YA Fiction

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

It’s here – it’s finally, finally here! The third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. And I’m going to be good and talk about it under a cut tag so as not to inadvertently spoil anyone!

The short answer to whether or not I liked it is ‘Yes, but…’ The long, spoilery version is…

No, but mostly because I think she need another book or two to actually do the story justice. BUT. I also think Suzanne Collins doesn’t know when to stop.

In The Hunger Games, she has a very nearly perfect book, I think. Katniss is a little oblivious for someone so obviously clever, but that’s really the only fault I can find in it. I went easy on Catching Fire because second books, particularly second books that are setting up a finale, are very tricky. I was a little disappointed with Mockingjay.

Here’s why I wasn’t entirely thrilled with Mockingjay:

  • Gale got short shrift at the end of it. I’m not upset that she ended up with He of the Stupid Name, but I wanted more to Gale’s ending than ‘He got a good job in some other district and gets all the ladies.’ What?! I needed closure on his relationship with Katniss. The way I feel about his ending (though only to a certain extent) is the way I felt about Lupin’s ending in Harry Potter. It didn’t do him justice. And I’m not entirely sure I bought Katniss’ reason for just completely shutting him out (apparently – we’re never told how all that goes down, but I would have liked to have seen the end of their friendship happen).
  • This one isn’t fair because it’s going to be on my list of things I liked about it, but Katniss’ role, not as a soldier or strategy-maker, but solely as a figurehead for the rebellion seems very realistic (though I do have to say that I saw her manipulation coming a mile away – another instance of Katniss’ intelligence conveniently disappearing, though I guess she was pretty shell-shocked after Catching Fire).
  • There was no sacrificing of anyone for anyone else. This pissed me off because it’s the easy way to get someone out of a love triangle and it’s effective for a reason. I really wanted someone (I don’t care who) to have taken a bullet or something for Katniss and to have died in her arms or something. Come on, Suzanne, there’s a war on!
  • Fastest ending ever. In the epilogue of maybe four pages or so, she basically lists what happens to everyone after the rebellion. It’s show, don’t tell, Suzanne, not the other way around! This is (part of) why I think she could have used another book or two (Gregor got way more books than Katniss and that was not nearly as captivating as the Hunger Games!) to do a more realistic progression of the rebellion and tying up of loose ends afterwards.

Here’s why I’m still enamored of Suzanne Collins despite not being super satisfied by Mockingjay:

  • She is an amazing, emotional writer – she really knows how to get a visceral reaction to her words from the reader. I’ve never turned pages as fast as I did toward the end of Mockingjay and I still cried at the barest mention of Rue. And when everyone was listing their favorite moments of Katiss’ from the games? I was a wreck. I even cried a little just because of the emotional letdown and relief of it all when I closed the book! She wields a powerful pen.
  • She doesn’t condescend to her readers. She doesn’t candy coat things or talk down to the reader or gloss over anything. There are also more sophisticated questions going on underneath the rebellion (Was Coin’s decision, horrific as it was, the right one for the greater good? The questions of morality during wartime and where to draw the lines of violence and destruction.) – it’s books like this that make me kind of wish I was an English teacher so I could discuss, discuss, discuss, and then get to read essays about the books, too!
  • See second point above. I know I didn’t like it as plot, but I have to give her credit for being realistic.

What I meant when I said that Suzanne Collins doesn’t know when to stop:

  • I don’t know if I would have put it together without having read Gregor and I don’t know if I would have noticed it in Gregor (in fact, I patently didn’t) without having read Katniss, but Suzanne obviously prefers the epic to the personal. I still think The Hunger Games is one of the nearest to perfect books I’ve ever read. I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. But I’m not sure I would recommend that they read on. It would be awkward because she’s obviously laying the groundwork for the rebellion (epic) underneath Katniss’ experiences in the Games (personal), but I think she does the personal so precisely and spectacularly that she loses that focus when she widens the net of her story to include the epic.

