on July 16, 2012
Spoilers Within--Consider yourself warned.
Having recently finished reading Mockingjay, I spent the last few days grappling with it, trying to figure out my reactions and to make sense of it. And there is one word I keep coming back to: devastating. And that, I suspect, is what Suzanne Collins wants us to see, the devastation.
While the first two books in the series are appreciated and praised almost unanimously, I've noticed a lot of mixed reaction to the third, and this makes sense since Mockingjay is a very different book than either The Hunger Games or Catching Fire was. The first two have threads of romance, often tender and innocent, threads of action that are riveting but fantastical and contained, even threads of satire and humor. But in Mockingjay those are all but gone, replaced with Katniss slowly disintegrating before our eyes. Don't get me wrong; there are currents of some serious stuff underlying each book: anxiety, depression, PTSD, the struggle to feel or accept love. But by Mockingjay, those weighty currents are all we have. It becomes impossible to believe that the characters we've followed and loved can possibly survive intact.
One example that stands out to me is Peeta being hijacked. As I watched him, through Katniss's eyes, broken and destroyed, turned against her--the one person in his life that made him happy, I felt devastated. This character, who is the heart of the book, brave, selfless, compassionate, loving, is so easily undone, turned into some beastly, callous, brutal thing. As a reader, I felt myself beside Katniss, grieving for the boy with the bread, not because he is dead, but because some fundamental part of his essence, of what made him wonderful is lost forever. At the beginning of chapter 16, after being shot, Katniss recalls the word Peeta said to her as she drifted into sleep after hurting her heel in Catching Fire; she asks him to stay with her and he says "Always." But of course, by the time Katniss remembers this, by the time we as readers learn it, we also understand the terrible irony of it--that the Peeta who promised to always be with her is already gone, replaced with someone capable of cruelties that the old Peeta could never have conceived. When the same scene is echoed later during the assault on the Capital, it gives some hope that Peeta can pull through, that his love for Katniss can keep him from spiraling backwards into a violent, wrecking madness. But that is not a selfless love, not the love of the boy who asked Katniss to take everything from him, and I could feel the full devastating force of losing his innocence, his kindness, his unconditional love.
Which brings me to Katniss. While Peeta is broken in the middle of the book and then slowly, painfully rebuilt throughout the rest of it, Katniss just falls to pieces more and more as the book proceeds. Until, in the end, she is ruined. Katniss is goal driven, always has been. Some people see her in Mockingjay and can't recognize the drugged up girl who hides in closets, but her will, her spirit remains: the will that kept her family alive in district 13, that kept her and Peeta alive in The Hunger Games, that tried to save Peeta's life at any cost in Catching Fire. By the end of Mockingjay she clings to one thing: killing President Snow. But once that is done (and I would say that in killing Coin, she was completing that mission, but that's a whole other matter,) once her final mission is complete, the survivor in her is overthrown. How she has been manipulated, how she has manipulated and used others, how she feels responsible for so many deaths, the brutality she has seen so casually committed by people she trusted, all of these things cause her to give up on herself, to give up on humanity, to hate herself because of her humanity and the viciousness it entails. Even she, this iron hero, stops fighting for her life, for her dignity, and instead seeks refuge not in Peeta, but in death. I was reminded of what Finnick said at the end of Catching Fire, how he wished that Annie were dead, and everybody were dead including himself because that would be best. Like Finnick, Katniss is a devastated shell of a human being that can only imagine relief in death, and yet even that peace is kept from her by Peeta's hand. Was stopping her from taking the nightlock a selfish act or was it selfless, a sign of his recovery? As Katniss says, they protect each other. That's what they do. But in Mockingjay they have to protect each other from not just external threats but the internal demons ravaging their minds, the ghosts that would carry them to madness and self destruction.
