Monday, September 13, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  The first book impressed me and even had me crying at one point.  The second book was not as emotionally intense and the conclusion, a cliff-hanger ending, left me completely unsatisfied.  I felt the author and publisher broke a contract created in the first volume where the story at least had some clear closure at the book’s end while the second book was obviously meant to immediately lead into the third.

So thank goodness the third book is finally published and if this third book still left me unwilling to cry over the events, it at least kept me turning the pages because I simply could not anticipate what could or would happen next.  Each character did something unexpected but nothing that was not genuine to the individual.  After all, people in real life can be very surprising and when people are put into extraordinary circumstances they are all the more likely to do extreme things.

The novel works as an exploration of propaganda, of how war and power corrupt, and how manipulation can wear down the spirit of anyone.  The first book is dark and this book is all the darker as many of the implications and innuendos of the previous two books are brought out even more harshly into the light of day.  The flaws of the characters are all the more harsh against the backdrop of desperation.  When even the most pure characters are compromised or lost, the reader is left with a brutal reality.  The ending is stark for that reason–the psychological implications of what these characters face, if not something with which the average reader can ever empathize–is solid and none come through the experience without descending into some form of hell.  Redemption is realized but nobody comes through unscarred.  A compassionate reader would hardly close this book without feeling some sense of sadness rippling beneath the deep satisfaction of an honest, if not pretty, ending.

Edit:  After writing the above, I realized that I never addressed the issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It is a rare thing to see a young adult novel deal with such adult issues as violence for entertainment, the superficiality of celebrity, corruption of power, propaganda and manipulation of the media, and war and PTSD.  All of these issues are explored honestly and through it all are the importance of choices one makes, relationships and redemption, and how surviving doesn't mean coming through an experience unscathed.  Remarkably, Collins doesn't pander to her young adult audience by offering simplistic answers to the complex story she had already created.  The fact that I am stirred to add to the above suggests that this book's themes are many and lingering.

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