In the third book of the Hunger Games series Suzanne Collins takes things to a new level. Where the violence up until now has been for entertainment purposes, in Mockingjay things evolve into full scale war. At times the brutality is completely relentless. Upon rereading I kept discovering more things I hadn’t explicitly spelled out below in the content section. But it becomes difficult to account for body parts after awhile. Please know that towards the end of the book I could not possibly transcribe the violence for you because I am certain it would result in copyright violation since that’s pretty much all there is.
In addition to the violence, Mockingjay does (finally) address the mental and emotional cost of being exposed to such horror and loss. Finally we get the reflection that it “costs everything you are” to murder innocent people. A lot of people begin to have mental breakdowns which is probably more realistic. When it comes down to it, almost every character borders on insanity, with many making prolonged stops there. This can be quite disturbing to read and also somewhat confusing, as when Katniss is falling apart, the reader is certainly falling apart with her. While I appreciate that Collins has finally stopped avoiding the fact that surviving through such violence will have a toll, I don’t know that this depiction will help young readers understand the weight of what they are reading. In fact, I think if readers are not emotionally ready to handle the series, that this will make them more upset.
On a more personal note, I was disappointed with Mockingjay and with Collins. I wanted to love this book. I had really enjoyed the first two, despite my very serious reservations about sharing them with too young and audience. However, I felt the whole too fast and too furious take on the war towards the end of the book took away from the series as a whole. While Collins had gained the reader’s trust by keeping key characters alive throughout the first two books, in the third book all bets are off, and anyone can die. Rather than use this judiciously and sparingly, Collins kills off characters at an alarming rate, barely allowing the reader to process the loss of one favorite before offing the next. While I did like the way the story ended, I felt it was hastily drawn, I felt we were owed more closure after investing so heavily in the series. I hate endings that seem slapped on and this was definitely a hurryup and finish job.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Refugees are referred to as breeding stock. A character is referred to as a sex symbol. There’s handholding. Katniss is asked if she’d like someone presented as her lover. People are handcuffed half-naked to each other. A man strips to his underwear and asks a woman if she finds it distracting. There’s kissing but the person being kissed points out that the other person only kisses him when he’s in pain. There’s a lot of talking about previous kissing but also, finally, reflection on what people actually mean to each other. There’s a scene where a male kisses his way up someone’s neck to her mouth. The taste and heat remind her that her body is alive. There’s a lot of kissing and discussion of kissing. There’s a wedding. A girl is asked if she liked kissing someone. Characters have children. A character is someone who was bought and sold, a slave and can tale many tales of the experience: “tales of strange sexual appetites, betrayals of the heart…drunken secrets whispered over damp pillowcases in the dead of night”.
Profanity – “jerk,” “hell”
Death, Violence and Gore – A character is in pain from a prior head wound. An entire district is reduced to ash and human remains, ninety percent of the residents died. Someone trips over a skull and sees the decomposing bodies of people who tried to escape before the bombings. Some people were incinerated, others overcome by smoke, their bodies now blanketed by flies. A pox epidemic killed many people and left others infertile. Katniss imagines people she cares about being drowned, burned, lacerated, shocked, maimed. She also recalls old incidents such as: a man being shot for whistling, someone’s beating, someone being dragged bloodied and unconscious from her room, that person’s subsequent death, a spear piercing a girl’s body, a corpse-littered wasteland. Two people died in the woods. Someone recounts watching someone kill another person and then killing someone. Someone has a bloody nose after being hit. Katniss wants to kill someone (in the literal, not figurative sense). A cat will be shot if he is interfering with security. The grotesque faces of a group of electrocuted children are described. They must say that a woman lost her pregnancy due to electric shock. Soldiers carry pills that will allow them to commit suicide if captured. The wounded from a bombing are bleeding, limbless. A woman’s bandage requires changing. A mass grave is necessary for corpses. Blood seeps through bandages which are covered with flies. A twelve-year old boy has half his face covered with bandages. A hospital is bombed, leaving no survivors. There are injuries due to shrapnel. Katniss asks what they will do to Peeta and is told “whatever it takes to break you.” He’s being tortured to incapacitate her. People trip over decomposing bodies. Mutts gnawed someone to a pulp. There’s a song about a hanging tree. Peeta’s blood splatters the tiles as he is beaten. We see scars on a person resulting from being whipped. Peeta is ill and disoriented. Katniss imagines lining gloves with the fur of a pet cat. A mission is expect to cost a lot of lives. Poison is used. A victor’s family and girl were killed. Characters are unconscious, emaciated, bruised, oozing scabs and strangled causing damage to spinal cord, veins and arteries. There’s a bombing strategies that relies on setting off a second set of bombs once help arrives for the first victims in order to cause greater loss of life. There’s a plan to destroy a stronghold and everyone inside it (no matter how innocent). A man recalls watching children burn to death and being helpless. People are trapped and crushed to death. Katniss recalls the mine accident that killed her father. As people flee a collapse the are firing guns at the rebels who are in turn firing at them. One man is bleeding and missing a part of his cheek. He smells of burning meat, hair and fuel. Lots of people are shot. A woman says she’s going if she has to kill a flight crew and steal a plane. A character was tortured by being put in water and administered electric shocks. A woman gets a metal dart in the brain. Two people were tortured to death while another was forced to watch. One was killed too quickly by voltage that was too high. Another was beaten and had body parts cut off. A bomb blows off a man’s legs. There is torn flesh, missing limbs and a lot of blood. Poison gas is used. A man is snared in a net with barbs. A character’s flesh melts off him like candle wax while others watch helplessly. A type of mutt decapitates people while others watch. A character that we are very close to gets torn up and finally decapitated by the same lizard mutts. Three people died that way. A woman crying for help is shot through the heart. People are blown to bits. Gunfire erupts in a crowd, killing people. Steam kills people by parboiling them. Something causes people to spurt blood from all orifices before they die. Katniss must watch someone she loves very dearly become a human torch, and die. There are many burn victims. There are references to children’s body parts being everywhere.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Drugs are used to control Katniss’s pain and mood. Haymitch is forced to sober up. He says he can’t face something without a bottle. Katniss agrees that she’d rather have a drink. Haymitch asks Katniss if she’d like to be sedated.
Frightening or Intense Things – Katniss has been classified as “mentally disordered.” Jailed people are kept under very bad conditions. Some people, including children are disfigured by pox. There are significant references to mental illness. A character is extremely mentally traumatized, having an argument with himself like he’s two people. One of our favorite characters is captured in a final raid.