Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay (Book 3 in The Hunger Games trilogy)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Started: August 24, 2010
Finished: August 24, 2010

From the inside cover:
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss' 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' 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.

Okay, since this is Mockingjay, I'll approach this review in two parts: one without spoilers, and one with. I was going to initially do the review without any spoilers, but after reading to the last page, I couldn't let this post go by without expressing thoughts over how things turned out, this book has drawn out so many varied emotions...like looking back on your life and realizing when you lost your innocence.

Okay, so this part is spoiler-free, nothing you wouldn't know from reading the above summary or the first chapter. I promise. I'll give you lots of obvious notice when the spoilers will come into play.

The book opens with Katniss walking around the ruins of District 12 after being rescued by the rebels and District 13. She describes the treatments she underwent to recover from her injuries in the Quarter Quell and the state of things: Her family and Gale's are safe, Peeta is in the hands of the Capitol, and the officials of District 13 want her to officially embrace the role of the Mockingjay and incite the rebellion in the remaining districts where they have not yet overthrown Capitol forces. Katniss is mentally unbalanced and feeling betrayed, I don't blame her, so she initially resists what they want her to do. But when she realizes that she has a chance of bringing Peeta back alive if she assists the rebellion, she agrees. She becomes the poster girl of the rebellion, just like she was a pawn in the Hunger Games, so the similarities are funny but sad at the same time. I can't give away too much more without going into spoiler territory, but I can name some things that came to mind as I was reading: deceit, lies, cruelty, soul-crushing decisions, and despair.

This final installment is, to say the least, an experience to read. It has a completely different tone from the first two books, and simply because of that I'm going to say it is the best volume. I didn't think it was possible to top the previous volumes in terms of content and voice, but the author does it, and man, she is not afraid to pull the hard punches. I'm really going to miss this series now that it's officially done, but I'm going to go a step further and say that the whole trilogy should be required reading for high school English classes, simply because of the themes and lessons it teaches...plus the fact that it's one of the best YA titles to come along in years doesn't hurt either.

Okay, so now on to the spoiler part, so please don't read what's below unless you've already read all three books or you just want to have everything spoiled for you.


Okay, on to the spoiler part of the review. Good lord, my first impression was that this book was so, oh so bleak and depressing. Katniss spends most of it in a morphine-induced, nightmare-filled existence, there are so many deaths, and the rebellion turns out to be no better than the Capitol they're trying to displace. Once you get past the first two parts you realize this book isn't going to have a clean ending so to speak, and I kept waiting for the hopeful part that I myself hoped was there somewhere, and I didn't feel any hope at all until the last twenty pages or so.

Very bleak.

I felt angry, not to mention sad at this kind of portrayal, even though this series has dealt with children killing children, horrible governments and the like, there was always some hope....Katniss and Peeta survive their first Hunger Games, the rebellion rescues them from the arena the second time, their families were safe...Mockingjay pulls out all the safeties you thought you had.

Gale turns into a really cruel bastard (I did not see that coming), Peeta gets brainwashed and turns insanely mean, Katniss herself votes to allow captured Capitol children to participate in one final Hunger Games, Prim is killed at the hands of the rebels, and Katniss' own mother essentially abandons her eternally damaged daughter. And that's not even scratching the surface of the cruel crap that goes on, there really are no words for it.

But then I realized what the author was trying to write about: the true effects of war and exactly what it does to people. War is bleak: people die, the survivors have nightmares that they can't escape, and the things you witness are truly ghastly. There is no perfect government, everyone is capable of committing horrendous acts no matter what they claim to want for the good of their people, and Katniss realizes this when she clues into the fact that District 13 and President Coin killed that group of children, including Prim. But what Katniss does realize is, I think, what allows most of us to live with ourselves: that the world will never be perfect and it can be falling down around you, but you need to be able to make peace with yourself and what you've done. That you can obsess over all the bad things, but if you take stock of all the good things, it keeps your hope alive and prevents you from turning into a walking ball of darkness. Katniss has this with Peeta, he represented hope for her, and the fact that she bears his children is proof of that, because everyone knows she didn't want to bring children into a world of the Games.

okay, off my deep-thought sentimental train, cause that train's put me through the ringer tonight, on to random stuff:

- She ended up with Peeta! Ha! I was right ^__^
- I loved the analogy that Katniss used to describe Gale and Peeta and why she made the decision she did (dandelion versus flame)
- loved Castor and Pollux purely for the myth reference...this is from a family that named their dog "Freya" and their computers "Castor" and "Pollux"
- I actually cried once I realized Cinna was actually dead and had no chance of coming back, it was actually hard to read the references to his costumes knowing that that's the only time his name would be mentioned
- loved the hanging tree song, I could actually sing the melody in my head and it came together rather well, unlike Rue's song which I couldn't sing off the top of my head cause the words didn't flow in any melody I could piece together
- the scene with Katniss and Pollux and the mockingjays singing the hanging tree song is one I cannot wait to see filmed well...truly beautiful
- Crazy Cat game = laughs
- loved the "Real or Not Real" game Peeta plays with the others, especially the question he asks Katniss at the end of the book, probably one of the only "awww!" moments of the book
- we finally are why President Snow smells of blood and roses, and it just reinforces that he is one sick bastard
- by the end, Katniss literally is the "girl on fire"
- liked that Prim actually got some character development before she was killed off
- wished Katniss and Peeta's kids had names...
- really really wanted a map of Panem, but looks like we'll never get one -_-
- we finally find out what the heck District 2 does!

Spoiler section complete!

Just read the whole series if you haven't already, trust me, this is mindset-changing, thought provoking material. Keep in mind, this does get very bleak towards the end, so I'd probably not give this to kids younger than high school age unless you want them to become cynical very fast and lose their innocence via book series.

Thoughts on the cover:
All the covers flow in terms of colours and elements, the mockingjay evolves from a pin to an actual bird breaking free of its constraints. Mockingjay is done in a nice shade of blue, and is shiny like Catching Fire's cover was. I also liked how texture was used on the mockingjay image, I kept running my fingers over it.

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