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Starred Review. Gr 7 Up--Every year in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the U.S. used to be, the Capitol holds a televised tournament in which two teen "tributes" from each of the surrounding districts fight a gruesome battle to the death. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the tributes from impoverished District Twelve, thwarted the Gamemakers, forcing them to let both teens survive. In this rabidly anticipated sequel, Katniss, again the narrator, returns home to find herself more the center of attention than ever. The sinister President Snow surprises her with a visit, and Katniss’s fear when Snow meets with her alone is both palpable and justified. Catching Fire is divided into three parts: Katniss and Peeta’s mandatory Victory Tour through the districts, preparations for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, and a truncated version of the Games themselves. Slower paced than its predecessor, this sequel explores the nation of Panem: its power structure, rumors of a secret district, and a spreading rebellion, ignited by Katniss and Peeta’s subversive victory. Katniss also deepens as a character. Though initially bewildered by the attention paid to her, she comes almost to embrace her status as the rebels’ symbolic leader. Though more of the story takes place outside the arena than within, this sequel has enough action to please Hunger Games fans and leaves enough questions tantalizingly unanswered for readers to be desperate for the next installment. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Reviewers were happy to report that the Hunger Games trilogy is alive and well, and all looked forward to the third book in the series after this one's stunning conclusion. But they disagreed over whether Catching Fire was as good as the original book Hunger Games or should be viewed as somewhat of a "sophomore slump." Several critics who remained unconvinced by Katniss's romantic dilemma made unfavorable comparisons to the human-vampire-werewolf love triangle in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. But most reviewers felt that Catching Fire was still a thrill because Collins replicated her initial success at balancing action, violence, and heroism in a way that will enthrall young readers without giving them (too many) nightmares.
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