Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Mockingjay, the final installment of The Hunger Games, follows Katniss as the hero/symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol. Decked out in a fancy uniform and given a multipurpose bow with explosive tipped arrows, she is the star of a new series of propaganda films. The leaders of the underground (literally as well as figuratively) District 13 don't intend for Katniss to actually fight. They want everything scripted and controlled. But Katniss just isn't an actress.
She wants to help bring down the Capitol, but she chafes at being used as a puppet. She wants to fight but isn't interested in taking orders from anyone. She wants to be in the loop at the highest levels but she really isn't much good at strategy or organization. She doesn't want to be looked up to, but she is unwilling to pull much of her own weight if it involves mundane, repetitve tasks. Basically, she is acting like a typical teenager, moody and self-absorbed. Add PTSD symptoms to that mix and you have one dangerous, close-to-psychotic, prima donna warrior chick.
How dangerous to present an icon to a desperate people who want a hero, who want inspiration, especially when the chosen icon cannot rise to the occasion without a makeup crew and special effects. If your inspiration is an illusion, what can possibly rise from it that isn't also an illusion? Katniss seems to understand this even as she feels inadequate at producing either the illusion or the real rebel she would like to be.
She ends up trying to fight on her own mission with a group of former Hunger Games victors, a commanding officer that believes she might have a real fighter in her, and a camera crew. The objective is to assassinate the President and end the war. Like all military missions, nearly everything goes wrong, good people die, and the objectives get skewed. It makes for good television, but not necessarily a good outcome.
Parents might want to discuss with their teens about how deceptive figures in the media can be. A discussion on how to tell the difference between fact and fiction, or if it's possible to do that in a world of CG animation and Photoshop, might be in order as well.
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