Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mockingjay: The Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 3, by Suzanne Collins

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Title: "Hope is the thing with feathers"
By Emily Dickinson. [2]

     In capturing the spirit of "Hope" for us all, Emily Dickinson personifies "Hope" as a bird, a "thing with feathers." She goes even further and tells us that this bird "perches in the soul," and just as shockingly, sings a tune without words--and it never stops. It is almost as if Suzanne Collins called up as muse, Emily Dickinson, to sing Collins a song from Dickinson's own soul. And then, inspire Collins to devise a story through the inspiration of "Hope is the thing with feathers." 

     Gale, the name of Katniss's friend from District 12, bears the name of a windstorm. The gale in the Hunger Games Trilogy, is, of course, about the winds of war--the past, most assuredly, but also the present (in the story line). Hope is the "sweetest" in the midst of the storm that bashes the little bird of hope about, whether it be fought with guns and bullets or in the tempest of the soul. We see both kinds of storms in the series, especially in the last book, Mockingjay. In the book, Katniss is, metaphorically, the mockingjay. She is, therefore, the symbol of hope for all the people. 

From: Hunger Games, Book 1, Concept of Peeta's
Portrait of Rue (during Catching Fire, Book 2). [4]
     The "mockingjay" sings the song of hope in a number of places in the series, the most public one is when she sings to Rue as she is dying (the first Hunger Games); and later, she says she sees Rue in the flowers in the meadow and that she hears her in the mockingjay's song. Also, when Katniss is out by the lake under the trees (in, Mockingjay) and sings, "Under the Hanging Tree," she brings tears to Pollux's eyes. This moment is especially poignant since Pollux is an Avox; having had his tongue cut out, he cannot speak.  Moreover, it works beautifully as a symbol of Katniss as the "thing with feathers," (the mockingjay) a symbol of hope, because Katniss sings for all the people who cannot speak.

     The first two books in the series carry a message of hope that also works well in book three, Mockingjay. Katniss and Peeta have both been bashed about by the storm of war and have come out irrevocably changed. Hope, though, perching there, in their souls, unseen, nonetheless, sings its song of hope to them. And though it takes a long, long time, they do heal. Before I go on talking more about the book, I had better give you the book synopsis. 

This section contains spoilers! [6]
     With the title of the book, Mockingjay, most of us were probably not surprised that Katniss would become the Mockingjay in Book 3. As the book opens, Katniss is in District 13, recovering from the burns she received at the Capitol, in the last book (Catching Fire).  Katniss becomes the pawn of the rebel forces and agrees to become the Mockingjay. In exchange for her performance, the rebels agree to grant amnesty to Peeta and all Victors, and...Katniss gets to kill President Snow.

     Katniss appears in a number of "propos" for the rebels; her reputation grows, and she gives hope to everyone. In a trip to District 12, she sings, "The Hanging Tree," for Pollux, an Avox with no voice, symbolically giving all the voiceless a voice. Returning to District 13, Beetee is successful in gaining access to the Capitol's airways feed--they see Peeta, and before he is dragged off and beaten, he screams out a warning to the rebels. Katniss breaks down and refuses to do more propos, so a plan is made to rescue Peeta, Annie and other hostages. 

   The rescue is successful. When Peeta recovers in the infirmary, however, he tries to kill Katniss by choking her, but guards intervene. The rebels discover that Peeta has been "hijacked," that is, he has been submitted to mind-altering programming along with certain venoms. Peeta is put under treatment and over time slowly makes progress. Katniss is assigned to Squad 451 [A nod here to the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury--451 is the temperature at which paper burns.]. Then, when Peeta is assigned to Squad 451, the commander, Boggs and Katniss realize that President Coin (of District 13) secretly sent Peeta to kill her.

This is a scene from the movie, Mockingjay, Part I,
Released to the big screen on 11-21-14. [8]
      On a mission on the outskirts of the Capitol, the Squad runs into trouble, Boggs is killed and Katniss takes over. Knowing she can't go back, she leads the squad towards President Snow's mansion with the goal of killing him. Along the way most of the squad is killed, and Gale is captured. Katniss makes it to the mansion under cover with other refugees. A hovercraft appears and drops parachutes (like those used in the Hunger Games), some of them go off killing the children holding them. 

