Bread & Circuses: A mini-review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

rose I finished the third installment of The Hunger Games last night, Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, and my goodness what a read. All three books are absurdly intense page-turners bound to keep one up far past one’s appropriate bedtime. If you are married and both spouses are reading these at the same time, prepare for some marital disputes and further disruptions to sleep.

But do read them.

The third was every bit as good as the first two. It is speculative fiction but it feels very real. It is not glamorous, and much of the third book reads like the diary of a post-traumatic stress disorder victim – something the lead character and narrator, Katniss Everdeen, and pretty much the rest of the cast suffers from in spades.

Katniss is an infuriating narrator and central figure, but her stubbornness and distrust make her character much more fascinating and complex than many young-adult protagonists. She is extremely screwed up, and you would be too if you suffered what she has suffered.

I won’t divulge any spoilers for this or any of the other books. Suffice to say, it is as harrowing an account of the violent, dystopian, totalitarian state as the first two novels and somehow even more deranged and grotesque. It presents the reader with truly difficult choices about the nature of war, power, justice, revenge and loyalty. And it is a book that should satisfy younger readers as well as older, though it is not for the timid: the violence – both physical and psychological – is very real and at times very hard to stomach. But Collins finishes her trilogy quite masterfully. I am so often disappointed by a series’ ending, that I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quite satisfied when I finally shut the cover for the last time.

All told, it was a wonderful book and a wonderful trilogy. There is more to be said about the concept of bread and circuses in the decadent Capitol – a Pink Police State if ever there was one – which overseas the enslaved Districts of Panem. But as I said, no spoilers for this mini-review. Now go buy the books.

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