion than anything else. They’re all the same in the eyes of the Capitol. Madge is still a citizen of District 12. 

I do wonder, however, if Madge has ever visited the Capitol herself. Do mayors and leaders in the districts sometimes get to take part in the nonstop festivities in the Capitol? Do they get to experience some of the plentiful luxuries available to citizens of the Capitol? Somehow I doubt it. While Madge does seem better educated about the Capitol than others, I think that’s just because her father has access to more information than the average citizen. I don’t foresee anyone in the Capitol wanting the mayor of District 12 at their parties. They consider the people of District 12 to be barbaric and uneducated compared to themselves. I can’t envision Madge or her family in the Capitol itself.

I also wish I knew more about Madge because, in a way, she was the spark behind the entire rebellion. Her gift of the mockingjay pin to Katniss is what inspired Rue to trust Katniss and form an alliance with her. Because of this alliance, and Rue’s close resemblance to Prim, Katniss grew to love Rue. She saw her as a real person, a child, not a threat or just another tribute. She cared about her. Katniss’s treatment of Rue was one of the largest driving factors in starting widespread uprisings against the capital. 

The gift of the mockingjay pin has one of the largest butterfly effects in the series. Every choice we make impacts the world around us. Even small decisions can have huge impacts. Would a rebellion have even started if Madge hadn’t given Katniss her mockingjay pin? I don’t know. For such a small character, and such a small moment, it has huge consequences for the entire series.

And to be even more honest I’d rather focus on Madge than the rest of the chapter. I don’t know why, but I always want to skip over scenes with Gale. His emotions are too intense and feel almost forced to me. It’s almost like he feels like he has to love Katniss. Even now, trying to analyze each chapter, I had to stop myself from skipping over his confession of love. Once I got past a few pages of barely skimming the material, I realized what I was doing and stopped and went back and read. 

But I just don’t even know what to say about it. I’ve never really enjoyed their triangle. It feels too complicated and difficult when Katniss has so many other things to worry about. She’s focused on the uprising of a society; Peeta and Gale are just too much right now. They’re too much for me and I’m just a reader! The poor girl has no time to worry about love when her entire world is on the edge of falling apart.

I don’t really blame Gale and Peeta for that though. It’s easy to forget that they’re all still teenagers. It’s easy to lose track of what’s really important when you’re young. Keeping focus on uprisings and rebellions and nonstop threats sounds impossible. Plus, they’re just not as educated as Katniss is about how dire things are in Panem. She always finds out new information far before anyone else. 

Personally, I can’t imagine being her. She has a lot on her plate. And she doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about this. Her interactions with even Gale and Peeta are so consumed by other concerns, like ill-timed romantic confessions.

And I know a lot of people really enjoy the break from all of the stress Katniss undergoes. The romance is a nice break from all of that. I know a lot of readers really enjoyed the romance part of The Hunger Games and focused more on that than the actual storyline. To me, that felt like a disservice to the book. How can you get distracted by romance when children are getting murdered and citizens are being starved? You’re doing exactly what President Snow wants the people of Panem to do! But I get it. It’s a crazy love story. And I’m Team Peeta… obviously.

I’m also not really a revolutionary. The idea of dying scares me too much. I used to spend hours every night thinking about the fact that we all eventually die and feeling scared about it. That makes it hard for me to relate to Gale. Like Katniss, I’d probably want to vanish into the woods, never to be seen again. While I admire Gale for wanting to stay and fight against a corrupt Capitol, I’d just never want to do the same and I can’t relate to him. We’d all like to say we’re fighters, but I know I’m not. I can relate more to Peeta’s fierce love of people and desire for peace than I can Gale’s passionate pleadings for war.

