I FINALLY finished The Hunger Games trilogy. It only took, well, five years or so. I read v e r y s l o w l y. Even slugs read braille faster than I can read. No, but really. I started the series a muy long time ago in a far off galaxy of school librarianship. I was one of the first original Hunger Games pioneers and recruited newbies to join the fun. It was a big hit in our library.
I'm not sure why it took me such a long time to get around to reading the third book. Was it because I enjoyed the story so much I didn't want it to end? Yeah. Was it because the second in the series was a bit disappointing and I didn't want to be let down even more by the third? Yes, again.
It's so common that it's a cliche. Series sequels just don't meet the high standards of the first installment. Doesn't matter if you're talking about books or movies. Just don't bother with any of the sequels. They're pretty awful. The Matrix is a good example. Remember how awesome the first movie was? Remember how it blew your mind? Remember how awesome it was to watch Keanu contort his body as the bullets swirled overhead? How creepy and cool it was when agent clone called him "Mr. Anderson"? Those awesome fight scenes? And the premise--the world we know is just a computer program and our real bodies are stuck in a hive somewhere and hooked up to machines? Wowzies! It was a hit and rightly so.
And then The Matrix was reloaded, but I think they forgot to include the gunpowder. It was a real letdown. Nothing innovative. Nothing exciting. Just more fight scenes and a re-run of the same ideas from the first.
Well, The Matrix sequels didn't deliver anything radical or mind boggling, and neither did Catching Fire or Mockingjay for that matter.
So, Mockingjay. (Cool word--mashup of "mockingbird" and "bluejay." Cool concept, too.) Do I actually need to describe what happens? Probably yes since the movie has yet to come out. (On a side note--it's a good thing I saw the Catching Fire movie recently because I had forgotten a lot of the plot elements and characters from that long ago time when I read the first two books in the series.)
Katniss is "safe" in District 13, which is like an anthill for rebels that stretches far underground and includes everything you need to survive, like food, air, clothes, beds, and these nifty little machines that stamp your daily schedule onto your arm for some strange reason.
The compound was originally created as a war shelter for higher-up government types and is complete with quarters for the occupants and nuclear weapons. Apparently (according to Wikipedia), it's a futuristic Cheyenne Mountain.
Katniss is just as moody and recalcitrant as ever. The girl just cain't be satisfied. This time it's guilt over Peeta*. She got dragged out of the arena, but he's somewhere in the Capitol where they're doing God knows what to him. It doesn't matter that Katniss has been saved from annihilation in the hunger arena or that her family is safe and sound or that she is cared for and has enough to eat (repulsive as the food may be), she is just plain unhappy and won't do as she's told. She spends most of her time hiding in broom closets and sleeping.
After she witnesses interviews with Peeta on tv showing that he is very much alive, she perks up a little and makes an important decision--she will become the mockingjay. The president of 13 has asked Katniss to become a symbol for the rebels to follow, something to inspire the resistance. Basically she's a marketing ploy (once again). Katniss says, yeah, okay, I'll do it, but only if you spare all the other Hunger Game victors even those with bad behavior and let me kill President Snow myself. Prez 13 says, okay, and the fight is on.
Katniss and her cohorts spend the rest of the novel galvanizing the troops, plotting a rescue attempt for Peeta, and waging an assault on the Capitol. I'm not going to go into great detail, however, because I don't want to give away too much. Suffice it to say, there are some deaths and a whole lot of violence, Katniss doesn't do what she's told, and although the ending wraps up the loose ends, we're left with a grown-up Katniss who is still not quite satisfied with her lot in life.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. I'm a big fan of well-written dystopian novels. There's a lot of action as well, which is fun to read. I was unhappy with Suzanne Collins's (the author's) decision to kill off some of the characters, however, but I guess in a post-Apocalyptic world, you can't have too much happily ever after.
The use of people as marketing ploys is an interesting theme throughout the entire series. Katniss is always someone else's tool--she is constantly used as a message to the people, first by President Snow and then by Prez 13. She is always resistant to being branded by others, but her need to protect the ones she loves always outweighs this resistance and she agrees to represent the symbols created for her.
I could go on and on about the philosophical implications of this theme...if I were a philosopher. We are every one of us a symbol of something to someone. And we play all kinds of different roles in our lives. The difference is that Katniss is coerced into the roles she plays. What is interesting about her story is watching as she defies and subverts the symbols applied to her.
So, it's a good read. A nice conclusion to the trilogy. Could have been more innovative, sure, but it wrapped up the loose ends. Two thumbs (and one big toe) up! In other words, 3 outta four.
*Footnote: What's up with the name "Peeta"? It seems to be a corruption of the name "Peter," but it sounds like a toddler's version of the word, or someone who has a speech impediment. And then those other crazy names all over the novel. Nobody has a "normal" name: Katniss, Prim, Gale (What kind of name is that for a guy? I thought it was a girl's name.), Haymitch (Would that be a person who mitches hay? And how exactly does one mitch hay?). And then the Capitol folks all have these strangely Roman/Grecian names: Cinna, Plutarch, Caesar (the talk show host), Claudius. Is this a way of showing that the Capitolinians are the elite with their stately names and the districtinians are mongrels with their made-up, compound names? Hmm...A thought.
Word and Book Lover.