     Rebel medics come in to help the wounded--Katniss see Prue--and then the second wave of bombs go off killing Prue and many, many others, fire consuming and burning people to death. Katniss, too, is burned, but survives and wakes up in the hospital, again. Katniss and Gale decide to part ways since they suspect it was Gale's plan that was used by Coin to kill the children in the bombing--Gale knows Katniss could never live with him in peace.

President Alma Coin. [9]
     The Capitol is taken by rebel forces, President Snow is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Then, President Coin calls the sole surviving seven victors in for one last duty. Coin proposes staging one last Hunger games with the Capitol's children selected for reaping--the victors to vote on the outcome. Thinking the vote is Coin's last test for her, Katniss votes yes to avoid possible death at Coin's hands. 

     The day of the execution arrives and Katniss dresses and prepares for the public event. She is given her bow and one arrow and placed only ten feet from Snow to shoot him. She aims at Snow, but at the last second points the arrow at Coin and releases the arrow killing President Coin. Katniss is arrested, tried and then released under medical supervision. She returns to District 12 to live without her mother. Peeta and Haymitch also return to 12 to live, Haymitch returning to his previous life style, Peeta continuing to slowly recover. Time passes and along with their slow recovery, Peeta and Katniss slowly fall in love. Eventually, they marry and have two children.  
     My day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever really go away. I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years. But there are much worse games to play. (pp. 387-388)
     The very first time I read this passage I just melted and thought how hopeful it was. I mean, just think about this passage, someone looking at every act of goodness observed! And then, when the times are bad, it is repeated and remembered, again.

    I recently reread the book again, in anticipation of writing this blog post, so it is fresh in my mind. What I discovered is that as I have aged, I have lost a goodly number of people I have loved in my life, and thinking about the good things I've seen them do for others, also dredges up painful memories of their loss. Replaying those good things over and over is a lot like constantly ripping a healing scab off, and then doing it again--it never heals. I've had to put away pictures of love ones who have passed away so they aren't a daily and constant renewal of pain. For me, picking some sweet memory--one moment in time--is much healthier. I visit that one joyful moment over and over again, never wearying of its memory. It never gets tedious.

     So many important themes, symbols, and motifs grace the pages of Suzanne Collins trilogy, we can only wonder at how she was able to write such a compelling story and weave them all together. I covered a few of them in the last two weeks, so I will not revisit those, today. Here are a few of my personal favorites: Real or not real?; Coming full circle; The girl on fire; Mutations created to serve a specific purpose (i.e. the contestants in the games or "fire mutts"); The Phoenix (birth/death/rebirth); Stone; Games (a really big one), Sacrifice; Costume (or what you wear is who you are); Hope out of despair, Unusual alliances, and others.

     Last week I addressed the relationship between Katniss and her mother. In the Mockingjay, Katniss's sister, Prim, is killed in the firebombing at Snow's Mansion, causing the loss of her beloved sister. The loss devastates Katniss, causing a mental break down--placing her in a similar situation to Katniss's mother lost her husband and had a mental breakdown. At the end of the book, Katniss's mother cannot return to District 12 after losing Prim, because the memories are just too painful for her. That leaves Katniss and Prim's cat--two who hated each other--forming an unusual alliance for survival.

     While I love the book and it has many things I find laudable, I really did not care for the ending of the book. I have had friends and relatives tell me they didn't like the ending of the book, either, after they had finished reading it. The ambiguity inherent in the resolution of the conflicts in which all were involved can be troublesome to many readers. We know that Gale comes up with the plan to have a first attack followed by a second attack when medics or rescue personnel think everything is safe. The same type of attack is utilized in front of Snow's Mansion when the children and medics, including Prim, Katniss's sister, are killed, and Katniss, herself, is burned.

Fingerpointing. [14]
     OK. So, then, in her meeting with Snow, he tells Katniss that the bombing really was President Coin's doing, that she had taken the hovercraft, it was her bombs and her plan. He also tells Katniss that Coin has been lusting after the Capitol's Presidency for years and was determined to get it. So what does Katniss do? She breaks up with Gale, because they each think it was his plans and bombs that caused the killing, and second, she takes her single arrow with Snow's name on it and kills President Coin.