Somewhat ironically Gale seems to suffer the consequence of his rebelliousness almost immediately. The public whipping in the yard is violent and disturbing, but definitely ironic. Will he still want to fight after being whipped? Without a doubt. They’re just going to make him mad (if he lives…)

Knowing what I do about the series, I know that Gale’s public lashing is a part of a plan on behalf of President Snow to squash the rebellions. He thinks that if he exercises more control over life in the twelve districts, he will prevent future uprisings. People will be too scared or too weak to fight. He thought if a love story couldn’t placate them, strict punishments would. 

Plus, if he carried out this plan while flaunting how happy Peeta and Katniss are, maybe the districts would turn against them. They might not be convinced that they truly love each other, but they could be convinced that they’re living happy lives while everyone else in the twelve districts are suffering. I know he wants to reduce their loyalty to Katniss.

However, I’ve never thought this plan was the smartest way to crush the rebellion. People throughout the twelve districts have never had happy lives. They work hard and have very little food. Their lives are difficult. If you take away what little they had left to them, they’ll just have nothing to lose if they rebel. How much worse can their lives get?

While we don’t get to see the inner workings of this decision during the book as much as we do during the movie version of it, I think the movie had it right. I don’t think this decision was made without outside influence, possibly Plutarch. Whoever told President Snow that punishing the districts was the right way to proceed knew that this would help drive people to rebel. I think it was Plutarch because Plutarch is very, very smart and knows how to work horrible situations to his own benefit. I think he encouraged President Snow to punish the nation so that the nation would rise up against President Snow in rebellion, leaving the seat of leader for himself. He wants power at any cost. Even at the cost of the thousands upon thousands of lives that would be lost during a real rebellion against the leaders of Panem. 

Chapter Eight Thoughts

When Katniss jumps in front of the new Head Peacekeeper during the very beginning of this chapter, she receives a lashing directly to her face. The pain at the strike is unimaginable. It burns. I’ve always wondered if the Peacekeepers laced their whips with something to cause the victim additional pain. It seems unimaginably cruel so I don’t think it’s entirely likely. It could have just hurt Katniss so much because the strike across her face was a head injury.

But what if it was laced with something? I wouldn’t really be surprised by that either. Panem is unimaginably cruel.  Peacekeepers and the Capitol in general have little to no regard for the sanctity of human life. They don’t respect people in the districts as fellow human beings. They don’t care if they die, especially if it serves a purpose. The death of Gale in particular would serve multiple. It would, one, be a reminder not to rebel against the Capitol’s power. Two, it would dishearten and possibly break Katniss.

And yet, it’s all still horrible. Can you imagine whipping someone to death over poaching in a forest that is never used? The Capitol doesn’t care about wild game. They just want to keep the people of Panem starved and weak. Hungry people are easier to control than people with full bellies.

It’s also strange to think that Peacekeepers come from the districts, not from the Capitol. We find this out later in the series, but it’s especially pertinent to this scene. While the new Head Peacekeeper of District 12 may never have experienced the same degree of hunger and need as the people of District 12 have, he should still be capable of feeling sympathy for them. The Capitol still looks down on him. He still isn’t a first class citizen in Panem. He’s a slave. Why does he glorify in hurting people that are just like himself?

From my perspective, he does it so he can feel some level of power. The actions of the Peacekeepers remind me of the Stanford Prison Experiment. People in positions of power will use their power against others just because they can. They will get satisfaction from it. They also look down on people less powerful than themselves, developing an “us versus them” mentality.

 Of course, the police force of Panem does this to an extreme. Even old Cray, the previous Head Peacekeeper, liked to use his power for his own gain. He lured young women into his bed with money, promising them a way to feed their families. I’m sure he then looked down on the women for having to accept his offer. He was a lecherous, disgusting old man. But was he better than the new one who prefers sick and twisted punishments to sexual manipulation? It’s hard to say what’s worse: torture or coercion.

And once again, this series makes me wonder what these Peacekeepers are like outside of their horrible, disgusting storylines. Even the worst character has a background story. Are they always terrible? What would they be like if Panem didn’t give them the power to hurt people?

