Review by Kyle Borland. Kyle is the author of Shoshanna in the anthology Unocked and is currently working on a full-length novel.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fyi...this is SUPER long...but I hope you enjoy reading it, if you do read it.
I have waited over a week to write this review because when I finished this book I felt...unfulfilled. Don't get me wrong I was expecting some disappointment with little things here and there but I just cannot shake this feeling that this book was not good enough to end this trilogy. Why did I wait a week to write this review instead of writing this a week ago? I wanted to let the book settle in. I wanted to look back over the book for a week and think, "You know, this was actually really good and I really liked that..." but that didn't happen. That feeling of disappointment stayed with me all week and I tonight I've realized that it's not going away.
I'm going to start with negatives first and then say the positives at the end so your feelings of "I'm going to kill him for saying those things about Katniss/Peeta/Gale etc!" are buffeted by some of the good things I say okay? Just bear with me, I promise there is a shred hope, a mockingjay so to speak, in this review!
To start things off I didn't like how the romance aspect took a backseat. Yes, I'm a guy but let's face it this book had a such a HUGE following not just because it was groundbreaking but because of the love triangle. Everyone had a team: Team Peeta or Team Gale. Unlike in Twilight where the decision was already made and the triangle was more of two connected dots with a hairy tangent dangling off the side for dear life, The Hunger Games had a full on triangle: Katniss actually had to make a choice. In Mockingjay both guys are written in a way that both are unappealing (mind you this is looking through Katniss’s eyes). However, to cut the guys some slack, Katniss isn’t exactly the greatest person to be in love with. She judges everything they do extremely quickly and doesn’t give them much time to explain. Whether the guys actions be their own doing or results of some other way they’ve been treated, the way she acts doesn’t change. Another problem is, is that the guys aren’t fighting for her. Yes the words are there but that’s about the extent of it. The raw emotion, the angst we felt throughout the first two books just isn’t there. Katniss is quoted saying, “The fact that people are thinking that I’m worried about which guy I’m going to end up with in the middle of the war is insulting.” I understand where this would be realistic but I’m sorry Collins in this aspect realistic was not what your readers wanted, or at least not this reader.
Another thing that bothered me was some of the deaths, they were completely unnecessary. The majority of the deaths were fine who cares but two, especially one in particular, I just can’t stand. There was no reason to kill off those characters. Before you go calling me a bitter fan let me paint you a picture. Take a mental picture of all the people you consider closest to you, now imagine them all being killed by mindless “mutts” and some bombs and you just being able to keep on going with just the thought that “This is all my fault.” There was no description of the scenes because they happened so fast. In the particular death that annoyed me you have about two to three sentences of descriptions and then BOOM characters dead and that’s it. When you read the book you’ll understand and notice the scene right away because you’ll do the same thing I did, flip the page back and forth, read the paragraph over and over again and do a mental and/or WTF!
The last thing that bothered me was, from the scene mentioned above to the end of the book everything goes into fast-forward. A LITERAL book-length amount of material in crammed into about 40-50 pages. Any skilled writer could pull out a fourth book of 300+ pages on the material that Collins goes into warped speed to cover. So much went on and there was so much emotion that COULD’VE been there that I feel robbed of a true ending to this series because of the confines of a “trilogy” OR just write a longer book. In those 40-50 pages Collins has Katniss vote for something that just makes me cringe every time I think about it. Even knowing WHY she would vote the way she did makes me angry, it literally ruined Katniss’s character for me though she does make up for it slightly with one of her spontaneous acts of Katniss-dom.
Also I didn’t like the ending-ending but that was realism that I believe needed to be there. This story could NOT end on a super-happy “happily ever after”. There were going to be consequences both mental, physical and emotional and Collins does an good job at showing us the repercussions of an experience like the Hunger Games/Rebellion would have on any human being no matter what time period or what district they may be from.
On that slightly more positive note I shall dive into what I liked about this book! (I told you it wouldn’t be all “I didn’t like this, this…oh and this!”)
I liked her choice in the end. Though the way she executed the romance in Mockingjay bugged me, I did like the overall result. Yeah…no paragraph for this one…sorry…that’s all I got on that subject.
Another thing I liked about this book was the way Collin’s wrote it. I know that makes no sense with what I said above but let me explain. I liked how “internal” the whole book was. We, the readers, really get inside Katniss’s head. We feel her sadness, her pain, her confusion, her anger, whatever Katniss feels…we feel. Sometimes that’s going to make the reader feel like a bitch because at times that is exactly what Katniss is in this book, and she is not always justified in being that (though she is sometimes as well). The first two books didn’t have the normal amount of dialogue for a Young Adult novel as it was but Mockingjay takes it to a new level so be prepared for some descriptions and internal thoughts. It is just as engrossing as the first two books up until the last 50-60 pages so don’t be put off when I say lack of dialogue.
Another thing I liked about this book was the realism. What you’ve never seen a hypocrite before? I’m talking about the other aspects of the book besides the romance now. The romance should not have been done so realistically, however, Collins did an amazing job at portraying the struggles both mental and physical of people in this situation and I applaud her for that.
Alright, now I will say something about the series as a whole. The Hunger Games trilogy is truly amazing. If I could rate the trilogy I would give it 5 out of 5 stars every time I was asked. The topic and premise is mind-blowing. What would happen if the world collapsed and the countries of North America disappeared? What would/will happen when America, Canada and Mexico fall like Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome? Will our descendants be able to rise up again and again like our ancestors have been able to and build better and stronger countries? Or will our descendants fall into the power hungry vacuum that lives inside all human beings? I believe that to be the true message of the Hunger Games. Panem could be a legitimate possibility. The Hunger Games is an entertaining way to illustrate the extent of human’s desperate need for power and how easily it is/would be to manipulate the status and influence you gain for your own personal needs. Throughout the series Katniss is made into the face of the Rebellion, she is their Mockingjay. In the third book she takes the reins of that job and begins to channel that. She witnesses the peoples love for her, the way people will follow her orders no matter how crazy, people will die for her, people will get trampled and beat just to get a chance to touch her, and to them she is their savior. Not the warriors on the battlefield (which is also her), not the medics fixing them up, not President Coin (the leader of District 13); it is Katniss.
I think the series is meant to illustrate that Katniss had so much power and influence that she could’ve easily abused it, she could’ve become the new president because no matter what the people “running” things (the Capitol or District 13) said…the people, the masses, would stand behind Katniss no matter what she wanted. Katniss’s character is meant to signify hope for the human race. Not so much her but what she represents. Panem is the creation of greed, power hunger, money, murder, etc.; Panem and the Hunger Games are the manifestation of how truly evil the human race can be, how thin our conscience can run to the point that its non-existent. Katniss is hope, she is the good that many believe, the many want, to be in mankind, as the Mockingjay she embodies everything that Panem is not. I ask you all my questions again:
Will our descendants be able to rise up again and again like our ancestors have been able to and build better and stronger countries? Or will our descendants fall into the power hungry vacuum that lives inside all human beings?
I believe Collins’ and the Hunger Games trilogy’s main message is to ask the question:
Who will be their Mockingjay?
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