Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

For as much as I liked The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I’m unsure if I can say the same about Mockingjay.  Instead of immediately feeling like I’ve read an instant classic, more than anything it leaves me wondering.  I wonder if I liked it.  I wonder if there’s too much violence, hate, revenge, and death.  I wonder if there’s too little love, trust, and forgiveness.

I wonder if I can recommend it.

But wait, I get ahead of myself.

In the first two books, Katniss has survived the Hunger Games and the uprisings in districts around the country that threaten the Capitol of Panem, uprisings touched off partly due to her actions.  To be sure, tensions have been high without Katniss, but now she has become “the Mockingjay,” a symbol of the rebellion that the citizens of Panem can rally around.

The Hunger Games is a book about survival.  Catching Fire is also about survival but with the added undercurrent of political unrest.  Mockingjay is all about that unrest.  Uprisings are occurring in all twelve districts, and war is being fought outright.  The battle for the country between the rebellion, led by survivors in District 13, and the Capitol has begun.  It is ruthless, violent, and matches what readers should expect in the world imagined by author Suzanne Collins.

It’s hard reviewing the third book of a trilogy without revealing key events in the other two, so I won't summarize much at all.  I will say that the action scenes are as intense as ever and vividly described.  Even more than in the other books, Katniss - and readers - emotionally deal with questions of what is right, who to trust, and how to act.

Yes, I do recommend Mockingjay, though not as enthusiastically as the other books in the trilogy.  My concern is that some young readers who successfully read the first two may be surprised by Mockingjay’s tension, death, violence and war.

But that’s so difficult to say!  How could readers (how could I?) not expect a war in Panem to be exactly what Collins describes?  If we accept a world where children are sent off to battle to the death at the command of the Capitol, we must accept - and expect - the way the war plays out.  I’m honestly not sure if I’m more bothered by the events of the novel or that I somehow didn’t expect it.  Not that I imagined everything to end happily ever after, but I admit I was naively ill-prepared for the grave events of the trilogy’s conclusion.

The conclusion no doubt wraps up everything in need of wrapping from the first two novels.  Every reader wonders what happens next when finishing a book, of course, but authors can’t continue a story forever.  Readers need to draw their own optimistic or pessimistic conclusions as they see fit.

In this case I’m going with optimistic.

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