Chapter Nine Thoughts

Thankfully, the beginning of this chapter takes a departure from me being constantly horrified by Panem. Even when everything is terrible, I absolutely love getting to see Peeta. He is so wholesome.  He is so completely devoted to Katniss and his quiet loyalty really makes this series so much better. He will even protect Gale for her, knowing their confused emotions for each other. I love him. I just love him.

And I want a better world for him. I don’t know what would have happened for him had he developed feelings for Katniss is a normal world, though. Would she ever have had the opportunity to view him in the same way? Or, without the existence of the games, would she never have fully noticed him? Or, worse, thought of him as weak and sheltered?

It’s strange to think that love is partially based on the world around us. Who we choose as partners depends on more than who they are and somewhat relies on when we meet them and what happens while we get to know them. You could love or hate the same person. It all depends on when and how you meet them, what you experience together, and what you yourself are feeling and experiencing as you get to know them.

Another strange thought, I’ve never thought it was inspirational that Katniss was spurred to action by Gale’s whipping. During this entire series, I never really got the urge for her to join the rebellion. I wanted her to be tucked away somewhere safe with her family. I didn’t want her to have to suffer anymore than she already has. I was worried for her, not excited that she wanted to fight against the overwhelming power of the Capitol. 

Does anyone else feel like that sometimes? Like you’d rather your favorite characters be safe than have exciting, dangerous storylines? I get so attached to some characters that I don’t want them to risk getting hurt. I’d rather the storyline and plot be hurt than them.

Towards the end of this chapter, I’ve always been surprised by how willing the Capitol is to treat the people in the districts poorly. They are willing to cause thousands upon thousands of people endless suffering as long as it means they can continue to live in luxury. It’s disgusting. I almost feel like they should have to apprentice in the districts in order to be allowed to continue to live their lives as normal. They obviously have no understanding of real suffering or pain. It should be mandatory for them to learn what they subject other people to. How do they justify starving out entire communities as punishment? 

Of course, I know that part of the reason why District 12 is allowed to starve week after week is because of uprisings in other districts. People are refusing to work. If people don’t work, there won’t be food. But even in that case it feels like the people should have been given something more than rotten leftovers. Did Panem never come up with a back-up plan for food? Plagues and pests can kill crops just as easily as rebellion. I’m surprised that they didn’t have a good amount of food stores.

But that kind of reminds me of the beginning of the coronavirus situation in America. Grocery stores ran out of seemingly everything. I couldn’t find bread or flour, most canned goods, bottled water, toilet paper, or laundry supplies for weeks. I was surprised then that we didn’t have a real emergency plan regarding household supplies and food in the case of catastrophes. Maybe we aren’t so different from Panem as we think. 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 16 – 18)

The Hunger Games makes me think about how desentized we are to violence due to the sheer amount of it in popular media. Seeing violence on television is nothing. It is almost never surprising. Half the time it doesn’t even come across as gruesome. How similar are we to the people of The Capitol? Would we still watch shows with violence in them, fully knowing that the violence is real? 

Of course, right now, sporting events display violence. But what would our limits be? If it was legal, would we be alright with watching deaths occur? Could we ever return to enjoy gladiator style fights? Would we only be okay with it if it were willing adults or would that still be too far? It’s difficult to think about, but what is the future of a world where violent behaviors are normalized? Does it look like this one? 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Sixteen Thoughts

It is strange to think that the career tributes biggest weakness is their ability to feed themselves. You’d think that during their years of training they would have spent more time learning survival skills, not just fighting skills, especially if in years past it is one of the few things that have caused a career tribute not to win. Why not focus on any hunting or trapping skills? Why not learn which berries to pick? If your entire life is meant to be spent as a tribute or a victor, you’d think you’d want to hone as many skills as possible.

When Katniss goes to rid the career tributes of their food, it is pure luck that Foxface is there, raiding their supplies. I don’t know if she would have fully figured out how they protect their food if she had not seen the other tribute weaving between the mines. However, given how clever Foxface is, I wonder why she didn’t poison the career tributes’ food supplies. It would have been the easiest way to take them out of the games. Maybe she didn’t want to risk her own access to food or maybe, considering future events, she doesn’t know anything about poison.

Katniss’s idea to destroy the career tributes supplies works just as well, but kills no one. However, it also presents the least amount of risk for herself. She doesn’t know what pattern to follow when evading the mines. And of course starvation could very well kill all players in the game. 

Chapter Seventeen Thoughts

Watching the death of the boy from District 3 is horrible. Cato kills him in seconds, not minutes. His is the first real death we’ve seen start to finish and it’s just awful to think about. How does Katniss feel, watching the death of another child? How will this play a role in her nightmares to come? The things The Capitol justifies being done to kids is retched. 

But it also brings Katniss one step closer to victory. Every death besides her own brings her closer to life outside of the games. Do the people watching the games on her behalf feel the same way? Is there some sick positivity they feel at seeing these children be killed, knowing that they’re not Katniss?

The Capitol plays the worst types of mind games with its people in this regard. Having them watch for and root for the deaths of children from other districts every year is disgusting. They are one nation, but encouraged to be separate people. There is no sense of nationalism. There is no pride to be a part of Panem. There is only oppression and death and violence. 

To follow it up with the death of Rue is particularly harsh. Her death feels like the end of innocence for Katniss. There is nothing childlike left in her, no sense of purity. It has all been lost to the games. 

Chapter Eighteen Thoughts

Katniss’s first kill in the Hunger Games pales in comparison to the importance of Rue’s death. Watching Rue die comes across as slow and incredibly painful, even though it is not a very long process. Katniss singing her to death adds a melancholy element to the scene where it seems as if all hope has been lost. Panem is without a heart if it enjoys this horrible death. Rue deserved better.

However, reading this scene now that I’ve reread the Hunger Games series multiple times is what made me realize that Katniss is not the only Mockingjay of Panem. She may not even be the most important one. Her situations may be unique and inspiring, but without a spark they would have just been kindling for the rebellion. Even Peeta’s love for Katniss might not have taken root without the death of Katniss’s most valuable ally, Rue. I don’t think The Capitol would ever have “changed the rules” if Rue hadn’t died, leaving Katniss alone.

The revolution didn’t start with Katniss. It started with Rue, right down to the very first moment when Katniss decided to ally with the small girl. They formed the first real relationship of all the Hunger Games where it would have been next to impossible for one to kill the other. They would never betray each other or leave each other. Their bond was sisterly and protective. Even the audience in The Capitol would hate to see them turn on each other. 

Rue was the first Mockingjay. She was a symbol of the death of purity and of hope for the nation. A small child, killed by another child as entertainment for adults, buried in flowers by a girl who loved her. The death of Rue is the real spark for the rebellion that follows. It is the spark that gives Katniss a true understanding of what she is fighting for and against. Panem is cruel. Rue deserved better.

It’s a powerful moment and it’s the reason why Katniss went on to help change the world. It also had lasting implications for the rest of the book. First off, Katniss clearly calls out The Capitol for finding pleasure in the death of children by burying Rue. Tributes don’t bury other tributes in the Hunger Games. They leave their bodies behind. They don’t show the dead respect, or love, or kindness. Katniss made it prevalent that that was wrong. It is immoral. 

And then, Rue’s district sends Katniss bread out of respect for her having a funeral for Rue. No district has ever sent a tribute from another district supplies. They don’t sponsor other districts. It is the first sign of mutual respect between districts. Katniss cared about a young girl from another district and they returned the favor by caring for her. 

It culminates when Thresh spares Katniss’s life later on in the series. He wants to return the favor of her helping Rue survive. That has either never happened in the games or it is extremely rare. Why would a tribute want to spare the life of another? Sparing her life is directly against everything the games stand for. 

