Mockingjay by author Suzanne Collins is the third installment in The Hunger Games series. This young adult novel follows protagonist Katniss Everdeen as she fights in a futuristic rebellion against a sadistic dictatorship run by President Snow. Mockingjay largely explores the psychological and emotional costs of war.
Panem is a dictatorship that maintained its power after a failed rebellion. After the war ended, the country was divided into the Capitol and twelve outlying districts (the thirteenth district was supposedly destroyed in the failed rebellion), each of which is responsible for producing a specific good for the Capitol. The Capitol is relentless in its effort to suppress further rebellion in the outlying districts. To maintain power, it relies on military might, resource control, and especially televised propaganda. The crowning achievement of this propaganda program is the Hunger Games, an annual event in which each of the districts must send two “tributes” to fight in a hellish arena full of booby traps, extreme environments, and merciless opponents. The Hunger Games are meant to remind the outlying districts of the cost of rebelling against the Capitol. The “victors” of these games survive to endure both fame and psychological trauma.
When Mockingjay opens, nearly all of the outlying districts are at some stage of rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen has already fought in the Hunger Games twice and has now become a symbol of the resistance against President Snow. Katniss’s partner in both previous games, Peeta, is held captive in the Capitol. The rebels, in turn, have kidnapped Katniss and seek to use her to launch their own propaganda campaign against President Snow. Meanwhile, Katniss’s home in District 12 has been firebombed. Led by President Coin, the rebels operate in an underground bunker in District 13, which was actually spared during the failed rebellion because of its nuclear arsenal. Life in District 13 is so utilitarian and heavily regimented that people are tortured simply for stealing bread.
Although the rebellion is well under way, Katniss is in shock. Having endured two bouts of Hunger Games, she is traumatized by her experiences and wears a bracelet proclaiming her mental instability. For Katniss, there are many unanswered questions that she must face now that she has the time to consider them. Although Katniss is highly responsible and loyal to her family, she is also a very capable killer. Confusing matters further, Katniss is stuck in a love triangle with two boys who are also both loyal and dangerous. By her side in District 13 is Soldier Gale, her childhood friend with whom she hunted as a girl. Held captive in the Capitol is Peeta, who fought by her side in two Hunger Games and who loves Katniss unconditionally. Finally, although she is not a natural actress, Katniss has also become a symbol known by many as "The Mockingjay." Should she use her celebrity status to wage a propaganda battle with the Capitol?
The propaganda battle begins before Katniss can decide. On television, a healthy-looking Peeta calls for a cease-fire, which enrages the rebels. Katniss reasons that a cease-fire would only lend more power to President Snow and the sadistic tastes of the Capitol, leaving the Districts to continued hunger, unending desperation, and the prospect of more children lost as tributes in the Hunger Games. At last, Katniss agrees to fight a publicity battle as The Mockingjay on several conditions, including that Peeta and other captured victors will be given immunity when the war ends.
Unfortunately, Katniss is a poor actress and is unable to inspirationally proclaim rebel slogans in staged environments. However, when she is taken to a hospital to visit real victims of the war, Katniss shines like a true star. Merciless, the Capitol sends a second round of bombers to kill not only the wounded but also the survivors who are caring for them in the hospital. Katniss, Gale, and their publicity...
(The entire section is 1,656 words.)