Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Best Books of 2009: Catching Fire

It's that time of year again, and your friendly neighborhood librarians are eager to tell you about the best books of 2009. Here is Anarda with a review of her favorite book of the year.

It was clearly a vintage year for teen series. In the past 12 months we have seen conclusions of Cassandra Clare’s trilogy, The Mortal Instruments, and D. J. MacHale’s Pendragon series of 10 books (I only have nine more to go!), as well as the second titles of four trilogies: Kristen Cashore’s Graceling, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking and Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper. Each series has made me hungry to read more about their characters (major and minor) and their worlds. And I can write that the sequel I was most looking forward to reading did not disappoint me; at this point in my stack of must-read books I can say, “My favorite character of the year is…Katniss Everdeen,” of Hunger Games and Catching Fire. [As for a favorite world, I'll take Beka Cooper's Tortall over Katniss’s Panem any day!]

After her unexpected win at the Hunger Games in book one, Katniss Everdeen finds herself in far deeper trouble with the despotic government of Panem in the second book, Catching Fire. Worse, she finds that her reluctance to form or acknowledge deep emotional attachments, to her mother, to her best friend Gale, or to the young man Peeta, who shared her win at the Games, does not help anyone, least of all herself. All who care for her are endangered by Katniss’s show of defiance against the ruling Capitol. Meanwhile, the 12 districts who watched the televised Games find hope and inspiration in Katniss, and their populations beginning to rise in revolt against the government after her Victory Tour with Peeta. When their participation in a new Game is demanded, she privately vows to help Peeta survive, and relinquishes the bonds that held her to Gale. She also begins to understand that her private decisions and decisive actions in the dangerous arenas of life and of the Games affect ever greater numbers of people. As Katniss meets the challenge to help Peeta and her new allies survive in the Quell Game, the government’s hatred of Katniss also grows, with devastating results to all she treasures. Margaret Mead wrote, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” We will have to wait for the third book, due in August 2010, to see which one of these brave characters survives to witness it.

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