The third and final installment in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy was released at midnight last night to much fanfare. Say what you will about the series, but it’s hard to find fault with midnight release parties for books. Particularly well-written books.*
It warms my heart when books transcend an individual reading experience and become cultural phenomenon, confirming what I have always believe to be true, that reading is a social activity. I was working as a counselor at summer camp when Harry Potter V, VI, and VII were first released and the excitement was palpable. When it rained on the release date of Order of the Phoenix, and evening activities were cancelled, there were thunderous cheers as the campers realized this meant they could go back to their cabins and read. When Half Blood Prince came out, we had to enforce a strict No Talking About Harry Potter rule in my unit because everyone read at a different pace and it was the only way we could put a cap on the inevitable spoilers and ensuing drama. I once had to intervene a conflict in which one camper had called the other a Muggle, which resulted in me gently chiding the camper for name-calling, but also remindering her that she too was a Muggle. Tears ensued.
Reading a final book is bittersweet; days, weeks, months of delicious anticipation followed by a few hours of binge reading. I know I should slow down and savour the book, but I can’t help myself. Besides, the joy of a great book is that nuances and subtleties will reveal themselves in multiple readings. Having re-read both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in preparation for Mockingjay I felt both primed and anxious: would Collins deliver?
Of course she does. Collins’ writing is clean, fast-paced, and addictive. Her ability to plot is matched (in recent time) only by J.K. Rowling. I will say very little, only that Mockingjay both satisfied and surprised me. Collins has an ability to surprise her reader with twists that are unexpected and yet organic. This is a true gift. Is there resolution? Sort of, and perhaps not the kind of resolution readers are looking for, but how can you resolve a mess as big as the one created by the sadistic regime of the Capitol?
The development of Katniss’ character is impressive and well drawn. By the end of Mockingjay, she has come leaps and bounds from the spirited girl from District 12. Throughout the book she is constantly reminding herself of her name, age, and situation in order to hold onto what’s left of her reality. Katniss’ confusion is poignant and heartbreaking. Here we have a tough, single-minded survivor questioning everything she’s ever known. Throw some muttations, Capitol manipulation and an uprising into the mix and the result is captivating and utterly gutting.
Moreso than the first two books, Mockingjay is almost relentlessly cruel. This is not a series for the faint of heart, but Collins sets that up in the first book. She blurs the lines between the good guys and the villains, but isn’t that always the case in times of war? If you compromise your morals or your people for the good of the cause, is that justifable? Is all fair in love and war? Big questions, but ones that are tackled in the trilogy. Collins addresses these issues in this great interview with School Library Journal.
One of my favourite aspects of Collins’ storytelling is her world-building ability and how she parcels out information naturally and sparingly. After much speculation, we finally learn about the history of District 13, get a disturbing exposé of President Snow’s reign of terror, and even get a glimpse of the future.
If you’re not already reading it now, go pick up your copy. Mockingjay is available in hardcover from Scholastic.
*I would, for example, groan and probably shudder at a release for the up-coming Justin Bieber autobiography, or anything “written” by Lauren Conrad.