November 23, 2010

The Odds Are Ever in Its Favor: 'Mockingjay' Ends 'The Hunger Games' Trilogy

By Sherri Breitigan, Contributing Writer

Diving into the ever popular world of young adult fiction (though the "young adult" label has become as overused as "going green"), author Suzanne Collins released Mockingjay, the third and final installment of her famous Hunger Games trilogy, in August. In case you’re not a close reader, do read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire first, or else you will find yourself adequately confused by jumping into the end of the trilogy. Take my advice, I remember going to see the first film of The Lord of the Rings with my cousin almost 10 years ago, and both of us getting a bit anxious about 3 hours in when Sam and Frodo had only just reached Mordor. ("Wait, there’s more than one film?").

The premise of The Hunger Games series is reminiscent of the rebellious struggle and quest for human unity found in The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, peppered with the post-apocalyptic qualities found recently with The Road, The Book of Eli and I Am Legend. The setting is far in the future, when our ever-so-intelligent generation has left the future human race with a depleted world and despair. The Capitol controls the land of Panem (former North America), and it is divided into 13 districts. The Capitol oppresses the people in the districts and exploits them for their unique qualities so that the inhabitants in the Capitol can live luxurious and gluttonous lifestyles reminiscent of Roman Senators. The districts at one time rebelled against the Capitol, and as their continual punishment, the Capitol forces each of the districts to send 2 tributes, between the ages of 12 to18, each year to compete in an epic fight to the death: the Hunger Games. A lavish arena is set up and the event is televised to all until only one adolescent is left alive as victor, after which he/she returns home as a hero and lives with no need to work.

Yes, it's a disturbing concept, but Collins doesn't weave her tale just to horrify us, it does serve as a larger social commentary that the reader can work out. Our central heroine is Katniss Everdeen, whose triumph in the arena inadvertently leads her to become the face of the rebellion: the mockingjay. The second book, Catching Fire, encompasses another Hunger Games battle and the building tension with the districts, which explodes in Mockingjay as the rebellion begins.

Like any popular series, there is death, love, and a coming-of-age revelation. Should anthropologists look at the beginning of our millennium, they would see it as the "The Triumph of the Young Adult Saga." I’m not knocking them, I love Harry Potter and consider it to be the best writing when put up against Twilight and The Hunger Games. These are great series to read for original ideas, and are the equivalent of the action adventure movie. It's invigorating to get so absorbed in characters that we feel as if we know them personally, and take stake in their actions. The clock ticks midnight, yet you are too anxious to go to bed so you keep turning the page, thinking to hell with the lesson plans and wait, did anyone check on the baby?

So while I don't think Mockingjay is a literary masterpiece, I do think it, and the entire trilogy, is captivating and one of the more interesting story lines out there. The books are a fairly quick read, you tend to want to skim in order to find out what happens, so before you know it, you’re ready to devour the next one. But don’t get too sad when you reach the end, there will be another new series lined up, or the screen version, ready to take its place.

Mockingjay is recommended for:
-Sick day reading
-Supplementing the loss of Harry Potter and Twilight

Not recommended for:
-Aspiring tyrants
-Weekend church camp