Read at your own risk.
I warned you, so don’t say I’m rude.
Real or not real? The last book of the Hunger Games series ventures further into a brutal psychological game that characters must face and endure. Emotions run high and only the strong, and the lucky, survives.
Mockingjay begins with Katniss Erverdeen’s visit to the charred remains of District 12. Gale Hawthorne, best friend and potential lover, watches over her on a hovercraft. She’s too precious to lose because, back in District 13, she’s considered an asset to the revolution. She is the symbol of the revolution’s goals and the hope of Panem’s populace. She is the one. She is the appointed hero who could free Panem from the Capitol’s tyranny. Or is she really?
Real or not real?
This question voices out one of the many themes in the novel. Trust. Deception. Belief. Disbelief. In a time of war, one could only hold on to the most essential element of survival. It is different from one person to another depending on the role he/she plays in the midst of armed conflict. Collins shows her readers this side of human nature. And it is not a pretty picture.
Characters like Gale, Beetee and Plutarch Heavensbee relied on their skills. Snow and Coin, their great need to stay in power. Haymitch, his influence on Katniss and Peeta being their mentor in the games and the quell. Many times, Katniss would come face to face with her own ruthlessness to survive. All the hate she’s kept in her heart motivated her to rise up to the role thrown upon her by the rebels. In the end, she is no more but a casualty, a victim of the war. She kept mementos of past lives during peacetime. One way to establish reality and to convince her self what was real and what was not.
Despite the destruction, it is Peeta Mellark who survived with the most grace and class. He knew at the start of the games the things worth fighting for – his identity; his values for the preservation of life; and whom he loves. He is a very consistent character, solid and yet, evolving. Reading Katniss’s state of mind and emotional disposition is very tiresome. As a reader, I latch myself to hope in all three books and Peeta Mellark symbolizes that. The boy with the bread lives! And he lives in my heart. He struggled through mental alterations and grappled with the truth, especially his feelings for Katniss. In the end, he was burned but lucid enough to know how to heal himself and how to deal with the loss.
As a genre, sci-fi aims to amaze and frighten. The what if’s and the plausibility of the impossible happen but, alongside these possibilities, hope floats. Even in great loss, hope finds a way. In real life, it is the same. The book offers the reader a good amount of grim and gore. Then again, life is also made of weddings and reconciliations; of friendships and compassion; of healing and forgiveness.
What line divides sci-fi from realistic fiction then? Collins makes it clear that there is none. The deaths of many children and the tyranny of Snow and the deceptions of Coin are reminders of the victims of war and those who propagate it. It's like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Hitler and Mussolini. The Allied Forces and the A-bomb. In the hands of an effective Language Arts teacher, Mockingjay is a perfect book to discuss cross curricular units in world government, literary genre and the very nature and complexities of the human mind and heart.
What did not work
The point of view has always confused me. I did a lot of lacuna jumping and to some degree it could work. Not for me though. Not all the time. Collins fills these gaps through Katniss’ narrations. It’s too limiting for my convenience.
Then again, I contradict myself since the effect is similar to putting pieces of a puzzle together. For most readers, this is a mental exercise and much excitement can be derived from this. Those who are very cerebral will revel in reading the book. There are so many foreshadowings on who Katniss will end up with. It's a dead a give away by Chapter three.
Over all, the Mockingjay is a painful but satisfying read to close the trilogy. I was pretty beat up in the end, just like Katniss. Her survival proved little to justify her as victor of the games. In war, there are no winners. People in power are dangerous. There is nothing romantic about revolutions. Losses from violence never fades. The human spirit is strong enough to survive and heal itself. Yet, it is also too weak and too forgetful to learn from the lessons of history.