Tuesday, August 31, 2010

very impressed

I know its been a while since I've posted.  Preparing to teach, starting classes in my MFA program, and other things have kept me busy.  I'll update you on all of that in a later post.  For now, whats on my mind is the final installment of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay.

Wow.  I've already talked about how impressed I was by her first book.  I haven't reviewed her secondbook, Catching Fire, and probably won't get around to it, but it didn't disappoint.  I knew it would be difficult for her to exceed my expectations after such an amazing first book, and she came pretty close.  I don't think it was quite as good as the first, but still an amazing book in its own right.  She did a great job of progressing the series.

And, today, I just finished reading Mockingjay.

Once again, wow.

While Catching Fire progressed the series admirable, Mockingjay completely exploded the story and issues (in a good way).  The only progression of a trilogy that has been so well constructed that I can think of (and, admittedly, this one towers far above the Hunger Games) is Dante's Divine Comedy.  (Thats right, I just compared The Hunger Games to the Divine Comedy.  You heard it here first, people.)  Really, though--Collins's method of constructing a trilogy is worthy in every way.  She got that right, at least.

And she got a whole lot more right than that.

What caught me off guard (and impressed me most) about the third book was how the stakes were higher than the other two books in just about every way imaginable.  All the conflicts--between people, between the Capital and the Districts, between ideas and philosophies--were bigger.  More pressing.  And, of course, there was no shortage of new conflict added to the mix, as well as old conflicts that I thought had taken a back seat.  I'm avoiding specifics here because I'm avoiding spoilers (because I don't have much time and want to get these thoughts out), but hopefully you're getting the picture.

I will say, perhaps as a warning, that Mockingjay was a very, very violent book.  But in my opinion, it wasn't excessive.  It was necessary to the story Collins was trying to tell and the world she had created.  It was disturbing at times, much more so than either of the first two books, but it drove the themes of her books that much closer to home.

The book wasn't perfect by any means.  The prose in the beginning was slightly annoying at times (almost Meyer-esque, dare I say it), and there were one or two rather heavy-handed sections where Collins's themes seemed to take over her writing.  But other than that, her prose was very crisp, and Katniss's personality was clear as crystal.  Also, I won't mention how the love triangle in these books worked infinitely better, and seemed much more real, than a certain other series of young adult books that may or may not involve vampires and "werewolves."

And the ending--bittersweet, unexpected, but satisfying.  I couldn't ask for more.

In my opinion, the Hunger Games trilogy is a must-read.  Get your hands on it now, if you haven't already.

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