Mockingjay. It is finished.

Mockingjay (Book 3 in The Hunger Games trilogy) by Suzanne Collins; published by Scholastic, New York, 2010; 390 pages.

Katniss Everdeen survived the Hunger Games…twice.  She even escaped District 12 to avoid President Snow and his cronies in the Capitol.  District 13 does exist and has given her, Gale, her family and other survivors of District 12’s firestorm, safe haven.  But at what cost?  President Coin and the other leaders of District 13 want her to be the Mockingjay, rallying support for the resistance across all the districts of Panem.  President Snow wants to make an example of her to destroy the efforts of the rebels.  Can she survive this, a third “hunger games” of a sort?  And what has become of Peeta?

Some trilogies end weakly, merely tying up loose ends.  Other series end with a bang, as I think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows brought the Harry Potter series to a climactic and satisfying end.  Like the Harry Potter series, Collins has brought a satisfying conclusion to The Hunger Games trilogy.  While I found Mockingjay significantly more violent and thus more disturbing than the earlier entries, I think the series had to conclude this way.  In the end, neither side fought fairly and both sides justified their choices.  Sounds like the real world to me.  Also sounds like the perfect way to kick off a discussion of war, history, and how historians can twist the truth to serve their own agendas.

Look for this book to make several of YALSA’s awards list.

5P     5Q     Grade Level: 9-12+

Cover Art: The mockingjay seems to have broken free of the pin Katniss wears and is soaring, free, in a blue sky.  This perfect cover ties the series together by incorporating the mockingjay pin used on the covers of all three books but in a way that summarizes the end of the story.

From Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

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Rebellion is Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; published by Scholastic, New York, 2009; 391 pages.

Back in District 12, Katniss Everdeen has fallen back into her routine of escaping into the forbidden woods to hunt.   Although she now lives in the Victor’s Village with her mother, sister (Prim), Peeta and Haymitch, she continues to hunt to support Gale’s family.  With the next Hunger Games about six months away, Katniss and Peeta must tour all the districts as a reminder of the control the Capitol has over everyone.  President Snow makes an unexpected appearance at Katniss’ home with a threat if she does not convince the general populace of her love for Peeta.  Uprisings occur around Panem, fueled by Katniss’ disobedience during the games; she and her mockingjay pin have come to symbolize the resistance movement.  As if she isn’t stressed enough, her feelings for Gale and Peeta have her confounded.  When the rules for the upcoming Hunger Games are announced, Katniss is overcome with anxiety.  Every 25 years, the rules for the Hunger Games can be amended; as this year marks 75 years since the revolution attempt, the rules change.  The tributes will be selected from the pool of victors.  Katniss must fight again.  As symbols of the mockingjay appear in odd places, organized revolution becomes more than just a rumor.  But what role does Katniss have in the scheme?  And what about Peeta, and Gale?

I seamlessly stepped back into the dystopian world of Panem.  Collins has done a remarkable job of keeping her characters in character in a sequel.  Her narrator’s voice has not changed.  It’s as though she continued writing straight through both books.  It will be hard to wait until Fall 2010 for the third book in the trilogy to be released!

What captivates me most about this series is the strong, female protagonist.  While she is not without fault, Katniss is a complex, reluctant heroine.  Peeta continues to surprise readers with his strength behind his sensitivity.  Other characters are allowed to come forward into well-rounded foils for Katniss; particularly her mother, Haymitch and even Cinna.  Even though Katniss is a 16-17 year old girl, her adventures will intrigue male and female readers alike.

5P     5Q     Grade Level: 7-12

Cover art: The mockingjay pin continues as the focus of the cover art; it seems almost to be a military insignia on this, the second book of the trilogy.  Fans of The Hunger Games will instantly recognize the cover.  Unfamiliar readers might think this book will appeal more to males, but will surprised at its universal appeal.

From Reading List: Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA), 2010; Teens Top Ten nomination, 2009.

The Hunger Games left me famished…wanting more!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; published by Scholastic Inc., New York, 2008; 374 pages.

Katniss Everdeen has stepped into her father’s role as provider and protector of her mother and sister, Prim.  His death in the coal mines of District 12 (formerly Appalachia) left them without any means of support.  To supplant the food she forges for and hunts in the woods outside the fence, the Everdeens trade tokens for provisions.  The tokens bear Katniss’ name in the annual drawing of representatives from the 12 districts that used to comprise the United States.  After a bloody uprising, the rich and powerful of the Capitol hold Hunger Games every year, in which a boy and girl are selected as tributes from each district to battle to the death.  The victor has his or her needs provided for by the government for life, while the victor then trains the subsequent contestants.  In an unlucky twist of fate, Katniss’ beloved sister is chosen.  Katniss volunteers to replace her in the games and her hunting partner, and potential love interest, Gale, vows to make sure Prim and their mother are cared for in her absence.  Peeta, the baker’s son, is the male tribute from her district; they train together and their coaches contrive a romance as their strategy to win.  As the games are televised, Katniss finds it relatively easy to play to the cameras and earn sponsors to help her.  She doesn’t find it easy to sort through her feelings for Peeta or to determine his motivations.  An unforeseen twist at the end of the games leaves a cliffhangers for readers who will be anxious to jump into the second book Catching Fire.

I could not put down this thriller.  What a great female protagonist!  Although I was horrified by the concept of teens fighting to the death, the battles and death scenes were handled with finesse and taste by Collins.  Undoubtedly, teens will relate to the subthemes of unchallenged authority, a disparate class system, and brains over brawn.

Collins has said that her inspiration, in part, came from the surreal blurring of the lines between reality TV and war coverage as she channel-surfed.  That would make a terrific theme for a booktalk or book club discussion starring this book.  Hopefully, with Collins writing the screenplay, the movie will inspire reluctant readers to pick up the book to learn more about these fascinating characters and their future world.

I was not surprised to learn that the book made YALSA’s “Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers” and the “Best Books for Young Adults” lists in 2009.  I imagine we’ll see it on their “Popular Paperbacks” list as well.

5P     5Q     Grade Level: 7-12+

Cover Art: Silver on black is certainly an attractive choice to lure teens to the book.  Adding the image of the mockingjay pin that the Mayor’s daughter, Madge, gave Katniss before the games, should pique curiosity; I know I had an “aha” moment in the book.  The cover seems to appeal to boys more than girls as it has a rather militaristic design; however, reading the back cover should lure girls to read since the protagonist is a strong female.

From Reading List: Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA) 2009

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