Yesterday, one of the simultaneously least and most talked-about books was released to the general public: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. This book follows The Hunger Games (which we reviewed on August 10) and the middle book Catching Fire – which is definitely also worth a read, though not touched on in the blog. While the trilogy has been getting darker with each book, Mockingjay takes the cake. Things go from bad to worse in rapid succession, and the threshold for what Katniss can stand is continually tested. But as the cover design depicts, the mockingjay is no longer just a symbol shared in secret. The mockingjay is now a living, breathing, fighting creature. It is all real now – no longer just a “game.” The war is happening.
But that may be the hardest part of the story. Because as Katniss herself says, “we’re still in the game.” Now her entire world has become the arena. She isn’t a general, or a president, or anyone who decides the rules. In the end she is just a pawn, constantly scrambling to stay ahead of annihilation – from what quarter, she never knows. Time and time again she is reminded of the fact that while she has become a figurehead with the ability to inspire the success of the rebel forces, she has no actual power or control over what happens.
Katniss’s battle is the mediation between her long- and short-term goals: to protect her family and friends in the immediate present (volunteering for Prim, protecting Gale from the whipping, rescuing Peeta) or to protect them in the future (the love story with Peeta, assuming the role of Mockingjay) – between humanity and peace. None of Katniss’s choices have an easy answer, some of them have no answer at all, but she still must choose. She steps up because she has to, and she does her best with it, though the cost to her soul is unimaginable. The PTSD that she and her fellow victors struggle with is in many ways the most harrowing aspect of the book, and the link between the Hunger Games and the actual war is not inconsequential. It speaks about the cost of war in her world of Panem, but in ours as well.
Though Collins puts Katniss through every trial imaginable, she knows how to write a compelling story – I read each book in this series in one sitting, mainly because I couldn’t drag myself away. And Collins at least offers us hope at the end, and a rest for her weary heroine. Highly recommended, but definitely for higher-grade readers.
SPOILER QUESTIONS (read only if you’ve read the book yourself): What did you all think of the ending? Of Katniss’s ultimate happy ending with Peeta instead of Gale? Of the bombing and Prim’s death? Of the new post-revolution world? Of Katniss’s vote in favor of new Hunger Games?