Readers and non-readers alike are now familiar with Katniss Everdeen, protagonist of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, and even non-readers are probably familiar with the events of the second book, Catching Fire thanks to the movie. Mockingjay brings the trilogy to its conclusion.
Peeta has done what he does best—protect Katniss, and as a cost, he has been captured by Capitol forces. Katniss, between the trauma of two Hunger Games and not being able to save Peeta, is a broken shell of herself. Meanwhile, safe behind rebel lines, she finds herself once again used as a political chess piece, this time by the rebel forces who want her to become their Mockingjay, the symbol that will ignite the flames of revolution. But will Katniss be content to be somebody else’s pawn? Or is she too broken to care anymore?
I have very mixed feelings about this book. This is the first time I actually finished reading it, having previously started it and then wandered away from it due to a slow start. Katniss is not terribly likeable in the beginning; she is understandably upset, but it’s difficult to reconcile the proactive “I volunteer as tribute” Katniss with shell-shocked “I should be dead” Katniss. The love triangle persists in the earlier part of the book as well, and I found it frustrating to see our protagonist send such mixed messages and then get upset when others are confused by the signals.
And then, right around a third of the way into the book, it got better—though certainly no lighter. I have to give YA authors credit when they let their works go to dark places where characters are in danger and nobody’s happy ending is assured. There’s a weariness to the rest of the book as choices are made and consequences follow. Terrible things happen in war, and some good people die, while others make decisions that are morally questionable in the name of the greater good.
I’m honestly not sure how they’re going to translate some of the material into the movies (yes, every YA-based movie adaptation must now apparently end with the final book being split in two). I can guess where they might make the break, but I question whether they will be able convey some of the events without significantly lessening the horror of what transpires to maintain an appropriate rating.
Obviously, Collins’ trilogy is probably the most well-known of the YA dystopic fiction trend, but if there are still any newcomers to the genre or series, they should start at the beginning with The Hunger Games (the strongest installment by far) before jumping in with this volume. The closest read-alike to come to mind is Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, with another strong female lead and a movie adaptation due out later this month. For further dystopic picks, I recommend perusing Goodreads’ YA Dystopia list; with over 500 entries, there should be something for every taste.