Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD. Mockingjay is the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I began reading it right after I finished the second book, Catching Fire, but on top of not liking the ending of the second book, Mockingjay wasn't holding my interest and so I stopped reading.  Now I am back...almost two years later...and boy do I have some strong thoughts on this final installment. 
Mockingjay picks off from where we left off in the previous book.  Katniss has been rescued by the rebels who have been planning her rescue mission for months without her knowledge and Peeta has been taken captive by the capitol.  Shaken and depressed, Katniss can hardly keep her own world together, let alone become the symbol of hope everyone wants her to be for the entire world - the Mockingjay.  She is the symbol of hope to Panem and they seem to need her now more than ever.  The only question is, can Katniss do it?  Can she become the symbol of hope after watching people die for her and her cause?  Can she become the symbol of hope without Peeta by her side?
I will say right from the beginning that I did not have high expectations for this book.  As you may know from my Catching Fire review, I found the ending of that book to be too easy and predictable.  Seriously, all I kept thinking while reading that ending was...I bet a plane is just going to come and save her or something and all the good guys have planned an escape from the start, and if that happens  I am going to be pissed.  Welp...it happened....and I was pissed.  I know to some the ending was completely unexpected but for me, it was the easiest conclusion.  I knew from the get go that the situation Collins put her characters in was a hard one to get out of and I had hoped for something more thought out but instead I found her solution to be easy and predictable.
Mockingjay doesn't do much better.  If there is one thing I can say about the book that I liked it is that Collins really knows how to master character psychology...particularly with Katniss.  It isn't the best character psychology that I have read but it is pretty darn good.
What didn't I like about this book?  There are a lot of things that held this book back in my opinion.  For starters, I think this book's mere existence held it back.  The Hungers Games as a trilogy is a nice money spinner and I will admit, it is nice to read on and on about Katniss's adventures.  But the Hungers Games, in my opinion, is not a very strong series and would have been stronger if it was just one single book (and change the ending of that book to something a bit more solid but still hinting that the war isn't over yet and things aren't perfect and that is okay).  I truly believe that if the Hunger Games had just been one book, it would become a classic someday.   I think the book series will be classic in it's own right but it won't be sitting with the great novels.  I gave Catching Fire 4.5 stars and I still agree with my rating.  That book was awesome (until the ending) and I really really enjoyed it and felt Collins had come back with a hit sequel (until the ending).  But even though I enjoyed the book, I don't think it was necessary.  The Hunger Games series is about the character Katniss.  I love Katniss and I love watching her develop as a character.  But if the Hunger Games was just one single book, I think it would be about something much bigger than Katniss and that is the message the book sends to it's readers - the message that media is a powerful weapon and that we should be cautious and not believe everything we are told through it and that there is importance in being yourself (remember Peeta saying he hoped the games wouldn't change him?) and above all, power resides where we allow it to reside.  At least those are the messages I have always seen in the books.  That message, while still present in the entire series, fades away with each book and by the end we are more focused on Katniss instead of the message that was there in the first place.
My second big problem with this book was the ending.  I am not shocked that the ending disappointed me.  I don't know if I am the only one who feels this way, but when it comes to Suzanne Collins and ending scenes, her writing becomes fast and confusing.  The first two books were this way and so was Mockingjay.  Prim's death happened so fast that when I read it I had to reread the passage because I wasn't sure if this was the moment or not (I knew Prim was going to die).  Then
there was a scene with President Snow in a room with roses and he talked to Katniss and I didn't get the point of that scene at all.  I am willing to admit that for someone who majored in English and loves to read, I have very poor reading comprehension.  Perhaps my lack of understanding attributes to this.  Either way, the ending was confusing and rushed.  All of a sudden there was an explosion, the war was won and then it is years into the future. 
There were some smaller faults in the book.  Collins often creates scenarios that seem impossible to breech and then suddenly they breech it and everything is okay.  These scenarios become obvious plot devices and don't give the story any depth but only propel it forward into more annoying plot devices.  For example - Peeta.  Peeta is brain washed, rescued, and told it will be impossible for him to recover.  He seems to get a little better but is still brainwashed and dangerous.  Then all of a sudden he is in combat with Katniss.  It is pretty obvious that Collins wanted him to be there with Katniss to give the two of them more interaction when in reality, Peeta would never have been let out.  This is a detail that can easily be overlooked but when it happens often, it is hard to think of anything else.
On a positive note, I can safely say that I didn't find Katniss's narration to be as annoying as I remember it being.  I really sympathized with Katniss this time around...not that I didn't before but for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I wasn't frustrated with her.
I don't think there is much else to say for this book.  It is by far the weakest book in the series and in my opinion it is an unnecessary part of the series and should not exist but, alas, we readers do love returning to the stories and characters we are used to.  That is one of the criticisms of the series novel actually...but I won't bore you with any of that mumbo-jumbo.  I wouldn't recommend this to everyone but if you enjoy series novels than by all means, give it a go.  I wouldn't have high hopes though.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

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