And what is perhaps most devastating about Katniss in the end is her continual struggle with love. What is most difficult for me to accept as a reader is her diminished capacity to even know love, to allow herself to feel the better parts of humanity. She spends so much of her time guarding against letting herself need other people, from the girl at the end of The Hunger Games who says she can't "afford" love because of how vulnerable it would make her, because it can be so mindlessly taken away, to the woman who faces the same fear with her children. Katniss ends up never being able to love entirely, not in the way that I, as a reader, wished she could, the way that would show the possibility for salvation, for forgiveness in the aftermath of such total devastation. Yes she returns to life once Peeta comes back to District 12, but it feels like a shadow life. She says she finds his arms, his lips, the hunger she felt kissing him on the beach. These are all familiar parts of their romance. But Katniss and Peeta are not the same people, not capable of the same feelings they were earlier in the story. I know a lot of readers wanted more from Suzanne Collins in showing how they "grow together again," but I don't think that could have been possible. What these two characters are capable of feeling is so diminished by war that anything else Collins could have written truthfully would have just earned her the same criticism. When Peeta whispers "You love me. Real or not real?" Katniss tells him "real," but I get only the shadow sense that she feels it. I doubt that she even can. I want her to. I want to believe that she can at last allow herself something as pure and intact and beautiful as real love. But maybe that isn't possible. And that is devastating.
I'm reminded, in the end, of The Lord of the Rings, of Frodo and Sam coming home after their journey. So many readers of those books turn to Sam because he remains so simple and stoic, still able to find love and joy in family and friends. Frodo is broken, so broken he must leave because he has no life left in him, no capacity to enjoy the world he helped save. Tolkien was a veteran of WWI and he knew what Frodo faced, although there was no official label for it then, no PTSD handbook. Still, Tolkien managed to give his readers Sam, and so many of us cling to that character at the end, wanting to believe that some hint of humanity's grace, of simple joy, goodness, happiness or love can survive beyond the destruction of our darker impulses: our greed, our cruelty and violence, our oppression and dehumanization of our fellows. But in Collins work, there is no Sam, the closest person to him, Peeta, still clutches the back of chairs, struggling with flashbacks, waiting for the madness to pass. In Collins work that pure character that was filled with unconditional love and selflessness is corrupted, is broken, is lost.
If you've managed to read this far, I thank you, and promise that I am wrapping up my thoughts. I guess I don't blame readers for wanting a brighter ending to Mockingjay, I wanted one too--we want Sam, want to believe in the power of the better angels of our nature to persevere even in the face of absolute devastation. But Collins gives us something far more complex and difficult--is there good in people? Yes! Of Course. Katniss reminds herself of this with her final game, recalling memories of Rue, Cinna, Finnick, Prim, Peeta, the good things she has seen in humanity. But ultimately the aftermath of war leaves scars, leaves such devastation that the innocent, pure love of the boy with the bread can no longer exist. It isn't possible anymore. Even the best amongst us is diminished, tarnished. Collins point may not be what we want to find. It certainly is not what I would like to believe, but that seems inconsequential. What matters is how her point resonates, how that hollow feeling signals something real, how that depression that I (and others I know) felt seep into our chests at the end of the book reveals something we know to be true, even if we fight to deny it. I don't think less of Collins's book because it dares to show me something that I wish weren't true. I think more of it for challenging me, for not giving me the smooth resolution, the rose-tinted epilogue.
The beauty and terror of this story lies in how we as readers become witnesses to atrocities, atrocities we cannot turn away from because we have invested ourselves in these characters. And in seeing the undoing of these lives we sense a cruel reality: that no amount of time or peace can fully erase the damages of war. Perhaps there is comfort in the fact that Katniss and Peeta are just characters in a novel, but we all know they stand for voiceless millions, victims of genocide, torture, slavery, war, mankind's dark heart. And that is what is so devastating.
