Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

7260188Fiction — print. Scholastic, 2010. 390 pgs. Gift.

In the final installment of Collins’ dystopian series, Katniss Everdeen – the “Girl on Fire”, the Mockingjay – has now become the symbol of a revolution following her disastrous rescue from the destroyed arena of the Quarter Quell. Separated from Peeta and Johanna, Katniss is reunited with her mother, sister, and Gale in the one district the Capital claimed to have destroyed and utilized as an example of what could occur in the other twelve districts did not obey.

Yet District Thirteen, which used to provide the Capital with its military technology, had merely gone underground bidding its time and preparing for war once the other districts decided to rise up against the Capital. Led by President Cain, the district wants to utilize Katniss in order to keep the momentum towards revolution going and are willing to bend to her demands – that Peeta and Johanna be pardoned of all crimes, that her sister get to keep her cat, that Katniss gets to kill President Snow – in order to finally take down the capital.

My reaction to Collins’ series has been rather mixed. I loved the first book in the series but found the wait for the second heavily dampened my appreciation of it when I finally got my hands on a copy, and then I waited four years after publication to finally read the conclusion. This might be one of the rare instances where I like the film adaptations more than the books as the films add more intrigue and characterization that the original books do.

Katniss is one of the more difficult narrators I have encountered. I love that the protagonist is a narrator, but Collins does not have a very good handle on her narrator and the present tense she tells the story in. Her narration lacks the immediacy and the intimacy often found with present tense. This lack of intimacy affects the emotional range Katniss possess; the love triangle feels rather a forced as a result.

I also find Katniss is far too meta for her own good because rather than allowing the symbolism offered by our first-person narrator to speak for herself, she insists upon explaining how the metaphor or the symbolism represents her in that moment. Trapped in an underground bunker and unable to leave, Katniss entertains the other residents of District 13 with a game of “Crazy Cat” where she shines a flashlight against the wall in enticement for the cat to chase it. She then goes on to explain how this game represents the game she is involved in with President Snow, how the people of the other twelve districts were trapped and distracted from rising up by the Hunger Games.

Personally, I found this explanation (which is an example of a larger phenomenon throughout the text) to be unnecessary and a bit like sitting through English courses in school where the teacher would insist upon analyzing the obvious. The novel is, of course, geared towards young adults but I think Collins underestimates the reading comprehension of her readers. Not everything needs to be spelled out and explained.

My favorite aspect of this novel is the ambiguous conclusion of the conflict. Katniss’ struggle for truth in an area that is not black and white and the manipulation of her image for the sake of war is one the more important lessons about war that Collins can teach her young readers. Too bad much of it was overshadowed by a poorly constructed and executed love triangle which, again, I think the film has handled better.

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