Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

courtesy: joecoolsblog.blogspot.ca

The last installment of The Hunger Games trilogy will surely leave you ablaze with emotion.  It’s been a while since I read it.  I’m not sure why I procrastinated so much in writing the review.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to repeat what I had written in my reviews of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

In Mockingjay, the themes of war and humanity’s need for freedom, self-determination and a fair, just society are brought to fruition.  We learn that District 13 thrives.  It is preparing for an assault on the Capitol and its oppressive regime.  District 13 believes in equality, justice, fairness – but, their methods are brought into question too.  There is so much fear of oppression in District 13 that, ironically enough, its people are not quite as free as they claim.  Both ends of the political spectrum are under scrutiny, neither fairs well in Panem.

I had the most trouble with Katniss Everdeen in this final book.  She has been made the symbol of the revolution.  She is the mockinjay because she challenged and survived the cruelty of the Capitol.  This is not her choice.  Ultimately, she knows that she has no choice.  To refuse to be the symbol would be to abandon the rebels and allow the Capitol to crush them – which would mean Panem would be in a worse situation and her family would die.  She has to allow her image to be used as inspiration for the rebels.  She must help to lead the fight against the Capitol because it is too late to turn back.

Throughout these decisions, the book is littered with her doubts – fine, I’m with her, at least at the beginning.  But she keeps making questionable decision after questionable decision because she never stops to think.  Yes, her character is meant to be fiery, she acts on instinct – and for the most part, it works…there were too many moments where I felt infinitely frustrated by her.

Don’t even get me started on Peeta!  Poor Peeta!  That’s all I’m going to say about that in case you haven’t read it, and wish to, I don’t want to spoil it for you.  I truly do not understand the decision to make his character undergo such an experience.

The love triangle returns.  Each character must make their choices about where they stand within the revolution.  This decision is what finally decides the outcome of the love triangle for Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  Collins serves her protagonist well because Katniss falls into her choice, as she does everything else.  There is a definite decision made and it seems to be for the benefit of all.  Actually, each character in this trilogy that readers come to care for makes a choice early on in Mockingjay that leads to their final outcome.  Primrose, Haymitch, Finnick, Cinna and Mrs. Everdeen all have definite resolutions.  I can’t say I’m a fan of many of these outcomes but Collins is showing the consequence of war and revolution, after all.

Katniss has her final confrontation with President Snow.  It was not at all as I had expected (in fact, on more than one occasion I was left flabbergasted).  Considering Katniss’ motivation was always the protection of her sister – it made complete sense.

This trilogy was well written.  It was engaging, creative, full of action and emotion.  It offered a conclusion that was both somber and hopeful.  I believe Collins gives a good sense of finality in Mockingjay, yet she leaves her readers wanting more.  This is not a bad thing.  Once an author has tied all loose-ends and she leaves her readers wanting more, then I believe she has done her job of creating a place where it is so much fun to get lost in.

Advertisements

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

courtesy nicolepoliti.wordpress.com

From Goodreads Summary:

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol– a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try […].
In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before…

I cannot believe how fast I read this book.  I flew through each page as if it was being consumed by fire.  I needed to know what Katniss and Peeta’s life would be like post the crazy-making/revolution-inducing hunger games.

Many times during this book I found it hard to believe that a seventeen year-old girl with authority issues has the capacity to bring down an entire regime.  Or even be the inspiration for a revolution – but, that’s the point, right?  Empowering young people.  Our actions, when they are most pure and honest, will produce the most impact.

courtesy reelmovienation.com

Life in District 12 is vastly different for Katniss and Peeta.  They have grown apart, yet they cannot stop being in-love for Panem.  They defied the Capitol with their threat to commit suicide and therefore put everyone they love in danger.  President Snow commands them to convince all of Panem that they remain deeply in-love.  The show has not ended with the conclusion of the hunger games.

So, poor Katniss must kiss Peeta everywhere she goes and pretend to be in-love with a great guy all while being primped by top stylists and designer.  Wouldn’t most girls love that problem?  Oh right, except of course she has been directly threatened by the President and is still confused about her feelings towards Gale.  What’s a girl to do?

courtesy fanpop.com

Slowly, Collins chips away at all the reasons Katniss should remain passive, obedient and in fear.  There are new Peacekeepers in District 12 and everything is different.  The Seam is watched more closely; life in District 12 is dangerous…clearly, there is no escape.  The only way out of the shadow and grip of the Capitol is to fight – but Katniss hasn’t the faintest clue that there is a fight elsewhere, who would she fight with, what would she fight with?  Her feelings of powerlessness radiate.