on September 29, 2011
I chose to write a review on this book as it is by far the most polarizing in the series. Yes, it is graphic. Yes, the war that takes place is violent and political. For these reasons many feel the book is "realistic." I disagree. There is a continuing trend in our culture to create dark works of fiction and sell them to teens and young adults, while omitting anything that resembles human sexuality in order to maintain a "PG-13" feel. Why violence is acceptable for teen consumption and human sexuality is not should be of great concern to parents. One is a healthy part of growing up and should be explored in an effort to engage teens in an honest conversation about their sexuality. Instead, we are creating teen love stories that rival the unrealistic expectations one would find in a Walt Disney fairy tale, yet using violence as a backdrop for romance. This may explain why so many people were disappointed when Mockingjay's ending suddenly trailed from this expectation. After all, the book unabashedly engages the reader in unimaginable violence, yet the characters don't curse and don't engage in anything other than chaste love scenes. Indeed, these chaste love scenes were at the heart of each of the books, which in turn created expectations about how the series should end. Also, after leaving the reader drained, the author only dedicates a couple of paragraphs to Katniss's journey back from despair. I think it would have been far more realistic for the reader to experience her emotional journey back, as well as her reconnection with Peeta (and how the war changed them and their love). Instead, the ending felt rushed and trite. If anyone is interested in exploring our culture's paradoxical nature when it comes to violence and sex, I highly recommend viewing the documentary "This Film is Not Yet Rated." As a parent, I feel strongly that this book is not suitable for 7th grade and up as indicated in its reviews. Thank you.
on September 3, 2010
I loved The Hunger Games, then when Catching Fire came out it was good, but not nearly as good as the first novel. With Mocking Jay Suzanne Collins has yet again disappointed her readers with a book that couldn't match up to The Hunger Games. The only reason for reading this book would be for finding out how the author ends the series, however prepare to begin to hate the characters that you fell in love with in Ms. Collins third installment of The Hunger Games.
on March 9, 2012
My major problem with this book is I don't understand what happened to Katniss Everdeen. Her character not only doesn't grow, but regresses. Throughout the series, we kept hearing that she "just doesn't know the effect she can have". Well, after the conclusion of this series, I don't know either. The Katniss in the first two books may be thrown into situations beyond her control, but she refuses to back down. She makes her powerful anti-Hunger Games statement wih her treatment of Rue. She shows her refusal to be a pawn of the Capitol when she takes out those berries. In Mockingjay, she spends most of the time moping around or filming propaganda films. I kept waiting for her to realize her power or to truly step up and "become the Mockingjay", but she NEVER does. In this book, she all but abandons Peeta. She leads her team on a pointess mission to kill President Snow, leading to the deaths of almost all of them, which becomes all the more obvious when the rest of the rebels arrive at Snow's residence at the same time she does. If she hadn't been so selfish at that point, she could have arrived at the capitol with the rebels and saved her team and probably her sister as well (you know there is no way she would have let her sister go on that mission). I understood that when she told Coin that there should be another Hunger Games, she was just playing for time, but shooting Coin could have been the perfect time for her to truly become the Mockingjay. For her to make SOME kind of statement. Instead, she is taken into custody where she half-heartedly tries to starve herself. This is not the Katniss of the first two books. This is NOT that Katniss that people were looking to and willing to die for. Where is the Katniss that Cinna was "betting on"? Where is the Katniss that the people of District 11 were willing to flout the Capitol for, in order to give her a salute? I seriously hope that when they make the movie of the third book, they completely change it up to truly give us a strong character (even if flawed) that we can root for. Like another reviewer mentioned earlier, I was hoping for a female Frodo or Harry Potter, but instead, she just became more and more a pawn.
