Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Kattnis, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.
The Districts are rebelling. Thanks to Katniss Everdeen and a handful of berries, she has become a symbol of revolution – the mockingjay. Together with exiles from District 13 and the uprising residents of the other Districts, Katniss and the rebels are going to take down the Capitol. No more ‘peacekeepers’. No more deprivation and starvation. No more child sacrifices. No more ‘Hunger Games’.
I went into the third and final book in ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy knowing it would be a tear-jerker. Suzanne Collins’ series is an awful glimpse into a distorted and dystopian world ruled by an entertainment-hungry dictatorship and fuelled by fear. There was no fathomable way that Ms Collins could write an all-round ‘happy ending’ for Katniss and crew. Still, even preparing myself for what I knew would be a hard-to-swallow final book, I was alarmed by the despair in ‘Mockingjay’. I cried constantly throughout the last 100 pages. . . but I still, surprisingly, loved the send-off.
Suzanne Collins has written a very complicated final instalment. She is very cleverly giving her younger readers a history lesson with ‘Mockingjay’ by focussing so much of the book on the Hunger Games and Capitol politics. Katniss Everdeen becomes the symbol for the rebellion – her ‘mockingjay’ character is the personification of fight and freedom for the districts. Collins has written Katniss and her created mockingjay persona as a sort of Che Guevara or Rosa Parks – and Collins’s history lesson is in showing her young audience just how orchestrated and make-believe a revolution can be. Uprisings don’t happen overnight – they need people and symbols to stir the embers of discontent.
I turn my gaze skyward and watch the flight of a hawk across the sky. “President Snow once admitted to me that the Capitol was fragile. At the time, I didn’t know what he meant. It was hard to see clearly because I was so afraid. Now I’m not. The Capitol’s fragile because it depends on the districts for everything. Food, energy, even the Peacekeepers that police us. If we declare our freedom, the Capitol collapses. President Snow, thanks to you, I’m officially declaring mine today.”A lot of ‘Mockingjay’ is cleverly devoted to politicking and the behind-the-scenes of a revolution. And it makes for fascinating reading. Throughout the book I kept hearing that ‘V for Vendetta’ quote: “A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world.” Collins beautifully articulates the strength behind symbolism and the mobility of revolution and Katniss Everdeen is a wonderful conduit for such explorations;
“President Snow says he’s sending us a message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that?” One of the cameras follows as I point to the planes burning on the roof of the warehouse across from us. The Capitol seal on a wing glows clearly through the flames. “Fire is catching!” I am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a word. “And if we burn, you burn with us!”Obviously the take-down of the Capitol is at the crux of ‘Mockingjay’ (and the entire ‘Hunger Games’ series). But an equally large portion of the book is devoted to Katniss’s impossible love triangle and the choice she must make between long-time friend Gale, and her arena partner, Peeta. I don’t want to give anything away. . . but a lot of my crying throughout the book had to do with Peeta and Katniss. Just. . . wow. They were heart-wrenching. Utterly and completely heart-wrenching.
Like I said, I went into ‘Mockingjay’ knowing that the trilogy couldn’t, faithfully, finish on a happy ending. There was just no way because a happy ending is not conducive to a dystopian trilogy, unfortunately. Still, I was shocked (and surprisingly impressed) by how cut-throat Suzanne Collins was in this book. She unabashedly puts Katniss through the physical, emotional and mental wringer. Collins is blood-thirsty, killing off beloved characters and giving them gruesome send-offs reminiscent of the arena in book #1.
All of the deaths left me an emotional, vicarious wreck. At the time of reading I was almost angry with Ms Collins for writing such despair and it got to the point where I was hoping and praying for just one good thing to come out of ‘Mockingjay’. But upon reflection, I can appreciate and accept that all that death and gloom was necessary. You have to go there to come back, so to speak. And really, if Ms Collins had written anything softer she would have been selling-out and kowtowing to fans. Instead she remained true to the heart of her series – it started out bloody and ended bloody. Well, bloody brilliant, in my opinion.
Yes, ‘Mockingjay’ is sad, and violent and in no way a clean, conventional ‘happy ending’. But it’s all relative. . . because although ‘The Hunger Games’ is a dystopian look at killing sport, it’s equally true that at its heart the series is about fighting back. It’s about choosing to die on your feet rather than live on your knees. Yes, it’s violent and dystopian - but it’s ultimately about hope. Collins distils her series’ overarching themes in this final instalment, sending Katniss and crew out with an explosive ‘BANG’, which is equal parts sad and brilliant.
My ‘Hunger Games’ obsession knows no bounds. Now that I've tackled the books, I look forward to the film adaptations. For what it’s worth, I’m backing Kaya Scodelario for Katniss (because Skins is amazing and I could believer her ass-kicking!). Hurry up 2013!
Consequently I have now watched the film adaptation of a Japanese novel by Kōshun Takami. If you read the 1-star Amazon reviews of 'The Hunger Games', you'll notice that a majority of them accuse Ms Collins of ripping-off the plot of 'Battle Royale' (in which a Japanese school class are left deserted on an island and ordered to kill each other in 3 days as cameras tape the whole thing). I have now seen the movie (which is gory and brilliant!) and intend to read the book. Are there similarities to 'Hunger Games'? Yes. But then again, 'Hunger Games' has similarities to 'Lord of the Flies' too. Collins's book tears away from 'Battle Royale' when Katniss exits the arena and starts a revolution. Still, it's worthwhile seeing. And it looks as though a Westernized adaptation is on the way for 2011 (to beat the 2013 'Hunger Games' movie perhaps?)