Friday, March 23, 2012

Young Adult Fiction: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW! I have to give the same warning that I gave with Catching Fire. There will be spoilers below and I may end up inadvertently ruining....wait, no...I KNOW I will end up ruining The Hunger Games and Catching Fire as well. You have been warned.

The Situation: By the end of Catching Fire, Katniss is told that there is no more District 12 (see...told you I would ruin it). Her homeland has been completely obliterated as the Capitol is attempting to head off the growing and yet imminent rebellion. The good news is that Katniss has managed to escape her second trip into the Hunger Games, along with many of her allies from the arena. She is now (somewhat) safely residing with her family and other survivors and the long-believed non-existent District 13. Here, under President Coin, Katniss and other survivors can further the rebellion and the seek the death of President Snow.

The Problem: Well, besides the glaringly obvious one of District 12 being reduced to smoke and ashes, which means many of the people Katniss knew are also dead, is the horrifying fact that Peeta did not make it back to District 13 with the others. He was captured by the Capitol, and Katniss eventually realizes he is being tortured for information and being used by President Snow to get into Katniss' head...and it is working. And while the rebellion seems to be gaining momentum, the Capitol is definitely not going down without a fight. And of course, Katniss has to navigate all of this chaos while continuing to sort out her feelings for both Gale and Peeta. 

Genre, Themes, History: If the first two books were lessons in social justice, this one is a lesson in the effects of war. Collins has stated that she did get some inspiration for the series, and Katniss' sense of loss from her father's death, from the Vietnam War, in which Collins' father served. The book does not pull any punches in showing how brutal war truly is and how both sides are often guilty using the lives of innocent people to achieve their goals. Also, something I found interesting was that Mockingjay shows how even the "good guys" can end up doing the exact thing they criticized the Capitol for. Once some rulers get people on their side and have the momentum they need to make the rebellion successful, they start making decisions that put the people in the same oppressive situations they were in before the rebellion started. Fascinating stuff. 

And much like the first book, Katniss must deal with issues of moral ambiguity as she is once again having to kill others in order to survive and make the rebellion successful. 

My Verdict: Mockingjay gave me just the closure I needed to finish out the story. I would not call it a happy ending by any means, but it is an ending, and after everything that happens, that is enough. I also thought this book sufficiently redeemed the one fatal flaw I thought Catching Fire had of simply reworking the same plot-lines from the first one. And while all three books go together (although the first one could possibly stand on its own), Mockingjay is definitely the most different and possibly the most terrifying.

Favorite Moment: President Snow's execution. And no, I did not give it away by saying that. Trust me.

Favorite Character: Finnick. This is a guy that you meet in Catching Fire and think you aren't going to be a fan of, but then by the end of book and as the reader gets further along in Mockingjay, he becomes an endearing favorite.

Recommended Reading: Honestly, I have nothing for this. The Hunger Games the movie comes out today, so maybe I'll recommend that. That's right, on a book blog I am recommending that you watch the movie. But I am almost 100% sure that those of you who have actually read the book first will utter that awful phrase that bookworms all over are known for: "The book was better." And you know what? We only say it because it is true.

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