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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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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