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The International Writers Magazine: Young Adult Fiction

The Hunger Games- MockingJay

Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Paperback 2010
ISBN: 978-1-407109-37-4
Sam North
 ‘If We burn you burn with us’


The third part of the Hunger Games Trilogy is out in paperback and worth the wait.
I was a tad lukewarm over Catching Fire the second part, which essentially reversed the plot of Number One.  Well written but few surprises and better costumes.

In Mockingjay (called after the bird that sings in District 12) which is now burned to a crisp with just 900 survivors living underground in District 13 -  we have reached a new stage in Katmiss Everdeen’s life.

            That Katmiss is even alive after all the battles and killing and not a complete basket case for someone so young is remarkable enough.  If you don’t know this story, well you should, it has been in the bestseller lists for about three years now and if you’ve ever seen Battle Royale well y’know the plot.
            Suzanne Collins has gone beyond the original Japanese concept (never acknowledged in her many thanks to people) and developed a really deep character study of what happens to kids when deliberately exposed to gladiatorial contests where they aren’t actually supposed to survive.  Katmiss is scarred in and outside.  Her lover Peeta is captured and tortured by the evil President Snow and rival President Coin has reluctantly enlisted Katmiss as the token leader of the rebellion.
            Mockingjay is quite different to the previous novels. Written in the first person this is a more personal account of Katmiss's response to all she has been through. To be sure it has many costume changes, but this is going to be foremost a propaganda war and Katmiss is to be used as a weapon in that war, rather than fight real battles.  She can barely cope with that.  She is damaged goods.  Gale her companion from the early days is with her and he helps her recover psychologically and they get some hunting time together.  They get to shoot at the enemy with some success from time to time but Katmiss is frustrated in how she is used.  She is finally inducted into the army and there learns discipline alongside Johanna a previous arena Hunger Games winner.

            This is probably the first teen trilogy about the different uses of propaganda and shows a proper respect for the techniques used in the media to affect the way your own side thinks and how to get at the enemy’s psyche.  The rebels seem to win territory remarkably easily and I think we should have met more resistance - but this is a quibble.

Katmiss   Katmiss is finally able to bond with her sister Prim, who is on her way to be becoming a healer like her mother, but Katmiss is a mess and she has moments to shine, but quite often retreats into herself, barely able to cope with all her emotions and inner conflicts.  When the rebels manage to get Peeta out and he immediately tries to kill her, she is kind of lost.  Trust no one is the rule.

Mockingjay is cruel, the final battles are vivid and really well done as Katmiss leads a small troop on a suicide mission against President Snow, but this is a remarkable book and shows a greater maturity in the writing from the first part.  Katmiss is probably never going to be completely happy unless fighting – that is how she has been conditioned- but at least now questions exactly what it is she is fighting for.

Publishers image of Katmiss

A good conclusion to a gripping and bloody trilogy. Now see how they get all that violence into the movie version - how will they tame it and keep an audience loyal? Will Gary Ross the Director (Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) make it too cute or will he find the edge he needs to bring this series to life?

*Dec 23rd Young actresses — and their agents — are sharpening their arrows. The target is the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen, the hunter-heroine in Lionsgate’s upcoming adaptation of  “The Hunger Games,”  and casting begins January

© Sam North - Author of Mean Tide
December 2010

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