39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2010
I've been highly anticipating this book since I finished "Catching Fire" a year ago. I got "Mockingjay" the night it came out, finished it the next day, and then, for a long while, I didn't know what to think.
Because here's the thing--I hated this book. And because of that, I think it's the perfect ending. I have so much respect, after finishing the trilogy, for Suzanne Collins, and for her unwillingness to shy away from certain truths. "Mockingjay" was a hard book, and a painful book, but I think another ending to the trilogy wouldn't have been as satisfying. Something with a lighter or happier ending, something with less death and where less things fell apart wouldn't have been true to the original story. It may have been more enjoyable, or made me more superficially happy, but the books would have lost some of their integrity.
I have read some reviews where people complain about Katniss's lack of spine in this book, and I can understand that. But I was okay with it. Katniss is a fighter--we've seen that in "The Hunger Games" and in "Catching Fire." And in "Mockingjay," we see her at the end of her rope. War and intrigue and trauma--not to mention two forays into the arena--have broken her. And while she doesn't give up, she's no longer entirely whole.
Finnick, in "Catching Fire," says to Katniss that, except for maybe Peeta, none of the Hunger Games victors were victors by accident. And there is truth to that--Katniss is hard, she is calculating. Her softest, most human moments involve Prim. And by the end of "Mockingjay," Katniss has lost almost everything, including her sister. Of course she is broken. If she had behaved differently in "Mockingjay," I don't think I would have believed it. But I can completely believe this quieter, more fearful, damaged Katniss. I think that one of the ultimate messages in this book was that war changes people, that there are some things you can never come back from. And Collins follows that through to the end, creating a story that is dark and difficult and disturbing in its blatant truthfulness.
That being said, there are a few things that did bother me, and first and foremost of these is the treatment of Cinna in "Mockingjay." I honestly thought that more was going to be done with him. He really grew as a character in the first two books, and I had so many unanswered questions about him. Why did he request District 12 in his first Hunger Games? Where did he come from initially? How did he get involved in the rebellion? There was so much mystery surrounding Cinna, and I thought that "Mockingjay" would give us some answers. And when his death was relegated to a single sentence at the beginning of "Mockingjay"...I didn't believe it. I kept waiting for him to pop up again somewhere, surprisingly alive and with some answers, but he never did.
I was also a little disappointed--albeit to a lesser degree--with Finnick's death (partly I think just because I absolutely loved Finnick.) It was just so quick and brutal. That was okay--I understand that not every death scene can be a long, poetic one, but I would have liked to see a little more grieving. Katniss never seemed to react much to it--and we barely saw Annie again after it--and I just would have liked to have seen Finnick, as well as the others in Katniss's group, mourned. I can forgive this more than I can forgive the lack of ceremony for Cinna, however, because I think that part of it shows just how cold and separate Katniss has gotten, and we begin to see, perhaps, just how irreparably she is damaged.
Prim's death was well done--confusing and heartbreaking, and the first place in the book where I really cried. And I didn't mind how much smaller of a role the love triangle played in this book. Because it was never about the Peeta-vs-Gale triangle, not really. That was there because it is human nature to fall in love, and a lot of this book was about human nature, but it was never the main conflict. I would have been fine with Katniss choosing Gale or choosing no one at all, and I'm fine with the way things played out.
For a long time, I couldn't put my finger on why I was so disturbed by the ending--of Peeta and Katniss alone with their children in District 12. Because it isn't as if it is a hopeless ending; for their children, for the world, there is hope, and plenty of it. But for Peeta and Katniss, I realized eventually, there isn't. There are some things that you can't get past, and so they live through them. Neither of them will ever recover from the war or the arena; they are forever changed by that, and will have to live with the memories and the nightmares forever. But this ending, as hard and bittersweet as it is, is a necessary one. If it had been a happier ending, if they had managed to forget, even if they had left District 12--it wouldn't have been as honest, and it wouldn't have been as powerful. And that, in the end, is what makes "Mockingjay" such a powerhouse ending--I can hate it all I want, but I can't not respect it's unflinching view of our potential future.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2012
I read through these books in a handful of days because my 6th grade daughter wants to read them and I was concerned about the possible content in them.
What I found wasn't at all what I expected in a young adult set of novels. The content that I was worried about, Twilight-ish "romantic" content, wasn't to be found hardly anywhere in the series. However, the content dealing with the violence and the after affects of such systemic violence as from war and slavery (which is really what the citizens of the districts are) was very prevalent and just at the edge of what I think my daughter is ready for.
Now, specifically to this novel.
Unlike the preceding novels, this one deals dramatically and in depth with issues of being involved in war and slavery. Especially, from a soldier's point of view. To this end Mrs. Collins achieved her desired goal very well. The pacing and tone of the book and its involved characters is exceptionally well handled to drive home the point of those effects.
