Mockingjay is written by Suzanne Collins. It is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. It was published in 2010 by Scholastic. Collins’ website can be found here.
Spoilers for all three books; MAJOR spoilers for Mockingjay.
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival
“Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.
It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell and it is by design that she has long been a part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.
The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’ willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.”
My body breaks out in a sweat at the memory. My hand slides down the screen and hangs limply at my side. Peeta doesn’t need a brush to pain images from the Games. He works just as well in words.
“Once you’re in the arena, the rest of the world becomes very distant,” he continues. “All the people and things you loved or cared about almost cease to exist. The pink sky and the monsters in the jungle and the tributes who want your blood become your final reality, the only one that ever mattered. As bad as it makes you feel, you’re going to have to do some killing, because in the arena, you only get one wish. And it’s very costly.”
“It costs your life,” says Caesar.
“Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?” says Peeta. “It costs everything you are.”
“Katniss, I don’t think President Snow will kill Peeta,” she says. Of course, she says this; it’s what she thinks will calm me. But her next words come as a surprise. “If he does, he won’t have anyone left you want. He won’t have any way to hurt you.”
Then I know Prim is right, that Snow cannot afford to waste Peeta’s life, especially now, while the Mockinjay causes so much havoc. He’s killed Cinna already. Destroyed my home. My family, Gale, and even Haymitch are out of his reach. Peeta’s all he has left.
“So, what do you think they’ll do to him?” I ask.
Prim sounds about a thousand years old when she speaks.
“Whatever it takes to break you.”
Warnings: Violence, death.
Recommended Age Range: 16+
What I Liked:
Wow. Oh, wow. I’d forgotten how powerful this book is. How gut-wrenching, how terrible it is. Anyone who says that The Hunger Games is an inappropriate book for people (teenagers/children) to read because it’s about teenagers killing each other need to read this book. The Hunger Games is by no means a glorification of murder. It is by no means teaching children that violence is okay. It’s saying exactly the opposite, and Mockingjay drives it home again and again. This is the message of the Hunger Games trilogy, people: violence changes you. Irreparably. It leaves no room for compassion or understanding or mercy. It’s a vicious cycle. Once you go down that road, you can’t go back. You can’t forget it. It will stay with you. Forever. It will change you. Forever. Case in point: District 13 and Coin. Katniss realizes almost immediately that Coin is virtually no better than Snow. Throughout the book, we see that District 13 will do to the Capitol what the Capitol did to the Districts. District 13 doesn’t even blink twice in killing children or their own (defenseless) people for the purposes of winning the war. Coin even wants another Hunger Games for the Capitol children. This is when Katniss finally realizes that this must stop. The cycle cannot keep on going. Hence, why she kills Coin.
Katniss says continuously throughout the first two books how selfish she is. But it is in this book that she starts to think about other people a lot more. The growth of Katniss, out of her selfishness into selflessness, becomes even more apparent when Haymitch and the team are talking about what Katniss did that made them feel something real. Every one of the actions listed were when Katniss was at her most selfless and most self-sacrificial. “I guess there isn’t a rule book for what might be unacceptable to do to another human being,” she says at one point (Collins 185). This revelation, if you will, of hers is what causes her to eventually kill Coin and what creates the rift between her and Gale. It is in this book that Katniss really starts to think about what this war is doing to people. To her, to the other people affected by it. At the end, when she realizes how changed people are, how desperate and full of revenge, she thinks this: “I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself. I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like. Snow thought the Hunger Games were an efficient means of control. Coin thought the parachutes would expedite the war. But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen” (377). Katniss realized that the Capitol was wrong and that there needed to be a rebellion (i.e, there is sometimes a just cause for violence or war). But she also realized that what the rebellion was doing was also wrong (i.e., succumbing to violence rather than exhibiting mercy, justice, compassion, etc.).
This realization is why Katniss did not, could not, and should not have “chosen” Gale. I know a lot of “Team Gale” fans were legitimately upset at “how Collins chose to put Gale out of the picture;” namely, the bombing and Prim’s death. But Gale was already out of the picture way before then. He was out of the picture all the way back in Catching Fire. He became even more out of the picture when Katniss realizes how bloodthirsty and angry he is during Mockingjay. Katniss just wants it all to end. Gale wants revenge. He wants the Capitol to pay. He lies to Katniss. He is completely at odds with her. If Katniss had “chosen” Gale, she would have gone spiraling down the path of destruction. Furthermore, she would have been deluding herself. But Peeta…Peeta makes Katniss a better person. He’s kind, he’s steady, he’s good. He brings Katniss out of her despair and makes her feel hope. Katniss says at the end, “What I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that” (Collins 388). To have Katniss go with Gale would have completely gone against Collins’ message. It had to be Peeta, and only Peeta.
Now we come to the ending. More specifically, the epilogue. I know so many people who hated the epilogue. Who thought it went against Katniss’ character. That it was (yet another) example of patriarchy, another example of women being reduced to childbearer. As for me…I thought it was fabulous. Here’s two reasons why the epilogue is the best ending for this book:
1.) Katniss has children.
2.) Katniss has children.
Reason one: Katniss has children! What did she say throughout the first two books? That she would never have children because she didn’t want to subject them to the Hunger Games. Don’t you see? Her having children doesn’t go against her character at all—instead, it shows everything about how her character is now! She can have children now because there are no more Hunger Games. She has the freedom to have children. And she has finally realized that this is not the past. She can have children, revel in them, and know that what happened to her will never happen to them.
Reason two: Katniss has children! Why? Because Peeta wanted them. People can say whatever they want, but this action shows how much Katniss has learned and developed. Having children for Peeta is, like, the most selfless act Katniss could have done, because she put Peeta’s wants over hers. Katniss is no longer selfish.
What I Didn’t Like:
Okay, one thing that has always bothered me about this series is that there is virtually no one who chooses not to fight. No one jumps in between a person and a gun (except for Katniss at one point, who as the protagonist doesn’t count). No one refuses to choose a side. Even Peeta, who represents goodness, doesn’t. I mean, I guess Prim counts, but I’m thinking more of a non-medical person here. It’s like the only option is to fight or to be a doctor, but that’s not true in real life. Nobody runs away. Nobody mutinies (besides the obvious Capitol/District mutiny. I’m talking more of captain/soldier mutiny), deserts, opts to not choose a side, whatever. I’m not talking about nameless crowds. I’m talking about characters. Collins was aiming to only show a specific side of war, and she did so very successfully, but her presentation didn’t encompass all areas of war and violence, which would have been quite wonderful to see. Then again, this is YA.
Mockingjay is powerful. So powerful that I did more of an analysis than a review. The Hunger Games was great. Catching Fire was a decent follow-up. Mockingjay…Mockingjay is the reason why these books were written. You cannot read or consider these books separately; they need to be read and considered together to understand the scope of what Collins is presenting. Mockingjay is a masterpiece. Well, almost. But it’s definitely a masterpiece of YA.
You can buy this book here: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
Coming Up Next: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison