Book Talk: *Mockingjay*, by Suzanne Collins (few spoilers!)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press (2010), Hardcover (0439023513 / 9780439023511)
Fiction (YA, dystopian), 400 pages
Source: Personal copy
Reason for reading: Mandatory, after reading the first two book in the series

Opening Lines: "I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house. How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?"

Book Description: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Comments: Well, it's certainly been one of the most talked-about books of the last couple of weeks! However, for those who are taking their time to get around to reading Mockingjay, I'll try to keep this low on spoilers. However, if you haven't read the first two books, either everything in the post will be a spoiler or you'll have no clue what I'm talking about (so you'll be skipping this one anyway).

I read the first two volumes of The Hunger Games during last fall's 24-Hour Readathon, which was a pretty intense experience; reading Mockingjay was less intense, taking the better part of two days. Either that, or it was so much more intense I needed breaks from it...I think it may be a mix of both.

After Katniss destroyed the arena in which the Hunger Games took place and was airlifted out of it at the end of Catching Fire, she regained consciousness - with Gale at her side - in a hospital in District 13. District 13, which wasn't supposed to exist, and which was believed to have been destroyed nearly a century earlier. District 13, which in reality had literally been driven underground, has been the breeding ground for rebellion against Panem's Capitol...and the rebellion needs Katniss, the girl who was on fire, to be its public face - its Mockingjay. There are no more Games. This is war, and this is real - mostly. Parts of it are very stage-managed, but that's not entirely inconsistent with real-life modern warfare either.

If the Hunger Games themselves were high-stakes reality television, Mockingjay is the movie version, and I felt more like I was watching the story unfold than reading it. One of Suzanne Collins' strengths in writing is her portrayal of action, and the action rarely lets up. There's a pattern of sorts: Katniss recovers from injury, takes part in rebel initiatives of increasing danger and violence, sustains injury, recovers, and gets back into battle. But just as she did during the Games, she questions everything and everyone around her, and her primary motivation remains the safety of her mother and sister. Her secondary motivation is the elimination of Panem's President Snow.

While creating a strong heroine in Katniss, Collins has also made her far from perfect: she's impetuous, has questionable judgment, and is far from certain about a lot. Collins' books is about war's effects as much as it is about battle; in some ways, it's about PTSD while the traumatic stress is still going on. No one comes out of these conditions unchanged, and while they're not really explored in depth, Collins isn't afraid to talk about the complications. To some extent, the last chapters of Mockingjay reminded me of the hobbits' return to the ruined Shire at the end of The Return of The King (the book - much as I love the Lord of the Rings films, that part didn't make it in).

While I didn't find the ending of Mockingjay entirely satisfying, it felt earned - consistent with what the characters had gone through to get there. (The epilogue, however, was unnecessary.) This isn't my favorite book in the series - that remains Catching Fire - but if you've followed the story thus far, it's not to be missed.

Rating: 3.75/5

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