I don’t know if I’ve been particularly coherent here and I sort of feel like I’ve been harder on her than I should have been – I mean, it would have been nearly impossible to create a satisfying final book that held up upon comparison to The Hunger Games – especially because I would have loved to see what she could have done given seven books a la JKR or even Gregor (I think he went for six).

But there you have it.

My rating: I really don’t think I can.

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2 Comments

Filed under Book reviews, Books, Fiction, Kids' books

2 responses to “YA Fiction

  1. Liz Evans

    I agree about the Gale thing. I mean, I was rooting for Peeta since the beginning, but that still made me mad. Like I said, sometimes Gale was too ready to kill…but he didn’t deserve that. It was like, they didn’t know if it was his bomb or not. So that was it. He didn’t even try to fight it. He didn’t even seem remorseful that Prim was killed, which bothered me too. He just said something about how she’ll always wonder and it will always be between them, and then walked away. And that was it? After all he said that he would be with her? I guess it was true that if the Hunger Games hadn’t happened, they would be together. But that future was stolen from them, and she changed so much during the Games. And I guess even before then they were different. She said she didn’t quite understand or trust his rants against the Captiol. But he still didn’t deserve the lame write-off. I mean, explain what sort of work he’s doing in the other district, fine. But that bit about other girls’ lips? It devalued the feelings he claimed to have had for Katniss.
    Katniss’s complete obtusness drove me crazy through most of the book(s). I’m pretty sure at one point during this one, I yelled out, “Damn you, Katniss!” hahaha–but I think that’s when she voted for the “final” Hunger Games. I just distrusted District 13 from the beginning. I didn’t see much of a distinction b/n the way Coin ran things and the way Snow ran things. And I guess since she and Peeta raise their children and live in relative peace, we can assume P-what’s-her-face was a decent ruler. But who knows.
    And then the mother. She drove me crazy too. She didn’t even see Katniss in the hospital. Hid behind her grief AGAIN. She kept letting Katniss down. You’d think after all that, she would have at least came to her once.
    And sacrifice? Maybe it’s not sacrifice in the terms you were thinking of, but what about Finnick?? I about lost it when he died. After what he went through for Annie, and finally got her back….and then we find out they have a kid? Yeah. That upset me. I don’t think Katniss was always deserving of the unconditional devotion she got from Peeta–and sometimes Gale (and I’m disregarding crazy, hijacked Peeta here. That doesn’t count. He came through).
    I think overall I enjoyed it, but the ending seemed week to me. But, it was a terrible situation, and I agree, she didn’t sugarcoat it. There was a rebellion, people died. It was ugly–most eveyone had ulterior motives.
    I haven’t read any of her other works, so I don’t know much else about her writing. I am glad she kept this to 3 though. I don’t how much else I could have handled. But on the other hand, the ending was so rushed–she almost did need another one.

    • Anne

      I think that’s what bothers me about the way Gale was treated – surely he would have fought for her somehow! That and, like you said, the bit about all the other girls – you’re very right, it totally devalues his feelings for Katniss – I’m hoping that’s just what she tells herself to keep the gnawing guilt at how she treated him at bay.

      And I forgot completely about her mother! How could I forget that?! I don’t buy that either.

      And, yeah, Finnick and the others on that last mission with her sacrificed themselves, but I really wanted a Gale or Peeta death scene. I’m talking takes a bullet for Katniss and dies in her arms death scene.

      Gah! And you’re also so right about Katniss not deserving Peeta’s unconditional devotion – I think that’s maybe why I was never rooting for him in the first place (which is totally unfair, blaming him for her shortcomings, but still…there you go).

      Yes. I definitely wanted to see more of an explanation from her about justifying her vote for another Hunger Games – I really didn’t think that the Katniss who had been through two of them herself would have voted for them. I mean, she knows what’s that like and surely that decision’s just as bloodthirsty as Gale wanting to trap everyone in the citadel-type place in District 2.

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