A review by Nalini Haynes
Mockingjay is the third and final instalment of the Hunger Games trilogy, the second is Catching Fire. As the review of the third book, there are spoilers for the first two books.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Katniss Everdeen has been in the Hunger Games twice; the second time she and a few of her fellow tribunes were rescued by the rebels. Peeta, one of Katniss’s love interests (there’s a triangle), was left behind in the arena. The Capitol uses Peeta in their propaganda war just as the rebels in District 13 use Katniss who assumes the role of Mockingjay, the symbol of the revolution.
Gradually Katniss observes similarities between the rebels and the Capitol, wondering not only which side is right but who is on her side. Gale, her other love interest, is filled with rage and hate yet does all within his power to protect Katniss and her family. Gale’s closeness supports Katniss’s role as the Mockingjay.
Preparations for the attack on the Capitol reveal the similarity between the Hunger Games and the fight that will end the rebellion one way or another. Katniss is emotionally sucked into this repeat of history even before she is permitted to join the fight.
Scholastic, Australia’s publisher for the Hunger Games trilogy, markets this trilogy for grades 6 to 8, yet this story has effectively gone viral with generations of families reading and loving the story. The Hunger Games begins with an angry teenager facing injustice, unfairness and corrupt politics, a rapid plot emerges that includes a sensational fight for life.
Catching Fire builds from the first novel with the Districts in rebellion after 75 years of oppression using Katniss – without her knowledge – as their symbol. Fire hints that the rebels may not be very different from their oppressors but they’ve done what is necessary to survive and foment rebellion.
Mockingjay, the undoubted climax in a fast-moving trilogy, is a race to victory and yet doubts build like a storm on the horizon: who is right? What will the future hold? The YA (young adult) audience engaging with real-world politics in our current time may well ask themselves what the difference is between the political parties in a two-party system. That question was key to Australia’s recent election and, as is typical of Australian politics, the opposition did not win the election, the government lost the election. One of its key strengths, Mockingjay asks Katniss – and by extension, readers – who is the government? Who should be the government? What do you want for the future?
The other key strength – apart from a fast-paced engaging plot including spectacular fight scenes and romance – is Katniss’s relatable grief, depression and despair.
[Serious spoiler alert]
Following a purge of emotion during and after the climax, the final scenes glimpse a growing strength and hope, a way out of the darkness, for Katniss and her readers.
[Serious spoiler ends]
Thus Mockingjay – and the entire Hunger Games trilogy – bears some similarities to other hugely successful YA novels like the Fault in Our Stars. This relatable emotional journey takes what could be ordinary escapist fun, imbuing power into a story that has experienced the literary equivalent of ‘going viral’.
The Hunger Games is well-written, prose improving over the course of the three books. Short reads at only a few hundred pages per novel, the story is fast-moving and engaging. For some this story will remain an escapist read whilst the emotional depth will resonate for others.
Originally aimed at the grade 6 to 8 market, the Hunger Games has been released in a different jacket to meet the demands of the adult market. I recommend Mockingjay and the entire Hunger Games trilogy to a wide range of readers: those interested in fast-paced action adventures with romance as well as those who want emotional depth, for ages ranging from grade 6 up.
4 out of 5 stars.