I wonder how the people of The Capitol reacted to all of this. Did they see an issue with their behavior? Did it call attention to the unnecessary violence? Or did they react positively, thinking that this season of the Hunger Games was the height of all drama? Nothing could compare to the theater of these intense bonds. They probably viewed the burial as a general kindness, the bread as unimportant, and Thresh’s actions in sparring Katniss as a moment of weakness. 

Maybe the people of The Capitol did realize how shallow their reasons were for this death because of the next event that occurs in The Hunger Games. A rule change meant, surely, to distract them from the death of Rue and Katniss’s kindness. Two victors can win this round of the games as long as they come from the same district. Perhaps this was also meant to be a reminder to all twelve districts that you should remain loyal only to your district. The reasons why the government of Panem do anything are almost always complex.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 9 – 11)

I’ve been comparing The Hunger Games to the new Netflix original Cuties a lot these past few days. Possibly because I’ve been reading about both of them a lot. They’re on my mind. A lot of people are having very, very strong reactions to Cuties because it comes across as oversexualizing young girls and the images it displays are quite disturbing. However, that’s kind of the point of the movie. It’s trying to make a statement about how the sexualization of women in society can bleed into young girls’ sense of self worth and their actions to their detriment. It’s trying to call attention to what the director believes is a problem in society. The current role models for girls are overly sexual and teach girls to act in the same way. They don’t benefit these girls. Real harm can be done when children try to act like adults. It’s just taking that concept way too far. I haven’t watched the movie because of how gross and degrading many of the clips I’ve seen from it are.

I’m currently rereading The Hunger Games right now and I feel like there’s some ties between what I know about Cuties and The Hunger Games. Both are basically entertainment gone too far. There seems to be no limit for the directors of the games or the movie. Even children are subject to their advances. It’s gross and it’s degrading. But is this kind of a real-world example of what happens in The Hunger Games. People are so starved for entertainment that almost anything seems reasonable for release. Thankfully, as a society, we aren’t embracing Cuties like The Capitol embraces the Hunger Games. 

I also wonder if Panem slowly built up to releasing The Hunger Games by releasing similarly violent clips earlier on. I understand the games were meant to quell future rebellions, but what did the media look prior to the rebellions that made the television of the deaths of children seem like a reasonable option? Was it a slow build-up like in the case of rampant oversexualization of women and children? Or was it a sudden, jarring moment in popular media? And how did other countries react to it? There’s so much that we just don’t know about The Hunger Games universe that I’m absolutely dying to learn more about. Maybe some of my questions will be answered in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Nine Thoughts

Watching Katniss interact with Effie and Haymitch is always a welcome source of humor in this chapter. Waiting for the games to begin is always frightening. You wait with trepidation to see what the arena will be like, whether or not Katniss will have access to a bow and arrow, how everything will go. Some comedic relief is always welcome when the suspense gets to be too much. Plus, I adore Haymitch. I can’t help it. He’s so grumpy and I love it. 

And of course I always wonder what he would have done if he had gotten Gale to work with instead of Katniss. Katniss is unable to cultivate any fake personality. She cannot be defined as witty, funny, sexy, or really anything else. She is just herself. I wonder if he would have played up on her hatred for The Capitol and what the games stand for if she had been male. I think Gale’s hatred would have been what makes him stand out, but people don’t enjoy those traits on behalf of a girl. It’s not sexy for a woman to be angry and hateful. Only men can play into that role, even in our media.

Thankfully, however, Cinna has a better view of Katniss than Haymitch does. She doesn’t need to be any of those things; she just needs to be herself. Dressed in her radiant gown and giving the audience honest answers should be enough. Her “role” in the games could just be her honest self. And I love that. He believes in her so much that it reminds the reader over and over again about how impressive Katniss is. She is the girl who sacrificed herself to save her sister. She is genuine. She is the girl on fire. 

