Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ★★

I am probably one of the last people on Earth to read Mockingjay. It was one of the most highly anticipated series ending books ever. Everywhere I looked someone was talking about it - counting down the days till release. There was ARC craziness and spoiler worries and giveaways offering the book sprouted up like weeds (including one of my own!), but I just now got around to reading it myself, and I was more than a little disappointed by it.

Without further ado... My Mockingjay review.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)I'm really torn on what to rate this book. I went back and forth between 2 and 3 stars a few times, but I ended up going with 2 stars for a variety of reasons that I hope I'll be able to convey. I don't think that it was terrible, I was disappointed and irritated by quite a lot of it.

I will try not to spoil the plot, but if you haven't read the book, read the following at your own risk:

First things first... In The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I cared about Katniss and Gale and Peeta. They were just these kids who were unlucky enough to live in this society that puts on this horrific event every year. They were born into hard lives of hunger and uncertainty and fear and control, and then victimized and picked off annually for the entertainment of the nation. I felt like I understood Katniss in HG (Hunger Games) and CF (Catching Fire). She didn't have a choice how to live, but she did her best to make a place for herself and do what she could to survive and not become a monster. The same went for Gale and Peeta - they did what they could do and tried to be decent.

But in Mockingjay (hereafter called MJ), I didn't feel like I knew the characters at all! I know that there had been a lot of changes and a lot of hard choices and pain and all of that, but in a matter of 6 weeks from the end of the Quarter Quell that ended CF to the beginning of MJ, it's like ALL of the characters that I loved and knew had changed into cruel, angry and unrecognizable goblin versions of themselves. I was really hard pressed to find anything redeeming in any of them quite a lot of the time.

Katniss is aloof, angry, consumed by self-loathing and guilt, and just shuts down and shuts everyone out. Gale has become this cold, calculating tactician who has none of the warmth that he had before - not even when it comes to his best friend who is clearly struggling. They argue and fight all the time, even when Gale is supporting Katniss - and even during these times (because he DOES stand by her), she is horrible to him and everyone else. Selfishly acting like she's the only one to have suffered or feared anything.

And that's not even to mention Peeta. He is nothing, NOTHING, like the Peeta we knew in HG & CF. Granted, he has valid reasons (more valid than Katniss's selfish ones) for this change, but it was frustrating all the same - and even more so because of the way that Katniss reacted to him.

Again I will stress that I understand the pressure that they were all under, and the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty and impending war and all that. I understand it, and even appreciate it, but I felt like the way Collins handled it stripped Katniss, Peeta and Gale of their humanity. These are teens who have had to live through situations that most adults have never lived with - the pressure is intense. But I couldn't really care about any of that because these characters seemed so robotic and cold and unreachable. All of them. And that's incredibly disappointing to me. Even when Katniss and Gale were allowed special privileges to go hunting together as they used to, there was not really any closeness or friendship or support between them, no vulnerability. You'd think that they would rely on each other for support, but the relationship was completely one-sided, with Gale supporting Katniss and Katniss acting like the world is on her shoulders alone. I wanted her to rely on him - ANYONE - and let go a little... to not hold everything inside. To be human. But even when she did break down, it was so clinical and sterile I just couldn't care.

Buttercup the cat, who had, at best, bit parts throughout the series, evoked much more emotion from me than any of the major players. Yes... A cat. And Prim is her usual, wise-beyond-her-years, caring, bundle of goodness and strength. I loved her. She is really the only human character next to Finnick, who I came to really like in this one. He was vulnerable and human.

So, yeah. My main complaints were regarding the characters themselves. Many times they would act completely out of character, Katniss especially, and I found it frustrating.


For instance... After wallowing for the entire book and keeping a running list of all the people who have died or been hurt by her actions, Katniss votes YES to hold one last Hunger Games with the Capitol's children, so that they know how it feels. WHAT??? After going through two of them herself, trying to save as many as she could, after becoming the Mockingjay to END the regime that forces the Hunger Games on the people of Panem, she would vote yes to send more innocent kids to slaughter? That makes no sense to me at all.

=====================END SPOILER====================

And then I have to say that the way the end was resolved didn't make sense to me. The twists, yes, they made sense and weren't unexpected. But I didn't really feel that Katniss was A) given enough information to lead her to the conclusion she came up with or B) clever or shrewd enough to get there on her own. And if she was, which again would be out of character, then why was this not conveyed? Katniss is telling this story - we get her every thought - even when all that entails is a refusal to think of something.

I wasn't disappointed by the relationship aspect - or lack thereof - in this story. Considering that I didn't really like or care about any of the characters, I wasn't exactly sitting on the edge of my seat with fingers crossed hoping for a certain outcome. It was not what I'd expected, but I was OK with it.

Regarding everything else, I thought that the dystopian themes and the events in the story (almost all of them) were good, and the pacing was great. Not everything was wrapped up how I would have liked, but it is a definite end, and for that I'm glad, because I don't see how another book in this series would be an improvement for me. I can see why some would really like this, but all in all, I was not thrilled with it.
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Since writing that review earlier, I've thought of more stuff that I should have included in it, like (Spoilers!) how the situation regarding Prim's death felt like it was manipulated by Collins to point at Gale being responsible, which felt like a ploy to shift all of the shippers to Peeta's team and make Katniss hate him, and subsequently Gale moving to District 2 and ending all communication with Katniss. This is so out of character for him - the guy who stood by Katniss through thick and thin and never wavered, I just can't imagine him giving up on her, or her casting him completely out of her life. (End spoilers.)

There's just so much that I felt was out of character and misrepresented. It seems silly to use that word since the story is Collins', but it feels true. It's like Mockingjay forgot who it was really about. I felt like the characters that I loved were gone, and there were angry, sullen, vicious strangers in their places. Very disappointing.


  1. As you know, I agree 100% with everything you said. Fantastic review, very well written!

  2. Hi, I completely agree with your review. For me this book was really incongruous, for varios reasons: Katniss was always reluctant to accept her feelings, although it was pointed out for other characters; the end of the political conspiration was so strange, also the death of Prim, it didn't make any sense at all! and Gale change so much. I think there must be some missing pages in that book, it wasn't wrap that well.