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Mockingjay: Suzanne Collins

Book: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Pages: 400
Age Range: 13 and up

Mockingjay Mockingjay is, of course, the long-awaited conclusion to Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy (see my reviews of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire). This series has reached that point of media saturation where it becomes cool for reviewers to dismiss or criticize it (Twilight, anyone?). The movie rights have been acquired by Lionsgate. Mockingjay had something like a 1.2 million copy initial print run. The series has helped launch a tremendous wave of dystopian young adult literature. So ... it's hard to be objective about the book. But I'll share a few thoughts (and no spoilers).

Mockingjay is very dark. This is to be expected. The first Hunger Games book, after all, introduces a society that hosts an annual contest in which 24 teens fight to the death, until only one victor is standing. In Catching Fire, victor Katniss finds herself returned to the Hunger Games arena, even as she also becomes a pawn in a much larger game, a rebellion against the abusive capitol.

Mockingjay picks up shortly after the end of Catching Fire, with Katniss physically and emotionally damaged by the traumas that she's endured. While she's been reunited with her childhood friend Gale, her Hunger Games partner Peeta has been captured by the government. Katniss has become a symbol of the resistance (she is the Mockingjay of the title). However, she's too worn down to be much help, at first, and finds herself suspicious of the motives of some of the rebels, too. Katniss's personal struggle to understand her place, and her feelings for Gale and Peeta, plays out against the larger backdrop of the war between the Capitol and the rebels.

This is a book that portrays war in all of its ugliness. Collins touched on similar themes in her earlier Underland Chronicles series (last book reviewed here, with links to earlier reviews), but that book was aimed at a younger audience. Mockingjay depicts scenes of shocking violence, and acts of nearly unimaginable cruelty. This is not a book for those with weak stomachs. But it is compelling. And it casts a sharp, but utter non-preachy, light on the atrocities of war.

I found Katniss's physical and emotional weakness in parts of the book a bit trying at first, but I've concluded that it was brave of Collins to show all of Katniss's damage. She's far, far from a perfect heroine, and she knows it.

Personally, I was satisfied with the ending, and with the resolution of the Gale/Peeta/Katniss triangle (and that's all I'll say about that right now). I haven't read many other reviews, so I have no idea whether or not this is a general viewpoint. But I'll certainly continue to recommend this series to people. I think that Suzanne Collins has some very dark views on war and technology. But she's created a fascinating world in Panem, and a memorable, ultimately sympathetic character in warrior Katniss. Quite an achievement, I think.

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: August 24, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher