Scholastic Press, 2010. 978-0439023511
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is only sure of a few things these days: her name her age, her participation in the Hunger Games, that District 12 is gone, and that President Snow has Peeta. But there is a way to save him: become the Mockingjay, the symbol that the rebels will follow in their continued fight against the Capitol, and continue to participate in a game that she doesn’t know how to win. Can she survive the inner battle with herself in order to survive the rebellion and rescue Peeta?
Why I picked it up: That cliffhanger at the end of Catching Fire was just mean, and I felt like I needed to see that Katniss was going to recover after everything that has been happening to her.
Why I finished it: Very few books have made me openly weep like this one did. I think I spent most of the book in tears because it is a very emotional story, and these characters that we have been gunning for since day one have suddenly had their lives thrown into a chaos that few of us will ever know. Katniss is literally losing her mind because of the trauma and the drugs she is on while in the hospital, where she spends about 30% of the book. Gale is trying to support her the best that he can and her sister is making an attempt to understand the new reality of their lives, but the effects of losing Peeta and watching him deteriorate on live television proves to be just enough to keep her motivated to cooperate as the Mockingjay. But the reader also knows that Katniss is going to be faced with another decision: does she go with Gale or stay with Peeta? She knows that both men have their merits and both have been good friends to her, despite her stubbornness, but something like love has never been at the forefront of her mind. Not to mention that she needs to reconcile her feelings about the lives that have been lost over the last two books and (for lack of a better term) her survivor’s guilt. Collins has told Katniss’s story with a sort of innocence amidst the brutality of the new world order. We like Katniss because she’s at her very core she is a fighter, not necessarily with her fists or her words, but in the actions she takes to protect those she cares about. She fought to survive after her father died, she fought to survive her first Hunger Games, she fought to make it out of the arena in the Quarter Quell, and now she faces a battle with Snow and with herself. We do not often see children go to war, but Collins’ work shows us a brutal reality in which all men and women are soldiers, gives us a glimpse of the true horrors or war, and makes us understand that the fighting does not stop when a soldier returns home. While I am sad to see the characters end their story, I am satisfied with how the series is concluded. And if you are prone to crying through books as I am, read it with a box of tissues.
On a side note, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a very well crafted memoir about child soldiers in Africa that sheds some light on some of the same subject matter I found to be quite powerful and that I highly recommend.
Other related materials: The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins; The Hunger Games (movie); Catching Fire (The Second Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (movie); The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (movie); The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau; Independent Study (Book 2 of The Testing Series) by Joelle Charbonneau; Graduation Day (Book 3 of The Testing Series) by Joelle Charbonneau; The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins; The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth; The Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau; Shadow Children books by Margaret Peterson Haddix; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; Tunnels series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams; Maze Runner books by James Dashner