MOCKINGJAY

From the Hunger Games series , Vol. 3

Another season, another embargoed Big Book. This one is the hotly anticipated Mockingjay, the conclusion to Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. We have had to wait along with the rest of America, as Scholastic, masters at whipping up anticipatory frenzy from their experience doling out Harry Potter books, decided to deny book reviewers our customary sneak-peek perk.

As if that doesn’t make a deliberate evaluation of Mockingjay difficult enough, Collins has requested, in an open letter to her fans, that speed-readers “avoid sharing any spoilers, so that the conclusion of Katniss’s story can unfold for each reader the way it was meant to unfold.” What’s a book reviewer to do? A simple, “Great book—read it,” doesn’t seem quite enough, but delivering a substantive review without giving away particular story elements is something of a challenge. However, never let it be said that Kirkus Reviews ducks a challenge, so here goes... As this third volume opens, Katniss has returned for a visit to the wreckage of District 12, her home, annihilated by the Capitol in retaliation for her having joined the rebellion and thwarted the Quarter Quell, the special extra-brutal anniversary Hunger Games designed to firmly grind the Districts under the Capitol’s heel. Shortly after arriving back in District 13, once thought to have been obliterated and now openly the rebellion’s headquarters, Katniss learns, along with the rest of Panem via an official Capitol broadcast, that her former Gamesmate and would-be lover Peeta is alive and in government hands. Partly to protect Peeta, partly for revenge—which part is larger, not even Katniss knows—Katniss agrees to become the Mockingjay, physically donning the (armored) mantle to star in a series of “propos,” televised propaganda spots designed to rally the other Districts to the rebel cause. Throughout the trilogy, Collins has asked readers to consider heavy questions. What level of violence is justified to achieve needed change? How much integrity can one compromise for a just end? To what extent does responsibility to others demand sacrifice of self? How much control does anyone have over the construction of self? Katniss is the ideal vehicle for this dialogue, her present-tense narration constantly putting her own motivations and even identity under scrutiny. It’s not giving away anything to reveal that Katniss will be tested sorely, that allegiances will shift, that heart-thumping scenes of combat will yield to anguished reflection, that she and readers will find themselves always wondering just whom to trust, that she and readers will lose friends they love. In the final analysis, this is exactly the book its fans have been hoping for. It will grab them and not let go, and if it leaves them with questions, well, then, it’s probably exactly the book Collins was hoping for, too.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-439-02351-1

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2010

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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