Monday, May 16, 2011
CBRIII: Book#26: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Thar be SPOILERS AHEAD. This is the third book in a trilogy, after all. I'll be discussing all three books here. There are no big spoilers, as I don't spell it all out, but you won't have many surprises if you do read this.
The Hunger Games introduced us to Katniss Everdeen. Her life was a hard one. She lived in District 12, part of the new nation Panem. As a way to keep the citizens of Districts 1 through 12 from uprising against the Capitol again, The Hunger Games were created. Each District must give one girl tribute and one boy tribute to the Capitol, to fight to the death in the Gamemaker's arena. Kill or be killed. Children made to pay for the sins of their ancestors.
Katniss was the head of her household, with her father killed in a coal mine accident and her mother unable to overcome the grief that followed. In order to keep her mother and her sister, Prim, safe and cared for, Katniss began to hunt. She gathered, she hunted, she traded, and Gale Hawthorne was her best friend and partner in this. Then Katniss was sent to The Hunger Games. Her fellow tribute, Peeta Mallark, was barely an acquaintance before the two were marketed as star-crossed lovers to win the hearts of the Capitol audience and rich sponsors for the Games. While in the arena, Katniss found herself playing the part more easily, wanting to protect Peeta. In the final moments of the game, Katniss made a decision that saved their lives and inflamed the Capitol's President Snow.
In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta are housed in the Victor's Village of District 12. They are not as they were, since Katniss has no idea how she feels about Peeta or what parts of his love for her were manufactured. She has Gale back, but is unable to explore any feelings she may have for him due to constant observation and Gale's job in the coal mines. Katniss also knows that she has put the lives of everyone she loves in danger from her perceived jab at the Capitol that won the Games for her and Peeta. President Snow himself tells Katniss that she might inflame rebels and cause deaths of innocent people.
Unexpectedly, the 75th Hunger Games, or Quarter Quell, takes an unexpected turn. The only people ever thought to be truly safe from the horror of the arena, the victors, are recalled to compete in the Hunger Games. As there are only three winning tributes in District 12, Katniss will be going back. Although she hopes Haymitch, former mentor and Games victor, can take Peeta's place, Peeta volunteers himself. Katniss and Haymitch conspire to keep Peeta alive in the arena. However, Katniss has no idea what Haymitch and some of the victors from other Districts have planned.
Mockingjay begins after Katniss is unexpectedly lifted from the Hunger Games arena by the rebel forces in District 13. District 13 was thought to be decimated after the earlier rebellion, but they have been building themselves up to take on the Capitol. They want Katniss, continually built up as the Girl on Fire, the Mockingjay, to be the face of their new rebellion. Katniss is unsure of this, but soon accedes to their wishes when she learns how important she is to those in charge of the rebels.
Peeta and Katniss were not privy to the rebel's hands behind-the-scenes of the Quarter Quell. Peeta was not retrieved by the rebels and was instead captured by the Capitol. For every inch the rebels take, Peeta is made to condemn them on the television per President Snow's torturous devices. Katniss demands Peeta's safety, as well as the safety of others and some specific requests, and becomes the face of the rebellion. The Mockingjay. Katniss's life becomes camera crews, nightmares, and destroying herself in order to save others. The same as it ever was.
Collins's story is listed as Young Adult. My library has it as Sci-fi/Fantasy. I'm confused by these labels. We don't live in a world where the Hunger Games exist, but don't we send our children off to slaughter in the name politics every day? Don't we have a wealthy upper class that sometimes lives in ignorance and bliss as our poorer citizens starve and struggle? There is a resonance here that I'm unsure a younger audience can fully grasp. It's something that feels different for all that read it, based on their experiences and age, I'm sure. It's a beautifully done tale of love, loyalty, and what it means to stand up for your beliefs. It's also cynical in its view of those in charge. If people are dying, is one way any better than another?
Ugh, I'm not a big politics person, but I felt I had to bring up the comparisons that followed me throughout the book. I'm guessing that you've read these books if you've read this review. If not, you should be reading these books. As soon as possible. I'm just hoping that the movie doesn't decide to make teenage romance the focal point in such a rich narrative. If that is the case, any new readers may be sorely disappointed. Or pleasantly surprised.