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'Mockingjay' the final volume of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy

Wednesday, September 1, 2010; C06

MOCKINGJAY

By Suzanne Collins

Scholastic. $17.99. Ages 12 and up

This eagerly anticipated final book in the Hunger Games trilogy finds Katniss Everdeen, 17, the reluctant symbol of an uprising against the dictatorial government of Panem, a futuristic United States. Reluctant? Her time in the brutal gladiatorial arena of the previous novels has honed the girl's fighting skills and sharpened her suspicions. Is she only a pawn in a power play televised by the rebel leaders? They want her and other warrior-teens to be the "on-screen faces of the invasion," a scarred-but-still-photogenic rallying force for the oppressed people of Panem. Nothing is black or white in this gripping, complex tale, including the angry, self-doubting heroine. Throughout the strategizing, the grim losses and the required prettifying for the ever-present cameras, Katniss struggles to hold onto her sense of what's right and real. As for the love triangle introduced in the first book involving fierce Gale, Katniss's childhood companion, and kindly Peeta, her gladiatorial ally, it continues with complications aplenty. This dystopic-fantasy series, which began in 2008, has had such tremendous crossover appeal that teens and parents may discover themselves vying for -- and talking about -- the family copy of "Mockingjay." And there's much to talk about because this powerful novel pierces cheery complacency like a Katniss-launched arrow. Look skeptically at computer and television images, it suggests, be aware of spin, gaze upon the young faces of the world's soldiers. Children forced to kill children? It's not just in the pages of a novel.

-- Mary Quattlebaum

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