I have read some reviews that complain about the change in the characters, how they aren't the same characters from the first novels, and I have read many reviews here that state that was the point, which I agree with. Of course the characters aren't the same at the end of the trilogy as they were at the beginning, that is the point. If they were the same then what would the point of the story have been? What sets this series apart from many other novels is how much the characters change and how many of them undergo this radical change. My feeling is that many of the people who were upset about the changes in the characters likely read these novels as they were released. The long time span between reading the books would make it harder to spot the natural progression of the characters as they react to their experiences. Reading all three of these novels at the same time makes it feel more like a single long novel and given how the novels all start basically right where the last left off, this a more natural way to consume this trilogy.
Katniss' struggles with what is obviously PTSD and her war related injuries, physical and psychological, is exceptionally well handled in this book. I have read where some people thought that the pacing/plot was not well handled because it seemed disjointed and that there is a lot of "telling" going on in this novel. Well, yeah, that is the point. This is the novel where Katniss steps into the role of soldier. This is the novel where you get to experience, through Katniss, the disjointed nature of their lives. The fact that major events happen away from them and yet have a profound affect on their lives. The fact that they will have good moments and bad moments. That in a very real way they don't feel in control of their lives or even themselves. That their life feels disjointed and instead of having the power to affect events they are simply told about those events and then told what they are going to do about those events.
All of this being said, it wasn't all good. The "romantic" scenes in this book seem forced, like Collins was writing this great story and someone kept reminding her that she was writing a novel in a category where Twilight was popular, and because of that she needed to write in some romantic angst. If that was the case I wish that someone had kept their mouth shut. It added virtually nothing to story of any worth, and in some cases detracted from the power of the story and its message. All of the relevant parts could have easily been accomplished without Gale, or at least without Gale as a romantic interest.
Heck, Gale was a weak point period because he never really managed to make it past his angry, rebellious bad-boy archetype. This wouldn't have been bad, if he hadn't been forced into the role of "other romantic interest".
The forced romantic relationship between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale irreparably damaged the other aspect of war and its consequences, dealing with those who have suffered its affects. The spouse who returns from war is a different person than the one who left and their significant other doesn't have a problem dealing with that because they have some other person on the side that they are constantly trying to decide between, but because the other person is the person that they remember and had feelings for and this person who returned. By interjecting Gale into this story in the way that Mrs. Collins did she pretty much neutered Katniss' difficulty in dealing with the war damaged Peeta. You can almost see her desire to deal with this when she struggles with accepting that "her" Peeta is lost forever, but then the message is watered down or completely lost in the noise of the "mandatory" Katniss / Gale romance.
It also would have helped out Katniss' character to feel some angst about how she treated Peeta in this book, not because she was stuck in some forced feeling love-triangle, but because she truly felt guilty about what happened to him because of her. To approach the issues that Katniss was having with Peeta, not because he necessarily was someone that she loves, but because he was a brother in arms who suffered terribly because of what she feels is her fault.
My point is that Katniss could have just as easily, and more realistically, felt pretty much everything that she did because she was struggling with her love for and feelings of obligation to Peeta coupled with her inability to deal with the brainwashed person sitting in front of her as compared to the Peeta that she knew before -- so well symbolized by the pearl.
As for the ending. At first, I didn't like it. Katniss and her team struggled and suffered so much to basically fail to achieve their goal at the end. Then the denouement seemed to be no real resolution at all, although I liked the epilogue. However, after reading the third part of the novel again and looking at it from the perspective of the story as a whole, I realized that this was just another very well executed example of dealing with war. The point of the third part wasn't really to kill Snow and have the happy ending, it was to provide the sucker punch to the gut that was to drive the real awful truth of war and soldiers home. The entire story and all of its events were set off because Katniss wanted to keep Prim safe. All of her suffering and all of the things that her friends and loved ones suffered were a direct result of her attempt to keep Prim away from harm, but no matter what happens and no matter how much a soldier might suffer in the end they very well might fail to achieve what they fought for. After everything that Katniss suffered she did manage to free the Districts from the Capitol, and because of that she is hailed as a hero by the reader and the characters in the novel. But for Katniss, she failed. No matter how much she suffered and endured her stepping up to take Prim's place for the games ultimately led to her dying. And that is likely the hardest aspect for a soldier to take and for those that support them to realize, the feeling that everything you did and everything you suffered didn't achieve what you personally desired.
With this new insight into the ending I have to say that I went from liking the epilogue to loving it. The epilogue is the reward for the soldiers if everything goes well. The epilogue is the "happy ending" that those suffering through war can hope for. Not that they will make it through unscathed, the trauma will always be with them, but that their children will have a better life because of what they suffered. That their children will have a better life because of them. For a girl who early in the book stated emphatically that she would never have children because of the world, this is her reward, not sound mental health or a completely whole spouse, but children who can run and play without concern on the grave of the past.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The third and final book in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy completes Katniss's story by taking her experiences to the next logical (and inevitable) step. In hindsight, the progression of the three-book storyline is obvious: Katniss goes from a tribute in a gladiatorial death-match, to getting caught up in the revolution that follows, to this: her participation in a full-scale war.
