As I begin to write these analyses, I ask myself a variation of the same question: Is this book one I am grateful to have read because it gave me something I believe we all should know?
If my answer is “yes,” then I seek to identify what the “something” is, if I knew it before reading the book and the book simply enhanced my knowledge, or if it brought something entirely new to my mind.
If my answer is “no,” then I seek to identify what about the book isn’t particularly special (or in the case of The Princess Bride and 1984, why it vexed me) yet how it still managed to land on the Amazon/Goodreads Lifetime Reading List anyway.
When it comes to Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, though, I am very conflicted.
You can see from my analysis and review of The Hunger Games that Collins didn’t exactly hook me into her trilogy. On the other hand, as stated in my analysis and review of the sequel, Catching Fire, I read that book in one day and loved every page. Mockingjay took three days to read, and I am still struggling to decide if I think it belongs on this Lifetime Reading List more than two months later.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say “No, it doesn’t.” I thought the first two-thirds of the book were full of world-building for the rebellion in Panem, while the final third was action-packed and full of surprises. It was a nice conclusion to the series, but that’s just it; it was nice. Not gripping or explosive—just nice. If this book wasn’t on the Lifetime Reading List and the conclusion to a series, would I have bothered to finish it? Maybe, but if so, only because I don’t like to abandon books.
There was one passage, though, early in the book that stood out to me.
Katniss is talking to Gale about the new weapons District 13 has prepared for them to use during the war, and Gale mentions that he’s ready to use a weapon to kill people in order to protect his loved ones, to fight. Katniss quietly agrees she’d do the same thing, yet she hesitates in speaking further because she is unsure how to explain that she’d never forgotten the lives she’s taken in the arena (Mockingjay, p. 68-69)
I think this passage stuck out to me because that’s the one thing most films and books fail to address. The hero/heroine will readily fire into a crowd or take the life of their foe, but the way that traumatizes them is lost to the remainder of the plot. As a former psychology student, I recall plenty of essays, like this official opinion from the American Psychological Association, about violence in video games. As a mother, I’ve heard plenty of conversations about how various film productions may desensitize our children to the realities of violence, especially gun violence. As a citizen, I’ve read numerous newspaper articles about how observing violence at home or in the media may have been a contributing factor for the school shooter’s decision.
Throughout the series, Collins alludes to the PTSD experiences of the victors—how Haymitch drinks to forget, how some turn to morphling, how Katniss and Peeta both have nightmares—and that is something I greatly appreciate about her books. If I choose to read this series with my children when they reach middle school, this presents a fantastic discussion point. Thus, I think if the theme of PTSD and living new traumatic experiences is addressed, Mockingjay is a must-read book. However, without discussion, many of the vital lessons in the book are lost.
If I separate the aspects I didn’t like about the book itself from the talking points the story presents, I can see why Mockingjay is included on this list. And for those points alone, as I’ve written this analysis, I’ve decided that I agree with its placement.
Make sure you come back next week to see my review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins!