**spoiler alert** I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy, and was eager to start on the final instalment. Catching Fire...more**spoiler alert** I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy, and was eager to start on the final instalment. Catching Fire ended with the cliffhanger that there is now no district twelve and there were a lot of questions left unanswered.
In Mockinjay, Katniss discovers that district twelve has been destroyed by the Capital, and all that remains are piles of ash. Most of the citizens were killed, but a small number, including Katniss’ mother and sister survived and have started new lives in district thirteen. District thirteen was thought to have been obliterated by the Capitol in the rebellion years ago, but instead they have been living underground building up resources, training and arranging undercover missions to take down the Capitol. Katniss’ mother and sister take up jobs as medics while she and Gale travel to some of the districts where uprisings are taking place and participate in the fighting whilst recording propaganda material to inspire people to keep rebelling. Meanwhile, Peeta is rescued from the Capitol where he was presumably tortured for information, and he returns as almost a different person. He is extremely aggressive and mistrusting of Katniss, and they suspect he has been brainwashed to hurt and fear her. All the while President Snow continues to manipulate Katniss with death threats and subtle things to unnerve her. She begins to fall apart under the weight of it all, struggling with her feelings of guilt and hopelessness, so it’s quite a harrowing read.
Unfortunately there is no real happy ending. President Snow is overthrown, but at a terrible cost, leaving Katniss heartbroken, and the regime that replaces his rule is far from perfect. It was very sad to read and reduced me to tears, but that is the way it should be. The message was realistic and not sugar coated: that war sometimes needs to happen, but it’s a terrible, horrible thing and the survivors are scarred by it forever. There are no real winners, no happy endings, but there are lessons to be learnt. The final pages of the book were extremely poignant and while the ending was bleak it did offer some hope that life goes on for the survivors, even though they will never be the same. And after all they have been through, how could they? Collins wrote an ending that was true to the situation and respectful of the character’s lives rather than just giving readers what they wanted. It was a very powerful ending to the series, and offers a very interesting socio-political commentary on the world we live in. (less)
**spoiler alert** After thoroughly enjoying The Hunger Games I had high expectations for reading the sequel, Catching Fire. The Hunger Games ends with...more**spoiler alert** After thoroughly enjoying The Hunger Games I had high expectations for reading the sequel, Catching Fire. The Hunger Games ends with an unresolved love triangle and the hint of a looming revolution and I was curious to see how the next book would progress. The novel mostly follows the aftermath from the first games as Katniss and Peeta embark on their victory tour and new life in the victor’s village. Katniss’ trick with the berries has been perceived as an act of defiance against the Capitol, inciting revolution in some districts. President Snow threatens to kill Katniss and her family unless she somehow quells the rebellion by keeping up the pretence of being madly in love with Peeta, who doesn’t need to feign his adoration for her. Throughout most of part one she is torn between following President Snow’s instructions to protect her family and trying to run away, and also between her feelings for Gale and Peeta. There is a fair amount of self-absorption and wallowing on her part, but it isn’t too drawn out. I like that Katniss is neither a passive damsel in distress nor an indestructible bad-ass. She is clever and brave but she has plenty of weaknesses to overcome and does not always do what is morally right, which makes her more relatable and believable.
When more brutal peacekeepers are sent in to keep district 12 under control, Katniss reluctantly resolves to stay and fight against them and incite an uprising against the Capitol. Just when you are expecting a story of revolution to follow, Collins throws a spanner in the works by introducing the announcement of the Quarter Quell- a special Hunger Games to mark its 75th anniversary, in which the tributes will be existing victors. So Katniss and Peeta end up back in the arena facing opponents with much more strength and experience. This time around, the arena is much more interesting, with many clever obstacles and twists and turns. Some great new characters are introduced-Johanna, Finnick, Mags, Beetee and Wiress, so you come to know the other tributes better than those from book one and root for them too. It is somewhat unrealistic that Katniss barely does any killing herself and that she and Peeta manage to stay alive despite facing opponents much older, cleverer and stronger than themselves. It seems a little too contrived how some of the characters just accidentally die and how Katniss just happens to find out about the force field and keeps thinking about it, when it later turns out to be significant. But despite this it was still an exciting read with plenty of surprising, intriguing, funny and poignant moments. I enjoyed this section of the book more than the first two parts as it is filled with action and suspense, and it is a shame that it doesn’t last longer.
It was disappointing that Cinna does not feature much in the book, as I really like his character. Another minor complaint was that I became bored with all the beauty procedures Katniss goes through with the prep team and the endless descriptions of the outfits she wears and found myself scanning over them, eager to get to the action. However, the latter half of the book and the cliffhanger ending made up for that, and overall I really enjoyed it and am eager to read the final instalment: Mockingjay. (less)
**spoiler alert** I’ve had this book on my shelf since Christmas, and finally got around to reading it last week. I was intrigued by the premise as it...more**spoiler alert** I’ve had this book on my shelf since Christmas, and finally got around to reading it last week. I was intrigued by the premise as it sounded similar to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I enjoyed reading at university.
The novel is set in a future in which a virus causes men to die at the age of twenty-five, and women at twenty. At sixteen, the main character Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live, and she intends to spend them with her twin brother, Rowan. Since her parents were murdered they have been living together in a barricaded house, protecting each other from the world of poverty and crime outside. But one day Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride to a man named Linden, along with two other girls. The story follows her captivity and escape attempts, and the strange things going on in the house. At first she hates her husband for robbing her of her freedom and being responsible for the other girls who were killed in the back of the van on the way here. She avoids being intimate with him, although he tries it on a number of times and impregnates his youngest wife, Cecily, who is only thirteen years old. It is quite sickening to read about her pregnancy, and the way the wives are kept there like slaves or baby-making machines.
But Rhine soon comes to realise that her young husband is just as much of a prisoner in the house as she is- he is manipulated by his controlling and sinister father, Housemaster Vaughn, who reveals himself as the real villain of the piece. Linden knows no other way of life and is deluded about what goes on in the house. He believes he scattered his wife Rose’s ashes in the orange grove, but really his father has been dissecting her corpse in the basement to try to find a cure for the virus, and although he was told that their son was stillborn, there are hints that Vaughn may have lied to him about that too. Linden becomes more of a sympathetic character as the novel progresses. He seems to genuinely care for Rhine, despite not appreciating her rights to freedom, and he is ignorant of where she and his other wives came from. He is naive and vulnerable, still grieving for Rose. Rhine’s sister wife, Cecily, is similarly blinkered. She is so young and innocent and ready to embrace this strange marriage and bear Linden’s children. At times she is unlikeable, rude and ignorant but I sympathised with her as she didn’t know any better, and gradually she seems to come to realise that this life is not so perfect.
Destefano cleverly and realistically portrays Rhine’s mixed feelings-longing for escape yet feeling guilty towards Linden and afraid of being caught, hating and mistrusting her sister wives yet caring for them too. There is also romance between her and Gabriel, a young servant working at the house. He really cares about her but they try to keep their friendship as a secret, afraid that Vaughn will find out and punish them. She wants him to come with her when she escapes, but he is almost so used to this life that he can’t imagine what freedom will be like. Eventually though, she does convince him to escape with her and the book ends with them sailing out to sea, heading back to Manhattan to find Rhine’s brother and discover what awaits them as free people.
Overall the novel was very thought-provoking and made me question the reasons behind a lot of my own values, and what exactly is justifiable in certain situations. It did remind me a lot of The Handmaid’s Tale, and would be valuable to student’s studying the themes of feminism and the representation of women in literature, although I would warn parents of young teenagers that they may want to discuss the sexual aspect of the book with their children to make sure they understand about women’s rights in this respect. I very much look forward to reading the sequel, Fever, to discover if Rhine and Gabriel can find a way to cure the virus and achieve happiness. (less)
**spoiler alert** I’d read many good reviews about Divergent, and heard that it had been hailed as being on par with The Hunger Games. As a big fan of...more**spoiler alert** I’d read many good reviews about Divergent, and heard that it had been hailed as being on par with The Hunger Games. As a big fan of dystopian fiction, I decided to give it a go.
The novel is set in a future Chiago made up of five factions that each represent a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. The story follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a sixteen year old girl brought up in the selfless faction Abnegation, but bored and restricted by their way of life and unable to truly fit in. The results of a test to determine which faction she is suited to prove inconclusive and she is told that she is Divergent and must tell no one about it as it is a dangerous thing to be. At the choosing ceremony, in which she must select the faction she will join for life, she surprises herself and her family by choosing Dauntless- the faction that represents courage.
The rest of her novel follows the tough initiation process that she must face to become a full member-which involves risking her life by jumping off buildings, beating up other initiates and trying not to get murdered by her rivals. I didn’t agree with Dauntless’ way of life at all-they seemed like a bunch of reckless, uncaring thugs to me, so I found it difficult to relate to Tris and understand why she would stay with them when they put her through such hell. I preferred Amity myself, although I doubt that would have made an exciting book. The gradual romance building between her and Four was interesting to read. He seemed like a complicated character, always trying to hide his emotions and seem like a tough guy, but he is one of the few caring members of Dauntless, which made me wonder why he belonged there at all. This is partially explained by the fact that Dauntless used to stand for something different- for being valiant and standing up for what you believe in and not just being stupidly reckless, but it didn’t seem to make sense that Four had lived with something so against his principles for so long.
Tris goes through such a lot in the book, yet is offered little sympathy from anyone but Four, and it is a wonder that she is so excited about joining Dauntless for good. But although I couldn’t always understand the character’s motivations, I did really root for them and couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to find out what would happen next and how Tris would get out of such a bad situation. The whole book is full of conflict, hard choices, moral conundrums, violence, grief and drama. It has depth and is not just a wishy-washy romance tale.
The action-packed climax came as something of a surprise and was cleverly written-full of drama and suspense and a terribly tragic ending. I am curious as to what the next book holds- Tris will have a lot of demons to face and hopefully more fighting to do. It reminded me of The Hunger Games somewhat, which is a big compliment and I can’t wait to read the sequel, Insurgent. (less)