I don't think I have to put up a disclaimer to read Mockingjay (and the first two books) to understand what I'm talking about, but here I am, doing it for my first real "review" for goodreads.com
Catching Fire, the Hunger Games trifecta's second book, ended with Gale telling Katniss, that her home, District 12, is no more.
Now Mockingjay opens with Katniss surrounded by the ashes of 12, she's surrounded by a wasteland where those who were doused with flames lie as burnt remains, and those who were not so lucky to be charred lie decomposing, covered with cloaks of flies and maggots.
The war against the Capitol has now begun, and Katniss, star of the Hunger Games and the Quarter Quell, rises from the ashes to become the face of the rebellion, literally becoming the subversive brand to rally on the Districts to rise against the formidable Capitol. She knows President Snow must be killed, and she must prepare for that moment.
The was floored with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire because Suzanne Collins masterfully created a "what-if" world torn by war, thrown backwards and ruled with an iron fist. The premise of Katniss Everdeen's world isn't too far from where we stand right now. It's just that Collins had the skill, imagination and the balls to push the envelope and actually expose and create a possibility.
Mockingjay was able to properly continue where Catching Fire left off: the long overdue rebellion against the Capitol. Though there wasn't a lot of action during the first few chapters, it was necessary to build not only the momentum but also Katniss' image as well.
I particularly enjoyed picturing out just how she transforms into the Mockingjay. It's like shooting a commercial, only instead of products you'd see Katniss being videoed infront of a burning hospital, angry, making threats and igniting anger throughout Panem. Looking back, it was amusing how despite the terror and chaos, the "marketing team" thought of it as great footage, how every body loves drama so they're sure to react. Katniss is magical infront of the camera when she's spontaneous and unscripted. There was black propaganda for sure.
The ensuing war has changed every body for sure, but the person/s that affected me the most was not Peeta (though I'll get to him in a while), but Gale and Prim. Simply put, I saw just how Gale can be as cut-throat as Snow, he admitted it himself. He's so fueled with rage against the Capitol that when he talks strategy, you could either do one of two things: be awed by his cunning, or be afraid. Prim somewhat a voice of reason throughout the series. Sometimes, she becomes Katniss' rock of strength. She has an ambition to become a doctor, and she inherits all the good traits of the Everdeen family. Not bad for a girl who was supposed to be the tribute, not her older sister.
Mockingjay isn't for the faint of heart. The whole book practically screams "body count!". Collins' gift for graphic exposition shines throughout the book. We get to see more of it towards the end of the book, where Katniss leads a group to the Capitol, to hopefully kill Snow and end the war once and for all. This is where things get ugly. This is where the real body count lies. And most of all, this is where I realized Mockingjay's backbone: deception and manipulation.
Katniss was supposed to kill President Snow. She was almost there. But the hitch was that there was a human shield made of children infront of the President's home. Before she could do anything to get through, the pivotal point of the story begins with small white parachutes dropping from a hovercraft. The children expect gifts along with the parachutes (since during the Hunger Games, a small parachute is usually the way where a tribute gets supplies for survival), but instead of gifts, the packages explode. Not all of them do, but it's enough to cause Rebel paramedics to rush to the scene.
I thought it was heartbreaking enough that children had to die like that, but imagine a moment when Katniss sees her sister, Prim, among the medics seconds before the second wave of explosions begin. Prim indeed grows up, and like everyone who grows up, she dies.
Now that is the pivotal point.
There is chaos, followed by order. But for Katniss (and myself), there was only confusion.
The scene was disgusting, especially since children had to die like that. The children were used as pawns and payed the price for victory, which apparently the rebels from District 13 got. This is where Mockingjay and the first two books are so much alike: all of them depict the youth being used in one way or the other.
Manipulation was apparently the name of the game. Now more than ever, I saw how President Coin used every one to lay the groundwork for her hold to power. The book left me wondering who the villain really is. As frustrating as it may sound, that's the beauty of Mockingjay. It's a complicated chain, a web, where every body has a hand at creating the chaos. These were people driven with the lust for revenge, retribution and vindication. Because of that, every body was a villain in one point or the other in the game of survival.
Towards the end of the book, I was already frustrated at how the momentum was crushed like that. I expected Katniss to rise as the hero of the hour, but that didn't happen. If ever, the last few pages depicted just how damaged Katniss has become. She didn't win anything. She lost everything. Her life after the drama was practically a hopeless one, until Peeta returned.
Ah, Peeta. Honestly I don't have a lot of say about him, only that now, I know why Katniss chose him. As much as Katniss began the epic and horrific story of retribution, Peeta ended it. She said it herself, when she likened Peeta to a dandelion in the spring. No matter how denuded, damaged and demoralized Katniss' life has become...life goes on and there will always be a chance to start over.
I guess the whole point of The Hunger Games trilogy was to ask an important question: Who wins a war? Time and time again, the answer will always be: No one. People do the most horrific things when they're consumed with self-serving needs. People likewise do horrific things when they're driven by the lust for revenge. No one benefits from that. More than anything else, I think that's what I got from reading Suzzane Collins.
She's a genius.