Today is the day I've been awaiting for several months: the release of Mockingjay, the final novel in Suzanne Collins' fast-paced trilogy that began with 2008's The Hunger Games and continued with 2009's Catching Fire.
To give you a sense of how big an event this will be, on July 1, Scholastic announced it was upping its original plan for a 750,000 initial print run of Mockingjay to 1.2 million copies. In addition, on July 3, they released the trade paper edition of Hunger Games in the U.S. and Canada with an initial print run of 500,000 copies. By early this year, the hardcover edition had sold more than 800,000 copies.
And, yes, I said Scholastic. This is a YA book. I read it because of a great review by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly in September, 2008.
Lionsgate has already optioned the movie rights, and the first film is expected to be released next year.
The Hunger Games combines an extreme version of today's reality TV with a post-apocalyptic world ruled by an indifferent totalitarian government.
North America is now the nation of Panem ruled by the Capitol. The book's protagonist, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, lives in District 12, the poorest of the dozen districts of Panem.
As a reminder that rebellion comes with a price, the Capitol holds an annual televised series of games to which each district must send one boy and one girl randomly selected by lot. The twenty-four "tributes" then fight to the death with television viewers betting on them. The last tribute standing is declared the winner.
When her younger sister is picked for the 74th Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The male tribute from District 12 is Peeta, who once saved Katniss' family from starving. During televised interviews promoting the upcoming games, Peeta reveals to viewers that he has been desperately in love with Katniss since they were five years old.
Katniss is torn between her suspicion that Peeta is just trying to gain sponsorship and her anger over her sense of indebtedness to him. And she is already more than half in love with Gale, her eighteen-year-old hunting partner.
The novel takes familiar tropes and revitalizes them. Katniss is a defiant David with a bow-and-arrow instead of a slingshot, facing bigger, stronger opponents. In her relationship with Peeta, she is more dominant than Peeta, who is a baker's son with no knowledge of woodcraft or hunting.
Katniss' first person account is spare and unflinching with hints of humor. "Sitting at Prim's knees, guarding her, is the world's ugliest cat ... He hates me ... Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home ... The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed."
Katniss' pluck and Peeta's apparent devotion to her attract a huge television following. Their fans are angered that one of the "lovers" will need to kill the other to win. For the first time, the Games foment real unrest in the nation.
The second book, Catching Fire, has the Capitol struggling to put down the rebellions which sprung up as the result of Katniss' defiance. In the 74th Games she wore a gold pin decorated with a mockingjay bird. The mockingjay has become the rebels' symbol.
An angry President Snow sends former Games' winners back into the arena to compete to the death for the 75th Games. All of the former winners are Panem's best-loved heroes. Their fans are furious, and the heroes find themselves torn between fighting each other or defying the Capitol.
Now we come to the final book in the trilogy. Here's one of the trailers for Mockingjay:
Can't promise when I'll be posting this week [grin].