REVIEW: Mockinjay (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Dystopian Fiction/ Young Adult, Pages: 400, Reading Level: Easy

Book Description:

“Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay- no matter what the personal cost.”

What a great ending to a series. I love this series. I have it in hardback and am in the process of covering the book covers with that clear stuff that you see on library hardbacks. That’s how much I love this series. Now that I am at the end, for the second time, I will review Mockingjay and a little of the entire series simultaneously.

The Hunger Games was great because you have the whole element of surprise going for you. Catching Fire includes some big surprises, but also continues to introduce even more controversial issues. I like that the middle book in the series does not succumb to ho-hum-ness. Mockingjay brings them all together nicely. By this point, the actual Games cease to be the major plot of the story but rather takes a back seat as a symptom of a much larger and all too repetitive disease- political power. The Hunger Games is speculative fiction of a future that does not heed George Santaya’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Frankly, our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn’t care about what would happen to the people who came after them. But this republic idea sounds like an improvement over our current government. p84

Mockingjay also gives us more insight into Katniss and her relationships. I’ll admit there were times when I disliked Katniss, or when I thought she was annoying, but she is a typical teenage girl and I am sure my mother felt the same way about me at times during my teenage years. Where I think Collins was particularly successful regarding Katniss’ character, is her emotional development, especially when she uses seemingly insignificant events as a catalyst for some great understanding, which is often how it happens in real life:

As long as Buttercup feels he has the chance of catching the elusive light under his paws, he’s bristling with aggression… When the light goes out completely, Buttercup’s temporarily distraught and confused, but he recovers and moves on to other things… But the one thing that sends Buttercup into a tailspin is when I leave the light on but put it hopelessly out of his reach, high on the wall, beyond even his jumping skills. He paces below the wall, wails and can’t be comforted or distracted. He’s useless until I shut the light off. p153

This scene is when Katniss finally understands why Snow’s actions with Peeta are such an effective tactic. It’s almost as if this was his intention from the very beginning when Snow wants Katniss to be more convincing with her fake relationship with Peeta in Catching Fire. That happened in Catching Fire, right? Sometimes I have a hard time separating the story into three separate books. An argument could be made that the reason Katniss had such a hard time figuring Snow out was because he was nurturing many different strategies at the same time and foresaw a future opportunity when he would be able to more effectively use Peeta against her:

Thinking that Peeta was in his possession and being tortured for rebel information was bad. But thinking that he’s being tortured specifically to incapacitate me is unendurable. And it’s under the weight of this revelation that I truly begin to break. p154

Which brings me to…

First, is she really in love with Peeta? Don’t get me wrong, I wanted Katniss to end up with Peeta from the very beginning (not saying she does end up with him, you’ll have to read it to find out). I’ll stay away from the whole discussion about relationships forged in times of crisis, but this section could arguably present the possibility that if Katniss did indeed end up with Peeta, it would be out of pity or obligation. Reminds me of the time I really upset my Russian Literature professor by suggesting the only reason Onegin wants Tatiana at the end of Evgeny Onegin is because he can’t have her. I managed to convince the rest of the class and my professor was not happy. While this sounds like one of my digressions, it actually is relevant. We don’t know if Peeta will end up dead or will be so permanently damaged that he will never be able to have a normal relationship if he somehow manages to escape. So, maybe the only reason Katniss is so crazy over this is because regardless of what happens, she can no longer have him. Either he will be dead or will no longer be unconditionally in love with her.

Second, I think this quote is quite interesting for an entirely different reason. This is book three. By this point, others have grown convinced that Katniss is in love with Peeta even though she cannot see it yet. At first I thought it was unrealistic for Katniss not to realize it this far into the story, but I have my own personal experience that relates to, obviously not the Games, but rather the denial of feelings. Although as time passes, you question if all those people were right, or if your feelings are merely a result of retrospection. Why Katniss loves Peeta, or if she really does, makes for a good discussion.

While the next quote takes us back to the whole history repeating itself, I really wanted to save this for last because I find it to be the most intriguing reference:

‘Panem et Circenses’ translates into ‘Bread and Circuses.’ The writer was saying that in return for full bellies and entertainment, his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power. p223

This is how I know that the whole story is intelligently set up. This series is one I propose could be used as required reading instead of the so called classics. Consider what an excellent final exam question this makes-

Panem

Identify the reference and its historical significance. Discuss how it relates to The Hunger Games trilogy.

And of course one of the requirements in a correct answer would be the inclusion of the Gladiators. That is obviously what the Hunger Games are- futuristic gladiatorial entertainment. Extra points if the student makes the connection between gladiatorial entertainment, current reality television shows and the speculative merging of the two in a futuristic dystopian society. Now that I’ve got my brain going on this, I could go on for pages and pages. Panem is ancient Rome reincarnated. That would make an A paper, don’t you think? Scoff at this Young Adult dystopian fiction trend if you must, but there is real intelligence behind some of these stories.

Note: If you are not interested in the Battle Royale comparison, please skip to the last paragraph.

Now I would like to make some final comments about the comparison of this series with Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I read Battle Royale online before its release in the United States- or re-release, I’m not sure about the details. There is a lot of criticism of The Hunger Games trilogy based on the opinion that it is a rip-off of BR. While Collins claims she had not even heard of BR when she conceived of THG, I propose that not only are the stories distinctly different, but even if she was ‘inspired’ by BR, it would be irrelevant. And keep in mind that I am not sure that I have read the entire text. When I discovered BR, it wasn’t available in the U.S. yet, so I found an online version to read and the translation was choppy. I think the newly released version may be longer, but I’m not sure. I have to go back and read it again.

Before I get into details, I would like to give kudos to Takami. When news of the first THG movie came out, instead of suing Collins for stealing his story, which I am not saying is the case, he decided to cash in on the comparisons by releasing (or re-releasing) both the book and movie in the United States. What a smart move!

The fundamental difference between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale is that BR does this ‘game’ in reaction to the ever growing lack of respect for elders coming from teens. The battle is not televised and is a method for thinning the growing herd of teens. That’s what I remember from BR; I may be a bit off. There are obviously other factors, but I seem to remember that one being the most prominent. And BR seemed to be extremely cultural. I remember one of the characters discussing the adults’ subservience as a factor that allows such a law to exist, thus bringing up a good opportunity for discussion about elders’ subservience winning out over the rebellious spirit, which allows for change, and the contrasting youth’s seemingly natural instinct toward rebelliousness, which may be misconstrued as disrespect. It’s the everlasting battle between generations taken to an extreme.

Rather than criticizing THG as too similar to BR, an opinion with which I absolutely disagree, I would think the comparison and contrast of the two would make for a great discussion. You might have to get parental consent for this to be included in any high school curriculum, but it would make for a great book group discussion. Imagine teenagers’ reaction when they discover you can actually have quite the intellectual conversation regarding THG!

Really, this review of Mockingjay and the series as a whole barely touches the surface. I haven’t even touched on subjects such as rules of war, children as human shields, forms of government, and many more issues that are relevant today. Besides all that, The Hunger Games is just a really good read.

Reviewed by Christina
September 21, 2013

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