Friday, September 3, 2010

The Mocking Jay review

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Mocking Jay Review

(This review contains spoilers)

The Mocking Jay, the final book in the Hunger Games series was my favorite of the three, but it was a bitter pill to swallow. It’s so dark, gritty, and very realistic. It doesn’t sugarcoat the effects of combat, and killing. There are consequences to what Katniss and the other characters have gone through. Terrible consequences.

I know that many readers are upset about how this series concluded. Two people I know have said they hated the book. They have good reasons to hate it, but the main issue is that they wanted a more Hollywood-type ending, or Disney ending if you will. Honestly, I would have preferred a Hollywood ending myself, but the story required a different kind of finale. I was very impressed with how Suzanne Collins unmercifully told this story and kept things rooted in the real world. It was very different from the other two books, but had similar elements that made the first Hunger Games books interesting.

Katniss is so messed up from all that she’s been through, and there is no recovering from it. My friends who hated the book wanted her to recover. I wanted her to recover. She doesn’t. She goes insane, which continues her downward spiral that started at the end of book two—remember when she scratched her drunken mentor’s face? Sure, we wanted Katniss to be okay. We wanted her to recover from her ordeals and survive and thrive. She can’t. Why? Because she’s human. She’s not a Hollywood heroine.

The message here is that we are fragile and delicate creatures. Even the ones among us who face combat and have to kill people, and most of those people in our society aren’t 15 or 16 years old. Combat destroys the souls of many of the soldiers who’ve been through it. I’m talking about strong men and women, like the ones I’ve taken care of at the V.A. hospital where I used to work as a nurse. The reality of war isn’t pretty. I think this book is the Saving Private Ryan of the mainstream literary world. Saving Private Ryan was the biggest antiwar movie of the last twenty years, beside Schindler’s List, both directed by Stephen Spielberg.

Those were important movies to see, but they weren’t fun at all. Collins out does Spielberg in some ways. Private Ryan survives. In many ways, Katniss does not. She’s a different person, and what she fought hardest for, dies a horrible death. The fact that someone so important to Katniss died set up the ending for me when she chose a different target than the one she was supposed to hit. I agree with her move. I think it was the right one. I don’t think she was manipulated at all there. She took out the real evil, though both targets were evil to the core. That was the strongest decision her character made in the whole series, and I did not see it coming. Bravo to Suzanne Collins for that one.

If The Mocking Jay were a heroic fantasy novel, Katniss would have probably come out a lot better than she did. I personally would have had her rise to the occasion and overcome her mental issues, though she would be damaged forever and bear great scars from all of it. I would have portrayed her as a strong character, making more decisions, and driving the plot, rather than being a prop for the rebel government’s commercials. She would have chosen her man at the end, rather than having the choice made for her. However, this is a dark science-fiction novel, and don’t kid yourself, this is science-fiction, though the publisher has decided to market it as mainstream, which is the reason why so many people read it.

These books are commentary on the world today like all good science-fiction. According to an interview I heard, Collins wrote these books with several things in mind, and she discusses a few of those ideas at the end of the audio book I listened to. She was watching the coverage of the war in Iraq and also watching some reality shows, and thought about how the two could be combined. She also was thinking of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus, where children were sacrificed to the minotaur every year, and Thesues volunteered to go.

What’s the message the author was trying to convey? Sacrificing your children because you can’t agree on something is wrong. Sending children (or anyone) off to war is not the right idea. The human race needs to figure out a better way of solving problems.

Yes, there are other points that Collins was trying to make, such as: don’t trust dictators or over-powerful governments, like the ones that exist today in our own world.

This whole series is supposed to make you think, and I’m so glad that Suzanne Collins had the courage to write these books, and write the ending she did. I think the publishers heard the pitch several years ago and decided to push these novels down the throats of America’s youth. It was a message the kids and adults needed to hear. Readers would be lured in after the first book, and then the second would wet their appetite even more, and then when they were least expecting it, the third book comes out and proves to be more than cheap entertainment. It has a message. Not a pretty message.

We want our heroes to come out on top and be okay. The truth of it is that in the real world, they’re not okay. They are broken people, like Katniss.

I’m so glad large numbers of people have read these books. Kids, and adults, need to be thinking about the issues raised in the series. The message isn’t new, but many of the generation who are reading these books haven’t heard it yet.

When I do school visits on my book tours I’m excited to be able to talk about The Hunger Games. There is substance here. It’s not some ridiculous and sparkly world where reality is distorted beyond belief. This is a post-apocalyptic world not so far removed from the one we live in today.

The Mockingjay is a bitter and mostly unsatisfying pill to swallow, but it shows the truth and holds up a mirror to all of us. We don’t like the way we really look, and perhaps for the first time we’re confronted with who we really are.

Paul Genesse

Author of The Golden Cord

View all my reviews

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