     Here's the wrinkle: President Snow has a granddaughter we see (only in) the Mockingjay book. President Snow, seeing the handwriting on the wall could have been trying to save his family, and especially, his granddaughter from coming retribution at the hands of the rebels, as well as using his love for his granddaughter to bolster his argument that he loves children and wouldn't do anything so despicable. Remember also that Snow tells Katniss that its the things you love most that destroy you--could he mean his own family?

     Since Snow is also dying of a wasting disease (presumably tuberculosis), he really has nothing to lose except his family. Snow also accuses Katniss of lying and says, "Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other." (p.355) Since we know Katniss lies, we can assume Snow lies also--but what facts are being lied about? So whether or not Snow was despicable enough to set up the murder of the children, lie to Katniss, and finesse Coin's demise, he certainly took great pleasure in her killing by Katniss--afterwich, Snow "cackle[s]," coughs and spews "foamy blood." (p. 371) He certainly was joyful in his death about something.

Katniss and Prim's cat's relationship
was all began after Katniss
tried to drown the cat. But in the end,
the two settle their differences and
learn to live together peacefully. [16]
     The ambiguity thing, or gray area as some like to call it, is so dissatisfying to readers expecting to have good resolutions, or a moral tale told. Here, war has no winners, as Suzanne Collins says in the book (via Peeta). So both sides on the war struggle to survive, and then do what they can to put their lives back together again after it is over. This is what Katniss does in choosing Peeta for a partner, in her making peace and allying with Prim's cat, and forgiving her mother. She grows and she heals slowly. Not exactly the stuff of romance or thrilling suspense novels. And while we may understand this premise, it is a lot like the tasteless food served in District 13--bland, colorless and tasteless.

     The Director for the movie is, Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer Lawrence) with writing credits going to Suzanne Collins (book), Peter Craig, Danny Strong (screenplay), and Suzanne Collins (adaptation). Starring in the movie are Jennifer Lawrence reprising her role as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin, and many other wonderful stars. [18]

     Since the movie MPAA rating is PG-13, parents are strongly cautioned due to intense sequences of violence and action with some disturbing images and thematic material included, we can use that guide for the book, as well. Even if graphic images MAY impact young people more than words in a book, I am using the MPAA Rating as a guide, as I said. I, also, always caution not only the young viewer and reader, but those persons of a sensitive nature, that they should consider before reading the book or watching the movie. [18]

     Given all the reasons I have stated, above, and even considering the few minor criticisms I have listed, I rate this book 4.5 stars out of 5. After having reread this book, yet again, I have no qualms about highly recommending this book to readers of this genre, or for those who love Suzanne Collins or this series.

     Thank you for joining me, today, as we got to take a look at The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Book 3, series by Suzanne Collins. I am truly happy we got a chance to take a look at this very popular book and series (and a quick look at the new movie just released to theaters). Please join me, again, next week as we will be leaving our three-week Hunger Games stint behind and moving on to other new material, other new books and authors.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [20]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my best,


[1] "Mockingjay: Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 3." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[2] "Hope is the thing with feathers - (314)." [by Emily Dickinson] [as cited by: Poetry Foundation] Retrieved 11-29-14.
[3] "Emily Dickinson - Hope - NEW American Author Poet - Famous Person Poster." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[4] "Concept of Peeta's Portrait of Rue." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[5] "After Elections: Hope? #Afghan - Elections - 2014." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[6] "Spoiler Alert - #1." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[7] "The Hanging Tree." [by Ash Doh] Retrieved 11-30-14.
[8] "Gale Ceases to be a Romantic Interest for Katniss, and They Drift Apart." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[9] "President Alma Coin." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[10] "My Favorite Quote." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[11] "Kindness Quotes." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[12] "Themes." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[13] "Family Quotes: The mother daughter relationship is important relationship." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[14] "Blaming Others As A Ranking Factor In Google? No!" Retrieved 11-30-14.
[15] "President Snow Saw President Coin Killed...He Died Laughing!" Retrieved 11-30-14.
[16] "The Odd and the Unmentionable." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[17] "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Final Trailer - 'Burn'" Retrieved 11-30-14.
[18] "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[19] "Birdman - A Near Perfect Movie." [by Jeremy Miller] Retrieved 11-30-14.
[20] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 11-30-14.