Friday, February 1, 2013


Win a copy of THE RUINS OF NOE by Danika Dinsmore! (Ends 2/11)


Scholastic, Inc.
400 pp.
Ages 12 & up

The greatly anticipated final book in the New York Times bestselling Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest?

Katniss Everdeen. The final book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins will have hearts racing, pages turning, and everyone talking about one of the biggest and most talked-about books and authors in recent publishing history!!!!


After listening to CATCHING FIRE last week, I just couldn't wait to listen to MOCKINGJAY, the third and final installment in the HUNGER GAMES series. While pretty much everyone else has been raving about these books for years, I was a bit late getting into the game. What finally got me hooked was the second half of book two when it became apparent that this was not just a story of Katniss, the girl on fire who ended up in a bizarre, bloody game of death--the futuristic equivalent of gladiators in the ancient Roman Coliseum--this is a story of human nature: the demand for justice and revenge, the desperate need to survive at any cost, and the fascination and even obsession with violence and death.

Katniss's act of defiance against the Capitol by threatening to poison herself with a handful of berries resulting in two victors rather than one, sets off a chain of events that eventually leads to the downfall of the Capitol and of The Hunger Games, but one of the questions the third book raises--Is freedom from tyranny worth the cost?-- does not have an easy answer, or perhaps any definable answer at all.

Yes, these books are very, very violent. And yes, many parallels can be drawn between Katniss's world and our own. But when the smoke clears, literally in Katniss's case, what remains is too many dead people and a blurred line between good and evil, right and wrong, freedom and tyranny.  In the beginning of MOCKINGJAY this line is straight and very defined. On one side is the affluent, superficial Capitol and its blood-lust for the The Hunger Games. On the other is District 13 and it's determination to overthrow the Capitol. Caught in the middle are the remaining districts, Katniss, Gale, Peeta and their entourage. They all start off thinking they are doing the right thing, but as they get deeper and deeper into the rebellion and more and more bodies are strewn along the way (whose deaths are not only tragic but senseless) it becomes more and more evident that they are all nothing but pawns played by both sides. In the end, Katniss does what only she can do--she defies them all with one final, shocking act.

What is Katniss to the rest of us, then? I think this is an important question, especially in light of THE HUNGER GAMES' huge popularity. Is this story merely designed to entertain us all, to shock us all? I don't think so.  In writing this series, Suzanne Collins grew into a truly brilliant writer, not only because of her masterful use of language an imagery, but because she so adeptly forces us to examine ourselves and our role in society today.  Are we not pawns in our own political chess game? Aren't we, as an entire nation, completely suckered in by our media - televised news casts, radio talk shows, movies and television shows that are nothing more than cleverly disguised propaganda? Whichever "side" you think you're on, you have to ask yourself if you are being manipulated in some way to win your vote, your money, your support.

In one of the final scenes of MOCKINGJAY, babies and young children are blown to smithereens. It is never completely clear which side is at fault, though either side is equally capable of the atrocity. Katniss struggles to figure out who is to blame, but in the end both sides are to blame. She takes her shot, but after all is said and done she has really done nothing to change or affect the outcome. She has played their game all the way to the end. I could not help but compare the dead children to the tens of millions of aborted babies in this country, the casualties of a political agenda. And what about the millions of children in our public school systems who are fed whatever our government determines is "appropriate" curriculum? I think, too, of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, who sadly are not the only children who have been killed, or abused, or victimized in this country. It happens every day in every city, just not so visibly as Sandy Hook.

Why did Suzanne Collins choose to write books about the manipulation and exploitation of children? Perhaps it was to get our attention, and she has. Without question, she has.  But now we must decide if we will take what she has given us and just call it a good story, a powerful bang for the buck, or will we turn it into a magnifying glass to more closely scrutinize our own political system, our media, and ourselves?

Katniss paid dearly for her courage. And at first look, it seems that she failed. She goes back to her life, scarred and damaged both physically and mentally. But it is no accident on the part of Collins to end her book by presenting to us the next generation with a blossoming hope for something different, something better. Whatever we do today, whether we choose to do nothing, or choose to make even the smallest sacrifice to effect change, it will have an impact on our children some day. We just need to ask ourselves what sort of world do we want our children to live in and what are we doing or not doing to make sure they can live it?

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