And then, she must return to the arena with Peeta – a moment for gasping indeed!  Her agenda with Haymitch is valiant – keep Peeta alive.  She allies with unlikely characters who seem adamant to help her, such as Finnick Odair – who is just awesome.  Each former victor carries a certain darkness, but they hide it well because they must seem forever grateful that the Capitol gave them a chance to kill 23 innocent children when they were children themselves in order to be wealthy for the rest of their lives.

This book is full of rich characters and interesting plot twists.  And, I must admit, the adolescent girl in me enjoyed the continued love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. Catching Fire simply does not stop.  Even in it’s final paragraph the action is gripping and I had to know the conclusion of Katniss’ story in Mockingjay.  If you haven’t read these, buy them at the same time.  You’ll close book 2 and simultaneously open book 3.

The Hunger Games – The Movie

Last week I posted my thoughts on the first installment of Suzanne Collins’ trilogyFinally saw the movie and…it was a really good summary of the book.

The Great:  This movie did a phenomenal job of bringing to life the ostentatious style of The Capitol.  I loved the costumes and make-up – it would’ve been so much fun to be an extra in this movie!

The imposing grandness of the Capitol was well established too.  Quite the sight after the terrible living standards we see in District 12.  You easily feel the Capitol’s excess and the abyss between the haves and have-nots.The Capitol and District 12

Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Katniss Everdeen.  She captured the character’s vulnerability, courage and keen intelligence beautifully.  Lawrence showed emotion without betraying Katniss’ need to always be strong – an interesting balance perfectly kept by the actor.

Katniss and Peeta Training for the Games

Pleasant surprises:  Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellarck.  I admittedly know nothing about him as an actor – my only comment to a friend sitting next to me was “I always envisioned Peeta being taller”.  Hutcherson brings Peeta’s charisma to the screen quite well.  Too well actually as it is easy to doubt Peeta’s intentions towards Katniss.

I didn’t expect for there to be so much emphasis on Seneca Crane – but, I guess for the film version it would be necessary to see the man in charge of the spectacle making decisions about the images being fed to Panem and the manipulation of the arena for the tributes.  Also, the commentators breaking into the games at key moments was a clever way to fill the holes in the movie to keep the audience informed about the rules of the Hunger Games or descriptions of genetically engineered creatures found in Panem.

The Meh:  As good as Lawrence was in the character of Katniss, it simply is not the same as following her internal monologue – her questions, her doubts, her feelings about Peeta and memories of her home are essential to the development of her character.  We see glimpses of that – in her alliance with Rue, flashes of the memory of Peeta and the bread, Gale’s reactions to the games – but, it isn’t the same.  The development of the characters and their motivations isn’t present in the movie which makes it difficult for an audience to really care about them.

Everything that happens in the book that makes it so good is shown in the movie.  But, it feels like the movie skips from major moment to major moment.  The movie tries to encompass everything that makes The Hunger Games a great read, but it still felt like something was missing.

Speaking of something missing, what happened to the blood?  So much of the novel focuses on cruelty and sheer violence.  The violence of the games is missing, the blood is not there.  That’s what made Katniss’ final moments with the berries so desperate and poignant.  The move in the novel didn’t feel quite so calculated.

Final Thoughts:  this movie will not disappoint.  It is full of beautiful people in all the right roles (the boys are adorable and Katniss is a natural beauty).  Rue and Prim are so sweet it is easy to see why Katniss must protect them, and the Careers are every bit as vicious as Collins describes them.  The movie remains true to the story – there is nothing that distorts the plot and might offend die-hard fans.

For those who haven’t read the books, the movie delivers a cool tale about what it’s like to grow up in a futuristic dystopia.  And, it’s pretty neat to watch Katniss in action with her bow and arrow too.

Did you read the book and watch the movie?  Do you think the movie did the book justice?

images courtesy of: http://www.fivezenses.com/2012/02/capitol-sighting-new-pictures-from.html

Devouring The Hunger Games

courtesy benzinga.com

I started reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games on a random Thursday afternoon.  Four days later, I finished Mockingjay.

Let me concentrate on the first book in the trilogy, The Hunger Games, for this review.  I’ll begin by admitting that except for the Harry Potter series I haven’t read any young adult fiction since I was in that age category which was a very long time ago.  The movie trailer caught my attention and I knew I wanted to read the book before watching the movie.

courtesy of fanpop.com
Map by Maria Rizzoni

From the first few paragraphs I knew I would love this book because of Collins’ swift pace, succinct writing and ability to paint the details of the world of Panem, District 12 and the Seam with such clarity. (Left: one of many imagined maps of Panem from The Hunger Games fans)

Collins brings her reader into a desperate world of hunger, ruled by a remote city called the Capitol (Marked C on the map).  And, in such a desperate place, her characters do deseperate things in the name of survival.  The triumph of the human spirit is evident throughout the black market of the Seam. Despite the atmosphere of doom and oppression and the Capitol’s iron hand suffocating the will of Panem’s people, Collins creates a seed of hope.  That hope is of course the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.

courtesy of screenrant.com

Katniss Everdeen is an incredibly courageous character.  Her foundation is the loss of her father and therefore, the loss of her innocence.  Katniss has built an impenetrable wall because emotions in the Seam, in District 12, in Panem are useless and will not keep her family from starving.  Collins creates a character we care about, root for, and wish to protect.  Throughout the entire book we hope that she survives the ruthless and cruel Hunger Games hosted by the Capitol because she is a fighter, and because her sister Prim needs her to.

Collins humanizes her characters through their love for their family, their desperate need to survive and to take care of what little they have.  Also, we relate to basic human needs: food, shelter, compassion, dignity, love.  Amidst the spectacle that is the blood-thirsty games and the menacing control of the Capitol, Peeta Mellark is the first character to bring true emotion to this novel.  His declaration of love for Katniss is shockingly sweet.  And, that’s when it hits me that I’m reading young adult fiction.  Enter adolescent angst about love and relationships juxtaposed with war, death, murder, cruelty and the media.  Is there a more fitting image for what today’s teens have to face?

Katniss, Peeta and Gale
courtesy of myhungergames.com

I find myself torn with Katniss’ choices: win the games (meaning killing Peeta) or die?  Gale or Peeta?  Her survival becomes secondary, since  as the protagonist she’s obviously going to live (and, somehow Collins will find a way to save Peeta too)…but, who will she choose?  And, more importantly, who do I want her to choose?  By the end of The Hunger Games, I’m secretly hoping she picks Gale because I feel so sorry for him since he was forced to witness the girl he loves making out with another boy on nationally mandated television…but, then I feel like I’m betraying Peeta because I love Peeta!  (Was adolescence really that complicated?)  This book plays on every archetype of young love and the love triangle. The independent and brave heroine is faced with a choice:  the fair-haired romantic boy or the dark haired smouldering boy.  And, it works.  But, the success of this novel is not its love story.

The Hunger Games highlights the dangers of the media and the role it plays in shaping our perception of reality.  That so-called reality can be shattered only when we question the stories that are fed to us through the screen and really listen to ourselves and each other.  The novel mocks our frenzied need to remain youthful through the ridiculous style of the people of the Capitol.  There is little difference between cat-face plastic surgery and dyeing your skin green.  All of the circus-like characteristics of those in power are meant to mask the imbalance between the haves and have-nots in Panem – if the masses are kept entertained, distracted and contained, they cannot revolt.  But, of course, the rumblings are present despite the Capitol’s efforts with the possibility of war bubbling under the surface.

There is no question that this book is violent, violent, violent.  The characters live in a world that breeds violence and they are forced to play the game.  This book works because it is so relevant to the issues that young people see plaguing their world, and their feelings of helplessness in changing anything.  Except, young people can exact change (just look at Kony 2012)…just like Katniss can challenge President Snow with a handful of poisonous berries.

This is a fast-paced, well written book.  Its characters will fascinate and its setting, though fictional, eerily reflects the worst of modern society.  A great story that will have you reaching for the second installment before finishing the last paragraph because you will have to keep reading.