"Mockingjay" is not your average teen novel. The third and final book in Suzanne Collins' best-selling "Hunger Games" trilogy, it tells the story of a teenage girl struggling to survive impossible situations. But unlike many popular young-adult books, there are no vampires, werewolves or supernatural powers involved. The hero of the story, Katniss Everdeen, is a 17-year-old girl living in the nation of Panem, built on what was once the United States. The country is made up of 12 poverty-stricken districts and the wealthy capitol that controls them. Each year, 24 tributes, one boy and one girl from each district, are selected at random and forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, during which they must fight each other to the death as entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol.
In "Mockingjay," Katniss finds herself in the midst of a full-scale rebellion against the Capitol as a result of her participation in the 74th Hunger Games. The sole provider for her mother and sister after her father's death, Katniss is incredibly skilled with a bow and arrow. She and her best friend Gale hunt illegally to provide food for their families, until her sister is chosen to be a tribute in the Games and Katniss volunteers to take her place.
One of the most striking things about the "Hunger Games" trilogy is the depth of its characters. Though Katniss' life is as different from the average American teenager's as it could possibly be, she still manages to be relatable. By the end of the novel, she is depressed, angry and jaded, but it's understandable given all that she has been through. Despite the violence of the story, the characters maintain an endearing innocence.
What truly sets "Mockingjay" apart from other teen novels is its subject matter. Collins does not shy away from issues of violence and poverty; she embraces them, forcing readers to consider problems deeper than ones they would ordinarily think about. Still, she crafts the story in a way that is relatable to teens. Katniss may be at the center of a fiery rebellion, but she still has to choose between her two love interests, Gale and Peeta, her fellow tribute from District 12. And not only does she need to act the part of the rebellion's leader, she has to look it. Against her wishes, Katniss has a full prep team ready to remake her whether she is filming propaganda or going into battle. Though the makeovers go against Katniss' inner ideals, they coincide perfectly with the idea that to the people of the Capitol, everything is simply entertainment. The government masks the atrocity of the Hunger Games in glamour and fame, making the Games something of a cross between warfare and reality TV.
Collins' anti-violence message is clear, but the fighting is frighteningly realistic. Although it starts off slower than the other two books in the series, there is plenty of action toward the middle and end. It is filled with the surprises and twists that mark Collins' work, and for this reason, "Mockingjay" is irresistible. Poignant, clever and suspenseful, it will leave you thinking about the people of Panem long after you have finished reading.
Meredith McCaffrey is a sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy