Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

MockingjayReading level: 7
Series: The Hunger Games series book 3
Genre: Dystopian
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle or high school

Goodreads summary:

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 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’s 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.

Let’s start with the good: Katniss clearly struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and is heavily impacted by the death and destruction caused in her wake. She goes a little crazy at times, and it is hard to watch her deteriorate and change from the level-headed (if not confused) and determined girl to the Katniss she develops into as a result of being in two Hunger Games and watching thousands of people die, which is incredibly realistic. The most amazing part is that, despite the strength of President Coin and the Capitol, Katniss is never a pawn – at least not completely. She becomes the Mockingjay because the government of District 13 wants her to, but she does so on her terms. She makes up the rules as she goes and always acts according to her heart and head. She is never without agency, which could have been easily stripped from her.

I also loved the further development of characters such as Haymitch, Prim, Joanna, and Finnick. Even though Haymitch and Katniss never got along well, I think Haymitch loved her at least a little. I was a bit upset, though, that Katniss didn’t mourn Finnick’s death more than she did. He’s a fascinating character who we don’t really understand until reaching this book.

The bad: It was difficult having Katniss so desperate and weak for a majority of the book. Mockingjay in general is very dark, more so than the other two. It deals with the heavy subjects of morality, fault, drug abuse, and mental illness more than the other books (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) which were more about staying alive and being with those you love. Basically, I just didn’t think it was very interesting. The epilogue wasn’t as terrible as the one in Harry Potter, but it would have made me facepalm if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook while driving.

Mockingjay reminds us that there is no limit to the atrocities humans can impart on each other. History can always repeat itself.

As far as teen romances go, it was interesting that Collins made loveable, loyal Peeta into sort of a monster. It was so hard to take in this dramatic change of the boy with the bread (there’s a soft spot for him in all our hearts, admit it). Although he and Katniss do reach a sort of happily ever after, it’s not perfect, and they are both forever damaged, which is, again, quite realistic.

I’d still recommend Mockingjay for middle and high school even though the subject matter seems to stray a bit from YA to more adult issues (PTSD, drug abuse…). Despite Haymitch’s continued alcohol abuse and the morphling abuse of Katniss and Joanna, I don’t think it’s inappropriate for young students because it’s quite clear that substance abuse does terrible things to people.

Lastly, I’m interested how the Mockingjay movie will turn out with Peeta no longer being loveable and Katniss no longer being very sane.

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