I loved this book.
That’s a slightly controversial point of view, I know, especially since I’m probably in the minority of Hunger Games readers who think that. But watching the Mockingjay Part One movie today, I am reminded of why I felt that way when I first read the trilogy over two years ago.
Much like the movies, Mockingjay is thought-provoking in a way that the first two Hunger Games books aren’t. There is something about the danger in Catching Fire and The Hunger Games that seems almost superficial and artificial compared to the perils in Mockingjay. And that’s because… well… they are. The arena is man-made. The dangers are fabricated. Even the hatred that leads to murder is only a byproduct of the Capital’s game design. In this third book, we find that the whole world is now the arena, and the dangers are real to all who are in it. The author does an excellent job of conveying this paradigm shift, allowing the feelings that you’re merely watching The Games on a television to dissipate, replacing them with more tactile & tangible threats. The killing is right on your doorstep. Nobody is safe.
The first person perspective that often gets in the way of the storytelling in other titles actually made this one far more interesting by opening up though processes that we would otherwise have no access to. Anti-war tones (though very strong throughout the plot) are not spoon fed to the reader. Clear and defining lines between good and evil are instead blurred so that you can discover your own moral position for yourself as the emotions develop within Katniss. It’s just not anti-war on a global scale, it’s also anti-war in a very personal level. Take a moment to remember that this title is targeted at a high school audience and think about what it was like to be that age. When even the good guys (your family, religious group, sports team) can be your very oppressors. That’s when you learn about compromise to achieve a greater goal. When you find that you can scar your soul, making those compromises in the pursuit of happiness. When you find that every teen is in her own war for her very self, and picking sides isn’t so easy. Lessons one never forgets.
I found myself somewhat entranced by Katniss’ song after watching Mockingjay Part 1, the film. In the novel, Everdeen’s “The Hanging Tree” song is a theme is carried beautifully throughout the narration, foreshadowing our heroine’s own interior damage and how she will inevitably need to belong with the damaged, destroyed, and those who have died on the inside. I find that this is the true beauty of The Hunger Games. The idea that the battle changes you. That there is unavoidable personal cost in battling injustice. That even though the journey could find you back where you started, you are changed.
This isn’t a throw-away, fiction-novel-for-the-weekend, book. I think that it rises above that. It’s true literature.