The story picks up where the first book left off, with Katniss and Peeta back in the arena. Why? Good question, but it serves the story completely. I was afraid it was going to be a rehash, but no, it sets the stage for the third book just fine.
I liked how there were often call-backs and that the main character gets depth as she reflects about death, those she lost and what she's going through. I find the rather adult-sounding voice coming from a 16-17 year old rather odd, but then I reconsider what she goes through. It works, perhaps too well for the story.
Definitely a good read.
Not only is this my favorite book in the Hunger Games series, it is one of my overall favorite books. It shows Katniss realizing her strength and her vulnerability where her friends are concerned. Even though his role in the books is small, Cinna's death is a catalyst for all that is to come and is pivotal in the series. The emotions are balanced with the action that never seems to stop throughout the book. Just very well written.
Obviously, as it's a sequel, Katniss survived the Hunger Games from the first book, and now finds herself struggling to cope with the role of victor, and all that that entails. Added to that is the controversy of how she acquired her victory, which of course was by pretending to love Peeta and be almost insane with the thought of losing him to the Games.
Since making it out as one of two victors, which is unheard of, her world has completely and utterly changed. Where once she was able to find a level of freedom and solace, she's now barred. Where she used to find friendship, she now finds suspicion and jealousy and fear.
She's expected to keep up the pretense of love with Peeta in order to stifle the theory that she was giving the bird to the Capital, and she feels trapped by the knowledge that her life will forever be linked to the choice she didn't make in the arena.
Further cages rain down on her head after the President shows up for a tea-party in her living room, and in his best James Bond villain impression, blatantly tells her that the Capital has no qualms about silencing anyone who dares to threaten their power, even unwittingly. Katniss then comes to realize that what she found as an inconvenience before has become a life-altering pit of despair that widens as she tries to find a way around it. She eventually finds herself being shipped off to the arena again, only now she understands that every choice she had has been made for her by the Capital, and she really is trapped in every way.
Killing aside, Katniss is very like most awkward teen girls. She wants to be a teen, but lost that option with the death of her father. She wants to be self-reliant and independent, but doesn't know the real cost of being those things. She's sullen and moody at times, and thinks she knows everything, while at the same time feeling like she understands nothing. She has deep feelings for two guys, but is confused and doesn't really know what she wants. When either Peeta or Gale is in danger, she is ready to fight to the death for them, but she is afraid of letting anyone have even the smallest glimpse of her heart, like the air itself would rupture it.
I have to say that I am fairly over the whole 'love triangle' thing - not just in this series, but in general. I know that it creates tension, furthers the plot, especially in a book like this where the reasons one has to stay alive, or not, factor in very heavily. It's just been done before, so many times, and begins to feel like a gimmick in itself.
At least in this series, either guy would be a good choice. At the end of book 1, despite how wonderful Peeta was, I was firmly Team Gale. But now, Peeta's making a comeback. I do appreciate the fact that Collins made him so sweet and vulnerable and insightful. Willing to do anything and everything for Katniss, it makes the choice so much harder, and takes some of the annoying "Ugh! This AGAIN?!" feeling out of the love triangle. But Gale has been it for me since the beginning. He's the brave and stalwart friend who has and will always be there, but who doesn't avoid letting his rougher emotions show when warranted, and he doesn't pity himself for what he must endure.
I'm pretty impressed with the way that Collins was able to progress the story, give us additional information about the world they live in, as well as keep the Peeta/Katniss/Gale thing going, as well as set up the third book, without making it seem like this was just filler. Haymitch also takes a much more interesting role in this book, and this makes me wonder just how big of a bang the last book will end with.