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Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic

Where did you get this book: Purchased from bookstore

Release date: Available now

This review contains spoilers!

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Blurb taken from Scholastic website:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

When we last left Katniss Everdeen, she’d been rescued from the destroyed Quarter Quell arena by the rebels and the people of District 13. And Peeta was left behind. She comes to find out that the Capital destroyed District 12 because of her, and only a few hundred people survived to make their way to 13.

She is despondent and miserable. The rebels want her to become their spokesperson. They want her to be the Mockingjay. All she wants is to curl up and hide. Even being with Gale and her family again doesn’t help her to forget Peeta, nor to keep from imagining what the Capital is doing to him.

When the Capital airs a promo featuring a healthy and whole Peeta calling for a cease-fire, Katniss finally decides she has to step up and do something. She turns into the mouthpiece District 13 has been looking for, and as she sees the atrocities rained down on the other districts, she sinks further and further into her certainty that the Capital must fall, no matter what the cost.

But the next promo shows Peeta thin and beaten and barely coherent. And at the end, he warns her of an attack, leaving Katniss to watch blood hit the screen as she listens to the Peacekeepers beating him. She sinks back into herself and only comes alive again when she’s told they are sending a rescue team after Peeta. A team that includes the one other guy she might love—Gale.

But at its heart, this isn’t a love story. Team Peeta and Team Gale don’t matter nearly as much as whether or not they will defeat the Capital and be free. Because only once they’re free can Katniss really devote herself to figuring out who she loves.

And that is the strength of Collins’ work—it’s honesty. The Hunger Games trilogy isn’t your standard YA fare. It delves into the horrors and realities of war and how it destroys people, along with the pain of trying to put together the pieces again. I don’t want to give away a lot of this book, because Collins did some masterful work and actually managed to surprise me a couple times.

This isn’t a fun book to read, at times it’s almost painful because as a reader you remember that these are children being put on the front lines. Children used as pawns in a war not of their choosing. And Collins pulls that off masterfully. Katniss’s reactions in this book are much more real to me than some of them in Catching Fire. And the pain and loss of war are hammered home time and again. A lot of characters die, and the minds of Katniss and Peeta are damaged to a degree they never wholly recover from.

There have been complaints about the violence in these books. To that I say, yes, they are violent and they should be. They are books about war and wars aren’t painted in black and white—they are painted in teardrops and streaks of blood.

There have also been complaints because the ending is less than perfectly happy. But it’s happy enough, and in real life, that is usually the best we can ask for. It’s what I would have chosen for Katniss, because anything else would have just been one more lie devised by someone in charge.

Are there issues with the book? Sure. The weapons unavailable to Panem seem ridiculous considering the technological advances they do have. Peeta’s recovery sometimes seemed too convenient to me. However, I’m willing to suspend disbelief on the first, and as for the second, since the story is in first person, we only see what Katniss sees, which allows for the possibility of much more happening behind the scenes.

For its raw pain and beauty (and the fact that it actually made me cry), I give Mockingjay an A.

Thank you, Suzanne Collins, for this moving and powerful series. It is a classic in the making. Team Katniss forever 🙂

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