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Warning: This review will contain minor spoilers, although I will try to divulge as less as possible for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.
Sunday night has come and gone and so has Mockingjay. The third and last installment in The Hunger Games series ended in the evening. I must admit, reading the third book felt incredibly different than the others, and not in a way that I found promising. It was uneven and anti-climactic. Just like last time, let’s look at the official summary before we continue.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year. (R)
Now let’s begin!
To my great disappointment, I found Mockingjay to contain more flaws than strengths. What strengths were left in the story could not make up for the many problems I had with it. Throughout the third quarter, I was struggling to get to the end of the book. I thought that it would go on forever. That being said, obviously I had problems with the narrative form and the pacing.
Pacing and Narrative Style
My biggest issue with this book was that it felt rushed when Collins should have taken her time, and incredibly slow when I didn’t really care about what was happening. It was completely unbalanced. I was so disappointed! A part of me was hoping that she would return to her amazing sense of pacing from the first book, but instead it went in the complete opposite direction. What made the first book so enjoyable and addictive was that you didn’t feel like a reader or a spectator. You felt like you were there, in the arena, with Katniss as she fought for her survival. You were so close to her and understood every thought that went through her mind that you weren’t even an observer during the most private of moments.
There wasn’t a single moment in the third book where I felt this way. Instead, I was under the impression that I wasn’t fighting next to Katniss, but sitting on a sofa listening to her talk about that period of time in her life. And it felt colloquial and rushed with many scenes overlooked or incomplete. There was a real lack of intimacy between the Katniss and the reader; we were no longer with her, we were just listening to her.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a bad way to write. I am simply saying that it goes against any continuity Collins had previously establishing, hence why I am against this form of narration for this book.
In the last third of the book, I was getting occasionally frustrated by the fact that most scenes involving characters and their exchange of dialogue were incomplete. Collins instead just has 4-6 lines of exchanged dialogue and then has Katniss narrates the rest in a mundane and unimportant tone. Why did this bother me so much? We weren’t watching the characters develop anymore. We were being told in a very obvious way how they were developing. There was no mystery, just Katniss pointing her finger to each character and saying “Now so-and-so is just a hateful and angry character, while so-and-so is confused, and so-and-so is actually a really nice person”. There were no character discoveries to be had from the reader’s perspective.
Uh… Video Game?!
This is technically an extension of the narrative style, but I found it to be so jarring that it deserved its own segment. There was an entire section of the book where Katniss and a band of fellow rebels were on a mission to accomplish a task that will remain nameless to save spoilers. For those of you who read it, perhaps you know of what I am talking about. The greater part of this mission felt like a video game. Really! I had never “read” a video game before, but this would be the closest thing. Scenes were simply narrated by what was seen instead of what was felt. Traps and maps were reminiscent of a first player game where you have to figure things out as you go, but stay on target. It was like fighting your way through a level to get to the boss at the end. It was so strange to read that it was hard to get through. The end of this section lead to the climax, which felt very anti-climactic and frustrated me greatly.
This time around, there are a lot more characters you need to remember and follow. However, I wanted to get in Katniss’ skin so bad that some characters felt like mere distractions. Some would even appear in the first couple of chapters and then BAM, they appear at the end and they’ve become important. As much as Collins focussed a lot on Katniss and Gale, there weren’t enough intimate moments between them.
Now, in neither of my second reviews have I spoken about Gale. He is Katniss’ best friend from the last six years in which their friendship changes drastically since the first book. I loved his character so much, but he was starting to feel a little two dimensional by the third book. All of the things I loved about him were still present, but they fell into the narrative realm of things unsaid or skimmed over. This is especially disappointing since you feel that book 3 gives him a real chance to grow and blossom to full development, but he always falls a little short.
Peeta’s character undergoes a drastic change. I am not opposed to this change, but his slow and progressive transition back into his real persona is forced. Yes, he has to get back to who he used to be, but it could have been done better. Perhaps if Collins continued writing in full scenes like her first novel I would feel differently, but a lack of exchanged dialogue and intimate moments made his rehabilitation staged. I had trouble buying it as a natural change. On top of that, Peeta remains just as dependent on everyone else as ever. Even with his drastic personality change, he still relies on others to keep him alive and take care of him.