At the beginning of her interviews, I also found her description of the difference in appearance between members of The Capitol and people in her district interesting. They prioritize different things physically. In District 12, it is an achievement to look old. So many people die young that the elderly are appreciated and respected. They are survivors. Weighing more is a sign that they can afford to eat well and is therefore better. Members of The Capitol try their best to look younger and thinner. 

It is very comparable to the society I live in where many people try to stay young and thin forever. We have constant access to food and healthcare. Looking old or plump isn’t a good thing. I wonder if people in the past appreciated heavier set bodies and elderly people more than we do now. Obviously we had closer familial ties in the past, but I bet that feeling of respect extended into what we prioritized in physical appearances.

When Rue comes out, looking so completely innocent, it makes me think about what would have happened had she and Katniss been the last remaining tributes. I don’t think Katniss would ever be able to bring herself to kill someone who reminds her so much of her sister. I don’t know if Rue would be capable of killing Katniss. I wonder if they would have separated and allowed the Gamemakers to eventually decide who wins. Maybe the Gamemakers would have had to bombard them with constant attacks in order to end one of their lives. Had something similar ever happened in previous games? Had anyone ever refused to kill another person before?

Chapter Ten Thoughts

Peeta gives me chills when he tells the audience that he has feelings for Katniss every single time I read the end of chapter nine. There is something about his confession that just blows me away. It’s definitely similar to how the audience felt about it. It just comes across as so brave to confess to something that can be used against you. It also benefits Katniss more than himself. Does he plan on her winning? Has he already accepted his own demise? I think so. Peeta doesn’t believe he can win. 

Of course, it is also admirable that Peeta would rather lose as himself than win acting as someone else. He doesn’t want the games to change him as a person. Do you think people in The Capitol ever think about the mental consequences of the games? Does it occur to them that such intense violence changes a person, usually for the worse? They sometimes see the results – such as with Haymitch’s drinking – but it seems like they usually blame something else for those harmful behaviors. They ignore the more dire consequences. It’s despicable. 

But we kind of do the same with real world celebrities. Fame of any form can have real negative consequences and yet most of those negative consequences are brushed under the rug. I wish we could all be more open and honest about the problems that plague us. It would help us all get the help we need. Thankfully we are seeing positive changes in our overall society regarding these mental issues and addiction issues. It seems like people are starting to get help for them. They’re being more honest with their fans. I wonder if books like The Hunger Games play a role in that. They make it so obvious that everyone has issues, particularly if they’re being watched 24/7. 

Chapter Eleven thoughts

The beginning of the 17th annual Hunger Game. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The excitement, the drama, the intrigue, the suspense. It always makes me feel nervous, even when I know the ending of this book. How can Katniss possibly survive this? She is being pitted against dozens of other competitors. She is in unfamiliar territory. She is terrified. 

And I’m always terrified right alongside her. 

But, unlike myself, Katniss is equipped to handle the stress. During the sixty seconds when the tributes wait for the games to truly begin, she is already making plans to escape the Cornucopia. Her excitement at the sight of the bow always brings me a sense of foolish relief. She has to survive if there’s a bow there ready for her. 

At the same time, you know that she won’t be able to get it. Suzanne Collins likes to build suspense too much for that. Plus, it would be stupid to head straight for the heart of the Cornucopia. Katniss would likely die in the process. We can’t have the book end too soon! It would also be a much, much darker story if the main character died. It would be more reminiscent of classic dystopic fiction where the main character either dies or loses themselves to the overbearing, corrupt governmental system.

When another tribute lights a fire nearby to where Katniss is strapped to a tree, it always made me wonder about what other mentors were like. Did no one warn the girl? Fire is an easy way to give away your precise location. Did no one care to explain that to her? Or was she just so scared and cold that she forgot? I’ve always wanted to learn more about the other tributes. It is so horrible that The Capitol is so willing to throw away their lives. Some are even trained all their life just to die. They all had background stories and lives. How could their government just condemn them to death?