I know a lot of the people who are giving this better reviews think that those of us who are disappointed are just unhappy with who Katniss ended up with in the love triangle. I don't think that is true for many of us. I actually had no preference over who she ended up with. Both Peeta and Gale had their strengths, but I always figured that in the end, she would end up with Peeta. My problem is with the way it was "resolved". I don't think the author stayed true to the characters. I have a hard time believing that the Gale who protected her family and his for so long would have left Katniss alone for so long in this book. Other than a brief hunting trip at the beginning, they are hardly ever together. And to imply that it is his fault that Prim died was such a cheap cop-out (and it could be argued that is was just as much Katniss's fault since she was not there to protect her sister while she went on an unauthorized mission to kill Snow). I also don't believe that Gale would have just left her to go off for a "fancy job" in another district, no matter what had happened. Katniss never actually MAKES a choice - its more like it is decided for her. Peeta is the one who comes back. I wanted a strong Katniss who could make a decision for herself, but instead ended up with a girl who just let things happen to her. Such a let down after such a powerful start.
on February 28, 2016
NO SPOILERS, SAFE to read.
I enjoyed this final installment; it's easy to follow and contained, for me, a satisfying resolution.
I'll get this out of the way at the start...the one aspect that took me out of the story somewhat frequently and seemed a bit less than realistic was the constant self-attribution for everything that goes wrong, that Katniss does to herself. It got to the point that I suspected she'd blame herself if it was a cloudy day.
I noticed only a few glitches in the formatting of the kindle version.
I don't really relate to the reviews I read about the ending being somehow less than fulfilling...I found it both satisfying and believable. As a statement on the overall quality of the 3 book series I'll say that it's unlikely most readers would consider these reviews before making their decision to buy Mockingjay, it's just too good a series not to. Once you read The Hunger Games, you MUST read all three. Well done!
on March 10, 2014
I bought this book because it was really cheap on Kindle in the months preceding the movie release. I ended up blowing through all three books in less than a month - and that's with working full time and taking care of a family and household. I started reading it expecting it to be tween-level fiction. It wasn't. Not every adult will like it, but it was a solid story with interesting characters and an actual meaning that adults and teens alike can appreciate. It's not like Twilight and other teen-targeted fiction that is filled with self-absorbed characters. The characters are very much fighting for a worthy cause. It's about the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, with a corrupt government making sure that gap does not close. So essentially it's an allegory about [insert country name here].
on May 19, 2016
I'm not going to get into the plot because, well, it's The Hunger Games!!! If you don't know anything about this then where have you been?? This book is the best of the best. Addictive, entertaining, gripping, heartbreaking and absolutely everything in between. It's a must read for everyone and has and will be one of my favourites.
So onto the narrator, while Carolyn McCormick makes for a great narrator, her tones and inflections were great for other characters, she didn't make a good Katniss. She made Katniss sound too old, when she is just a teen! I really think that they should have cast someone a little younger sounding because Katniss came across as too jaded. She did make a great Effie though!!!
Despite this, I would still absolutely recommend the audio to people. This series is one of a kind and no matter which way you read it you will instantly love it!!!
on August 26, 2011
The intrinsic horror of the Hunger Games has been reviewed by other readers. Yes, it is sick and awful that kids are forced to kill each other and that it is televised, but when you stand back and look at the book in a detached way, it's really rather ridiculous. The world building just doesn't make sense.
First of all, the reason given for the Capitol's stranglehold on the Districts is that there are no resources. Everyone is starving. The sea has covered the land. The environment has gone to hell. People are so desperate that they're throwing their kids into the pot as human sacrifices. And they're mining coal.
Repeat: THEY'RE MINING COAL. If resources are so scare, how is there any coal to mine? If things are that bad, the coal should be long gone. Plus, our heroine hunts outside the fence in what appears to be a thriving ecosystem: plenty of predators, prey, virgin forest and clean water. Isn't the environment supposed to be wiped out? Speaking of which, if things are so bad on the inside of the fence and so good on the outside, why hasn't everyone--or, at least, some--escaped the Districts and set up an alternative society in the forest?
