I’m not the kind of person who demands that people read the book before seeing the film. I’m also the kind of reader who rereads books all the time. So, I believe that it’s possible to enjoy a book even when you know the ending. However, I don’t think it always works out. As we know, film adaptations take liberties with the narrative for time and storytelling. They don’t have to wade through all of the context and exposition. I knew this was a divisive read, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. Especially when I’m just waiting for a bunch of stuff to happen.
There is inevitably going to be a lot of pressure on the second book in a series. Especially when the first book is so beloved. After finally reading The Hunger Games, I was left feeling a bit disappointed by Katniss. She wasn’t the great heroine that fans had built her up to be. So, I was interested to see how she would turn out in the second. I’m pleased to see that some of my concerns were addressed from the start. One of my biggest issues with the first book was the way that Katniss treated her mother. It helped me connect to her that the book includes a whole section where she regrets her past behaviour. That said, I still have my issues but I certainly felt closer to her.
Which is good because we spend a lot of this book watching her do very little. The book opens six months after the end of the first book. Katniss and Peeta are back in District 12 after they openly challenged the Capitol. The other districts have taken this as a sign to start rising up against their oppressor. So, Katniss is given presidential orders to convince the people that she genuinely loves Peeta. The pair must do everything they can to prevent all-out rebellion. Can Katniss keep up the ruse for a full tour? Will a proposal and a very public wedding help them? And just what are they planning for 75th Hunger Games?
It takes us a long time to get to the really exciting parts of this book. It’s a very slow build. Not necessarily a bad thing but it is when it’s combined with a constant recap of the previous book. I lost count of how many times we were reminded of the moment with the poisonous berries as if we were likely to forget it. It’s not that the second book in the series is bad but the pacing is just off. There were lulls in the first book but it was, at least, always moving. I didn’t feel that here. There was so much time when the story kind of stopped but not in a way that added to the tension.
When the story gets going, however, this book flies. I also really love the new characters that are introduced. Yet again, most of them are more interesting than the protagonists. Katniss may have improved slightly between books but I can’t say the same for either of her love interests. It’s not just my dislike of the love triangle trope that bugs me about these three. It’s the fact that neither of her prospects makes much of an impact. Okay, one is nice and the other is angry. What else do they have going for them? They just seem a bit thin. I mean Katniss has better chemistry with Haymitch than either Gale or Peeta.
Was this a terrible book? No. Was it a disappointing sequel? Not completely. It starts badly but I do think the second half of this book is as good/better than the first. The scenes in the Hunger Games themselves are more exciting than the first and, had I not already known what was going to happen, I would have found the ending very dramatic. I just think it spends a bit too long on the romance of it all. I don’t think the series needed it. We could have spent that time developing characters and world-building. But I’ve never been a fan of too much romance in my books.