Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

After waiting two months to get my hands on The Hunger Games, I added Mockingjay to my queue at the library once I made it to the top five in the queue to read Catching Fire. I still had to wait another month to read Catching Fire, but my wait to read Mockingjay was only a week after that. I am the master of the library holds system!

I was initially sort of nervous about reading Mockingjay, as it seemed like a lot of people liked it less than the previous two books in the series. Fortunately, my nervousness was unfounded; Mockingjay is probably my favorite installment of the three. A lot of people who have reviewed it positively noted both its psychological realness as well as the strong similarities between Katniss and Ender from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (which, incidentally, was one of my favorite books when I was younger). I'll stop here to avoid unintentionally spoiling things for those who haven't read the first two books in the series.

As usual, later books in a series will be discussed behind a pagebreak. If you haven't read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and don't want to be spoiled, don't click it! I won't be spoiling the end of Mockingjay, though, so if you haven't read it yet, you can still read my review.

Mockingjay picks up a few weeks after Catching Fire ends. Katniss, her mother, Prim, Gale, his family, and approximately nine hundred other District Twelve inhabitants have taken shelter in the secret underground complex that makes up District Thirteen. As it turns out, during the first rebellion against the Capitol, District Thirteen was not destroyed. Popularly known as the site of graphite mines, it was actually the location of half of the Capitol's nuclear arsenal (the rest is in an undisclosed location on the West Coast). When it became clear that the other districts were not going to succeed in overthrowing the Capitol's regime, the leaders of District Thirteen struck a bargain with the Capitol: in exchange for not launching nuclear weaponry at the rest of Panem, the Capitol would leave District Thirteen alone. The Capitol was unable to quash the rumor that District Thirteen was still around, though, and rebel groups had been in contact with it for a long time.

All they were waiting for, as it turns out, was a face for the revolution. Their Mockingjay. And Katniss, once again, finds herself chosen by those in power to symbolize their regime. She quickly realizes that President Coin, who controls both District Thirteen and the other districts' militias, is little different from President Snow, and once again finds herself having to protect her family and the others from District Twelve all over again, along with her fellow former tributes who were rescued from the arena with her at the end of Catching Fire as well as her prep team, who the rebels kidnapped from the Capitol. She reluctantly agrees to be the Mockingjay, and decides to strike a series of deals that will enable her to protect those she loves (and rescue Peeta and Annie from the Capitol), but remains unconvinced that a Panem ruled by President Coin would be an improvement over the current regime.

Much like Catching Fire, Mockingjay revolves around Katniss' internal conflicts and divided loyalties between her family and Gale, her fellow champions and Peete, her own desire to see the Capitol fall, and her gut-wrenching guilt over the number of people who have been murdered as a direct result of her actions. Between the revolts her berry trick spawned, the riots that happened on her and Peeta's Victory Tour, the firebombing of District Twelve, and the inevitable body counts of the war, the body count is quite high, and Katniss is consequently crippled by guilt, anxiety, and doubt. It seemed that many people didn't like the way she was portrayed in this installment, but I found it very realistic and sympathetic. To paraphrase Firefly, a hero is someone who gets other people killed, and it only makes sense that the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who died in the revolts would take their toll on Katniss. Much like Ender, she survives, but the knowledge of what she has done nearly destroys her.

I also really liked the ending. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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