Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2010)

I begin to fully understand the lengths to which people have gone to protect me. What I mean to the rebels. My ongoing struggle against the Capitol, which has so often felt like a solitary journey, has not been undertaken alone. I have had thousands upon thousands of people from the districts at my side. I was their Mockingjay long before I accepted the role (p 90).

Katniss becomes the mockingjay is this final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy.

From the safety of District 13, Katniss comes to terms with the her ‘mixed bag’ past: punishments, manipulation and murders she committed and would have committed to save Peeta.

Gale is with her, as well as her mother and sister, Gale’s family and the other few survivors from District 12. Peeta has been taken by the Capitol but appears to be unharmed when appearing for an interview on Capitol controlled television.

Once Katniss embraces her new role, her message to President Snow is clear. “If we burn, you burn with us” (p 100)!

It soon becomes clear Peeta is not okay. A rescue mission is launched. When Peeta returns, his mind has been hijacked. His memories of Katniss are infused with fear and anger. He attempts to kill her, calling her a mutt, a murderer and a liar.

Katniss begins to dissolve. Finnik, however, transforms when his loved one returns to him. Johanna, another tribute from the Quarter Quell is barely holding on. But together the three train, focusing their attention on killing President Snow. They are chosen for a special squad during the final attack on the Capitol. If Katniss can’t have Peeta, she will have Snow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the first book, The Hunger Games, readers are introduced to the twelve districts and the Capitol. The disparity between those who have and those who have not is stark. That the Districts are kept poor, disconnected and punished regularly, not to mention the horror of the games themselves, implies the President Snow maintains power through intimidation.

Catching Fire reveals the rebel movement, built over many years, taking form and action. Bonds between Peeta and Katniss are made firm. Her resolve to keep him alive at all costs becomes clear. But her situation becomes more complicated as she realizes she has gone from Capitol pawn to Rebel pawn.

In Mockingjay, Katniss must struggle to maintain her hold on reality as the death toll piles high on her conscience. Her worry for Peeta is all-consuming, first when he is in the Capitol’s clutches and then when he is brought, mentally broken, to District 13.

The grand finale is rich with death, strategy, betrayal and sacrifice. But through all this, something was missing. The Hunger Games series is narrated by Katniss, so reader’s never really get a comprehensive view of the political workings of this world. I felt this more acutely in Mockingjay than in any of the previous books.

Because Katniss is viewed as a symbol rather than a competent soldier and strategist and because she is so mentally damaged by the horrors she has committed or viewed (and drugged constantly and, often, willingly), she is not privy to the inner workings of District 13. She is left guessing… about everything. She must do damage control rather than prevention. She is reactionary rather than revolutionary. In her defense, she was suffering under major trauma, without pause.

When Katniss kills President Coin, I was left wondering if it was the best solution. And who is Paylor? Some of the minor characters never gained any dimension so the future of Panem seems like a plot throw-away. Did the republic become a reality? Did the outcome even matter? Perhaps it was the loss of self suffered for the pursuit of ideology that Collins wants to drag into the light. What has become of Gale?

Whereas figures like Big Brother (1984) or societies like the World State (A Brave New World) are illusionary or too large to overcome or both, Panem appears infantile by comparison. Snow, for all his cleverness, fails spectacularly. The brutal forces unleashed on those attempting to take the Capitol seemed impenetrable. I had trouble reconciling a Rebel victory through force rather than… say… isolating the Capitol and starving them into surrender. Or a well-organized infiltration of the Capitol… seems the system was flimsy enough. Replace a few key players and – bam – new government. Snow’s regime lacked the deep-rooted immovable governments of other classic dystopian novels, yet its violence and ruthlessness was on par. I just can’t reconcile this disparity in my head.

I was pleased to learn more about Finnik, one of the victors allied with the Rebels, and sorrowful at his death. The mild-toned relationship the emerges between Katniss and Peeta in the epilogue was pitch perfect, however. While some readers may be disappointed that Katniss settles for Peeta, how could a girl starved from childhood, traumatized and physically as well as mentally beaten ever love as we would have her love? Peeta is no less broken than she. This is more of a realistic finale than a hopeful one, but did you read the previous books? In my opinion, their survival and relative freedom at the conclusion is more than I expected.

Read other reviews: LA Times, Persnickety Snark, and A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy


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