The Capitol seems to have some serious technological advantages, and it better had, because in real life, the nation of Panem would be under constant attack. Other countries seem strangely absent in this version of the future, which is plain odd, but I guess it's a good thing, since other countries would have seen Panem as a weak target long ago and attacked it. If resources are scarce, people fight over them; and Panem is wasting tons of its resources by sinking them into the pointless Hunger Games EVERY YEAR. Every SINGLE year, they are spending the equivalent of millions of dollars on terrorizing their citizens, creating the Arena and making zombie werewolves (seriously). The Hunger Games do nothing to stimulate any part of the economy but reality TV; they do nothing to defend the country. The ONLY purpose they serve is entertainment and terrorism. Any other country, in a world as brutal as Collins', would have long ago ransacked Panem, which, spending all its resources on state terror, would be unable to fight back. In real life, Panem would not be wasting valuable soldiers on gladiatorial fights, not when they could be shipping them off to defend the borders.
The sheer emotional horror of this book is good, and, I know, the main point. But the world makes no sense when you leave your fantasy of the Ultimate Evil Reality TV Show and take a long, hard look at it.
on June 15, 2013
Angry, broken, empty, unsettled, BETRAYED - this is the feeling I can't shake even days after finishing Mockingjay. I loved the first two books and consumed them within days, looking forward to book 3 with more anticipation than probably any other book in a series. Then, *blam!* chapter by chapter, Collins begins crushing everything I loved about the first two books. I tried to retain hope that at least the ending would make up for it, but think again, the author delivered one last sucker punch: a cheap, rushed and totally unsatisfying ending. After the last page, I wanted to throw the book at a wall, yell at the author, demand a rewrite. I cannot accept this is how the series ends. The only thought that makes me feel better is, 'they better fix this in the movie version!!'
I expected the story to take a dark turn and for important characters to die. This is not my issue. What I cannot accept is that the author pulls a total bait and switch - writing two books with an amazing flow, characters that are witty, interesting and relatable, a love story full of promise brimming near the surface...only to slap the reader in the face with an entirely different kind of third book: slow, empty, confusing, cold, detached, depressing. Where the love story stalls out to preach about war, too much action happens 'off-screen' (and we're simply told about it later instead of shown), and main characters are frequently missing or routinely acting in ways that seem totally illogical. At one point, it's even admitted that Katniss is an emotional robot. This is not the story I signed up to read! I signed up to read the story about the girl who continues to beat impossible odds, helps her country win a revolution, and finally embraces love, not a descent into madness story. I feel deceived and cheated.
In short, I feel the real Gamemaker is Collins, luring the pawns (readers) with a false glimmer of hope and victory, only to gleefully yank it away when it seems closest, much like the heartless Capitol.
I can not, will not accept that:
- Katniss suddenly goes from nightmares to PTSD, routinely checks out mentally/emotionally, and becomes a pain-killer addict.
Are you kidding me?!?! This is a girl who grew up watching the hunger games yearly and her neighbors routinely starve to death. Been through not one, but two arenas herself! Hated her mother for checking out and despised watching people (Haymitch, morphlings) use drugs to do it. If she's going to suffer a breakdown, it should be after Finnick or Prim's death, not right after the Quarter Quell, in which nothing terribly different happens that she hasn't already seen. It's maddening how often she just hides and falls asleep in closets. I wanted to yell at her, "get up! You don't have many chapters left to finally stop being a pawn and take charge!" I can't imagine the movie version will do well unless they tone this part down, which I'm greatly looking forward to.
- She becomes extremely accident prone and practically lives in the hospital
Ugh. Right from the start with Katniss' head injury from Johanna, she just takes way too long to heal. The concussion wasn't so bad that she couldn't run to the beach and shoot out the arena forcefield, but now suddenly, she's has to bedridden and drugged up beyond recognition? By the time she gets shot, I'm rolling my eyes that yet again, the author has hit the 'send to hospital' button and we miss out on Katniss actually moving forward. It also gets really old being stuck with a first-person narrator that's trapped in a haze and has to be told 'here's what happened while you were sleeping...'. I loved being inside Katniss' head when she was lucid and plotting her next move, but this is just painful to read. The last straw was Prim's death. Just as Katniss is about to finally accomplish one major goal (killing Snow), she ends up on fire and (of course) back in the hospital. She misses the fall of the Capitol. She even misses her own trial. These things just kind of work themselves out while she's knocked out.
