by Suzanne Collins
In a Nutshell
Mockingjay is the dark and violent conclusion to Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. In Mockingjay, Katniss Everdeen, our unusual heroine, has just escaped her second Hunger Games with the help of rebels from District 13, and they want her to be the face of their revolution. In fighting on the rebels' side, though, Katniss finds herself trapped in an even more terrible version of the Hunger Games than those the Capitol hosted.
As turns out, we're definitely not the only people wanting to pick up this book. Since its publication on August 24, 2010, it has been named a #1 Bestseller by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today (source). In Mockingjay's first week on the market, nearly half a million copies were sold (source). A film based on the first book in the trilogy, The Hunger Games, is currently in pre-production, and if that movie does well, it's safe to say we'll probably see a version of Mockingjay in theaters soon enough.
And why not? The book is totally cinematic. It has plenty of exciting action scenes, which will probably be fun to film, even if they're going to be absolutely stressful to watch. It even packs in a love triangle and plenty of suspense, to further add to said stress.
While this book has a summer blockbuster feel to it, that doesn't mean it's all Hollywood. Author Collins doesn't pull her punches. You can't get too fond of any character that emerges in this book. As soon as one does something nice or heroic, he or she is pretty much guaranteed to get the chop. Seem unusual, or even cruel? Well, that's war for you. Mockingjay is committed to showing the darker side of battle, how it's unfair, and how people who are loved die all the time. Don't let this deter you, though – just scroll down to "Why Should I Care?" to find out why it's worth your time.
Why Should I Care?
Reading Mockingjay feels a lot like watching an action movie or playing a first-person shooter – it's intensely griping entertainment. But Suzanne Collins says there's more to it than that. Her books (The Hunger Games series and her Underland Chronicles) aren't just sci-fi – they're serious too.
Scratching your head a bit? Let Uncle Shmoop help you out. Collins says that she's really interested in "the question of what makes a necessary war – at what point is it justifiable or unavoidable?" (source). At a time full of warfare and potential warfare (we're thinking Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran…), that's an important question. Mockingjay is very concerned with war, and Collins claims that her books are "absolutely, first and foremost, war stories" (source).
In The Hunger Games series, the world is really messed up. The adults and the generations past are the ones to blame. They instituted horrors like the Hunger Games. Katniss and the younger generation are born into an awful situation, but they're also the hope for the future. How do they go about creating change, though? How do they fight the old system?
Collins comes from a military family; her father was in the Air Force for many years and also fought in Vietnam. She grew up hearing about war from a young age, and considered that a good education. Lucky for us, Collins wants to share her education with her readers. Here's what she has to say on the matter:
One of the reasons it's important for me to write about war is I really think that the concept of war, the specifics of war, the nature of war, the ethical ambiguities of war are introduced too late to children. I think they can hear them, understand them, know about them, at a much younger age without being scared to death by the stories. It's not comfortable for us to talk about, so we generally don't talk about these issues with our kids. But I feel that if the whole concept of war were introduced to kids at an earlier age, we would have better dialogues going on about it, and we would have a fuller understanding. (source)
Through her books, Collins wants to teach the real-life younger generation about war. Maybe by being introduced to the complexities and horrors of war earlier, we'll be able to change the world for the better, like Katniss and her friends aim to do.
But what to do you think? Does Mockingjay teach us anything valuable about war? And is it simply too dark for teens and tweens?