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Book Review

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the "Hunger Games" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The Hunger Games is an annual televised event in which the dictatorial Capitol of Panem forces two teens (called "tributes") from each of its 12 districts to fight to the death.

Katniss Everdeen is rescued from her second Hunger Games by rebel forces seeking to overthrow the Capitol. The leaders of District 13, an area the other Districts believed had been destroyed long ago but which literally moved underground, has spearheaded the resistance. All the Districts have watched Katniss and been inspired by her courage under fire in the Games. Now, urged on by her mentor, Haymitch, and District 13's President Coin, Katniss reluctantly agrees to be the rebel forces' mascot, or their "Mockingjay." A hybrid bird created by the Capitol, the mockingjay now symbolizes hope and rebellion to the oppressed Districts. Katniss insists on two concessions: that her friend Peeta and other former Hunger Games victors be granted immunity, and that she be the one to kill Panem President Snow.

Katniss, who has already spent much of her life as an unwilling celebrity, dislikes being made up and paraded around for the cameras. Feeling responsible for many civilian deaths, she wants to fight in the battles and avenge her people. Her passion for killing Snow pushes her on. He has tormented her, threatened to kill those she loves, killed her people, and tortured and brainwashed her beloved Peeta. Now, a brainwashed Peeta tries to murder Katniss at every opportunity.

Katniss participates in several missions, always with cameras rolling. She fights alongside Haymitch, other former Hunger Games champions and her old friend Gale, who has professed his love for her. On a mission where she, Gale, a camera crew, soldiers and others are given light tasks so they can be filmed, one of their crewmembers dies. President Coin sends Peeta (after being somewhat de-programmed from his Capitol brainwashing, though he is still volatile) to replace that team member, causing Katniss to distrust the leader's motives. Because Peeta may still want to kill her, Katniss knows that her value to the rebellion is now diminished. If she were to die while fighting the Capitol, President Coin would probably hold her up as a martyr, motivating others to finish what she had started.

Suddenly their "light" combat turns deadly. The Capitol attacks them. Most of those fighting alongside Katniss are killed as they try to capture Snow. Katniss watches while bombs disguised as supply parachutes explode in a crowd of children. Her only sister dies after she goes into the crowd with other medical personnel to try and help the children. Katniss is severely burned but lives.

When the rebel forces have secured the Capitol, Katniss meets with Snow alone. He tells her that the parachutes that killed her sister were not his, but a tactic belonging to President Coin. When President Coin wants to keep the Hunger Games, Katniss, realizes that Snow was right. At his execution, where she is given one arrow to shoot him, she shoots Coin and lets Snow die in another way. He is either trampled in the crowd or choked by his own laughing, but no one knows for certain. Katniss is taken into custody but is eventually acquitted of the crime and allowed to return to her home in District 12, where she must slowly pick up the pieces of a scarred and broken life.

Fifteen years later, Katniss and Peeta (recovered from his brainwashing) have married and have two children. Katniss explains that she chose Peeta over Gale because Gale brought out the hatred and anger in her while Peeta offered hope. Though they dread the day they will have to explain to their children the horrors they experienced under the Capitol's rule, they are finally able to live in freedom and peace.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Katniss and Gale allow their desire for revenge against the Capitol to drive them. Gale says if he could hit a button that would kill everyone living in the Capitol, he would do it without a second thought. Katniss bargains with the leaders of the resistance to have the privilege of killing Snow. Reminding herself of that assignment often motivates her to press on. She feels as if once that is done, there will be "nothing left" for her. She shoots enemies, even civilians and the corrupt president of District 13, without hesitation.

After the Capitol is overthrown, Katniss and Peeta are hopeful that things will get better and that they're witnessing the "evolution of the human race."

Authority Roles

Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta's Hunger Games mentor, is an alcoholic who frequently binges to avoid painful memories of his own time in the arena. He initially withholds information from Katniss to get her on board with the rebels. District 13 President Alma Coin uses Katniss to achieve power for herself. By dropping bombs on innocent children, she proves that her overall mission of conquest means more to her than human lives. Cruel, bloodthirsty President Snow repeatedly threatens Katniss and those she loves. He tortures and brainwashes Peeta to manipulate and control Katniss. Katniss has long taken care of her mother, rather than the other way around. Though they care about one another, their lives are mainly intertwined around their concern for Katniss' little sister, Prim.


In this epic battle between the Districts and the Capitol, violence and bloodshed are common images. Katniss recalls the convulsing and grotesque expressions of bodies electrocuted in the Hunger Games arena. She sees numerous corpses throughout the book, from bodies strewn around her bombed-out hometown to mass graves in the other warring Districts smelling of soiled linen, putrefying flesh and vomit. She visits a hospital to rally the infirmed, only to see the entire building destroyed by bombs and fire. A bomb blows off her commander's legs. Flesh melts off the body of another of Katniss' friends "like candle wax" when he's caught in a beam of radiation. Reptilian creatures created by the Capitol decapitate dying soldiers. While fighting in the Capitol, Katniss encounters more corpses as well as people screaming with blood "spraying from all visible orifices." A helicopter flies over a group of children, dropping parachutes holding what they believe to be food or toys. Instead, the chutes carry bombs that explode and kill them all. When Katniss finds some of her friends imprisoned, she smells the stink of unwashed bodies, urine and infection.

Katniss quotes the lyrics of a song her father used to sing. It's about a murderer hung to death on a tree. He is calling out for his lover to join him and hang herself as well.

Peeta talks about watching Avoxes (people whose tongues were cut out for disobedience toward the Capitol) being tortured with electric shock, beatings and dismemberment. When Peeta is being held by the Capitol, Katniss and her team see a televised beating where Peeta cries out and his blood splatters.


False rumors that Katniss is pregnant with Peeta's child began prior to her second appearance in the Hunger Games (Catching Fire, book 2). Now, Plutarch suggests they announce she lost the child from the electric shock in the arena. Katniss and Gale kiss several times.

Finnick, another Hunger Games champion, strikes a humorously provocative pose while wearing only underwear. He later describes how, after his Hunger Games victory, his body was sold by President Snow to wealthy Capitol residents. Snow threatened to kill people Finnick loved if he didn't comply.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: District 13 strictly forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This makes things tough for Haymitch, who has always drowned his memories with alcohol. Later, when alcohol is again available to him, he goes on drinking binges where he breaks things, passes out and doesn't bathe. After the Capitol is overthrown, he gets alcohol whenever he can and raises geese to stay busy in the meantime.

Drugs: The hospital gives a drug called morphling to Katniss and others in pain or emotional trauma. They have to wean themselves off the drug at different points because of the amount they've received. Katniss says maybe the people in District 6, well-known for their morphling addictions, had the right idea because their lives seemed happier.

Tattoos/Piercings/Plastic Surgery: Nearly all Capitol residents sport numerous piercings and wild-colored tattoos. A woman named Tigres has a tail and whiskers and is nearly deformed as a result of all of the cosmetic work she's undergone.

Suicide: Soldiers are issued suicide pills to take if they're caught in dire situations. At various times, Peeta, Gale and Katniss all wish for these drugs to end their own lives rather than deal with the consequences of capture or life in general. At one point, Katniss tries to take her pill, but Peeta stops her.

Movie tie-in: Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and the movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 and up


Suzanne Collins






Record Label



Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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