- That the Mockingjay's power mostly went to waste (in my view)
Why disappoint us after so much foreshadowing that Katniss would finally take control of her destiny? Telling us leaders feared her for a good reason. All the people that bet on her (Cinna, Finnick, etc). Peeta saying she didn't know her own effect and she should find out more about what Coin/District 13 were really up to. Instead, she has a few moments of briefly fighting back, but spends more time playing powerful on TV, plus one very long and disastrous mission that ends in being almost pointless. She's basically handed Snow and Coin. Why couldn't she have at least made it into the mansion to take out Snow? Seen Prim burn and used that to make her death count, while turning around and then taking out Coin in the process? Paylor could know that Coin was evil and pardon Katniss.
- The love story resolution is missing about 20 pages of detail
Of course Katniss loves Peeta and should be with him. This is the right ending, but how about letting the readers actually SEE that happen!!! Haven't we earned it? Instead, we are simply told they 'grow back together'. We're cut out, disinvited from the action. And then, oh yeah, by the way, they're married and have 2 nameless kids that might have a chance at happiness. That's it?! After 2.75 books of Katniss building up to finally accepting her love for Peeta and telling him, of Collins taunting us in detail with situations in which Katniss has the chance to finally embrace him and say it, the readers deserve better! Here's where she could have/should have done/said more:
-When she visits him after he's rescued from being viscously tortured. He's brainwashed and can't reciprocate, but so what? He's alive! (Nope, instead she's defensive and hurt.)
-When she sees him in the cafeteria and he alludes to memories of there being more between them. (Nope, instead she gets up and walks off with Gale! wth?)
-When she's guarding him at camp and they're playing the real/not real game. (Nope, as soon as she starts to get emotional , she runs to hide it, ugh!)
-When she kisses him to help him calm down from an episode (wow, and then just goes back to what she was doing?!).
-When she leaves him at Tigress' house, knows he has a nightlock pill (!) and that she may never return alive from Snow's mansion (come on already!!)
-Finally, last chance, it has to be when she sees him for the first time back in District 12, out in her yard, alive, no current life-threatening dangers (Nope, she just says `oh you're back' and then runs off. SERIOUSLY!!!??)
This was actually one of the most upsetting things to me. It feels so incomplete and passionless. Ruined. Is this really how I'm supposed to feel at the end of this story? Collins says they do have passion, so where the hell is it?
I gave the book two stars because there were a few things that were great:
- Shooting President Coin and thereby ending the Hunger Games for good
- Katniss' relationships with Johanna and Finnick
- Cinna's foresight in planning, knowing he'd probably be killed
- Peeta mostly returning to himself
- The cat's part in this book
on December 6, 2012
Let me start with I love all 3 of this series. Book 3 is a roller coaster ride of events. I don't want to spoil it for anybody, but this book is my least favorite of the 3 (although I still love it). It becomes more political and deals with that aspect of the war they are fighting. The first 2 books made me cry during several parts and this book did as well. There are many shocking things that happen that I truly did not like, in fact I was pissed off when it happened. But in sorting out my feelings when it was all over I realized that is what makes this book feel real. Everything doesn't always work out for the best or the way you wanted. Sure, everybody loves a happy ending, but even happy endings are hard work. Not much comes easy in this world. Suzanne Collins gets that and wrote her story that way. This author is amazing, she totally immerses you in the story, every little detail means something. It's a book you can read again and again, and each time it is just as hard to put down. I read each book in a day, because it was literally not possible for me to do much else besides read.
I know this book is meant for teenagers, but I feel it is better for adults, because it is quite violent. Characters you come to love get brutally murdered in each book, I feel it should be for mature readers only.
I bought it on my Kindle and I fully recommend it. All three books are very thick, it is much easier to carry around the kindle than a bunch of books.