Finally, onto Katniss. Even after being rescued from the Quarter Quell and becoming a refugee in District 13, things aren’t wonderful for her. In fact, consistent manipulation and fear has made her a sort of prisoner to another leader. No wonder her character falls into a slow deterioration without hope for a bright and shiny future. I was so happy that Collins took this route! Rarely do we get to see our main character deteriorate instead of grow stronger. This is one area where Collins did not get lazy. She could have taken the easy route and made Katniss feel stronger and freer to take down the Capitol with the rebels. Instead, she feels just as weak and a piece in a game as she did under President Snow. This play of conflict was ideal for Katniss and provided the perfect setting to watch her deteriorate and become a person filled with doubt and hostility. It was different, believable, and refreshing. Points to Collins! My only question: did Katniss have to pass out THAT much?! I lost count after 5.
Still had a problem with them and it was the same as the 2nd book. I won’t repeat it all, so for any of you who didn’t read my previous review, click here.
First off, I will attempt to write this with minimal spoilers. Although the question of whether Katniss lives or dies at the end will be answered here. If you’d rather not know (and it’s always better as a surprise), please scroll down to the next section.
I was asked by a few people if I thought the ending was happy or sad. In fact, I thought it was neither. It was incredibly bittersweet, but leaning more towards bitter than sweet. Her choice between Peeta and Gale makes sense for her, even if it can be left to questioning. Personally, I thought she was in no shape to have ended up with either, but this isn’t my book and I can agree with the choice Collins made. She had to please her female readers!
The truth is that it is a generally happy ending for the inhabitants of Panem, but not for Katniss. With everything that she has gone through, there is no possibility for a happy ending. The events she lived in the three books would haunt anyone for the rest of their lives, causing a type of permanent post-traumatic stress disorder. She can only do the best that she can with the life she has and the nightmares that will never go away. In a way, the Capitol has won and she will never be free of its tyranny.
***END OF SPOILERS***
In today’s world, I enjoyed Collins using media that we are familiar with on a daily basis as the main conduit for one of her main themes of propaganda. She has successfully shown us what it is and how people use it; often to reach a personal goal. Propaganda can be filled with lies to manipulate a mass population into believing something for a cause deemed as just. There is nothing noble about it, especially in times of war. It is just another form of manipulation. The aspect of manipulation is obvious and well shown in Mockingjay from its beginnings up to the results it can create.
Her depiction of war in a young adult series fairs well. This is probably due to her father being a Vietnam War veteran. There is nothing honourable, glamorous, or glorious about it. War is a horrible thing where many people die. Sometimes you will spend your time waiting, trying not to be devoured by revisiting the images you have just seen. Other times you will just run as fast as you can, relying only on an instinct to survive. This continuous state of rush and wait that I have heard from other people’s war stories rings true. Luckily, Collins knows when to pull back since this is a young adult series, not an adult one.
I only wish that her personal voice wasn’t so present. Collins is clearly telling us “War is bad! War is evil!” (especially with Peeta), but we know from history that some wars are either unavoidable, or have to be fought. Not everyone in this world can be as peace loving and understanding as Ghandi. If we look back at our history, so much of it is built on wars. Entire countries have been united by war to become stronger, like China. I’m not saying wars are good, and I pray that I will never have to know the consequences of one firsthand. I simply wish that Collins would have given the readers enough room to make an opinion for themselves.
This review has now gone long enough.
As a conclusion, I was disappointed with Mockingjay. Many of the strong points from the first book, The Hunger Games, disappeared, leaving me to feel like I was reading a book from a very different series. The lack of continuity in tone and narrative style was jarring and unnecessary. Despite my reservations with this one, I’m still glad I read it. The series couldn’t have ended any other way; I just wish Collins found a better way to get there.
The first book remains my favourite and I know that I will be reading it again and again in years to come. As for the second and third book, I’ll get there when it happens.