Rescued from the arena at the conclusion of Catching Fire, Katniss now finds herself recovering in District 13, a place long thought to have been destroyed by the Capitol, but in actuality existing as a vast underground complex. Her teammate and would-be love interest Peeta was not so lucky, for he was captured by the Capitol and is now being used as an instrument of propaganda by the sinister President Snow. Due to their home in District 12 being bombed, Katniss and other survivors/refugees from the mining community have joined forces with District 13's resistance fighters, though it would seem that their every act of kindness is hedged with self-interest.
Katniss, her mother and sister, and her childhood friend Gale are moderately safe in the extensive underground bunkers of District 13, where schedules are tattooed in impermanent ink on everyone's arm each day and wasting food or other resources is tantamount to a criminal offense. Naturally, Katniss chaffs under the imposition of these strict rules, but luckily for her, she's got some leverage. Having made herself infamous through her actions in the Hunger Games, the resistance wants her to become a symbol of the uprising, using her status as the Mockingjay to unite the remaining eleven districts.
She agrees, but not before laying down a few conditions of her own. It's at this point that we see Katniss finally become more aware of her own power as well as (paradoxically) her inherent helplessness. On the one hand, she's a valuable asset and thus has a certain amount of say in District 13's decision-making; on the other, District 13 is just as capable of manipulation, cruelty and exploitation as the Capitol, and Katniss sees firsthand the lengths to which they'll go to in order to destroy the totalitarian regime of President Snow and the Capitol. Can she be a part of it without compromising herself?
Once again she finds herself in the Hunger Games - though of a slightly different sort this time. Now the cameras are trained on her as she visits hospitals, rallies the districts, and consoles her wounded compatriots. She's become a part of the propaganda machine, and struggles to maintain her own agency and personality in the progress. Clearly suffering from the first signs of PTSD (complete with concussions, drug-use, on-going injuries and nightmares) Katniss also struggles with the knowledge that everything she does to rile the Capitol may be putting the captive Peeta into danger.
It all comes to a head in a nail-biting game of cat and mouse with in the streets of the Capitol itself, and in the climactic final gambit played out by Katniss.
It was with interest that I read some of the other reviews for "Mockingjay", particularly the ones that gave it a lower rating. Notably, there seems to be a definite disconnect between what people were expecting, and what Collins delivered. Is this a dark but ultimately uplifting story about a girl who becomes a hero and leads a rebellion to victory at a large but ultimately necessary cost? Or is it a story about the effect that war and death have on young people, how both sides of the conflict can be morally grey, and how people have only so much strength in them before they break? It's the latter, but lot of people wanted the former, and it's clear that they're judging "Mockingjay" not on what it is, but what they wanted it to be. Naturally everyone will have a series of expectations whenever they crack open any book (especially one as anticipated as this one), but I also think that Collins had a specific message to impart, and ignoring it is to miss the very point of the trilogy.
For example, Collins makes some very interesting storytelling decisions throughout. For the last two books President Snow has been set up as Katniss's primary antagonist; the ultimate foe that she will one day face (it's even foreshadowed in their names: Snow versus the Girl on Fire). Yet without giving too much away, their confrontation is not what you'd expect. Likewise, there is a rather unconventional resolution to the love triangle that many may not find satisfactory. Personally, I was never in any doubt as to which of the two boys Katniss would chose, but the way in which is occurs is hardly what you'd call a "fairytale ending."
However, there are some parts of "Mockingjay" where I can understand why readers were a bit disgruntled. The death toll is extremely high; I wasn't keeping count, but there's a good chance that more named characters (I'm including the minor ones in this) end up dead than the living. In this case, Collins's gift is also her curse: by creating characters that you care about so quickly and so deeply, it is gut-wrenching when several of them not only die, but do so in a swift and anti-climactic manner. Sure, she's trying to make a statement about the randomness of war, but it's hard not to think that some characters deserved more - if not their lives, than at least a meaningful death.
Although the writing is still as strong as ever in terms of its pacing and clarity, there are times in which Collins trips up. About halfway through the book, Katniss sings a haunting (and highly symbolic) song called "The Hanging Tree". Instead of Collins simply leaving the reader to interpret its meaning, she has Katniss internally analysis it for the benefit of the reader (taking up two pages!), thus robbing it of all its mystery. There are a couple of times in which she breaks the "show, don't tell" rule, breaking down various situations instead of letting the reader figure it out for themselves. (Though ironically, the most crucial gambit that Katniss plays toward the end of the novel seems to have been *too* subtle, given that many readers have expressed confusion over it. Or maybe most readers are used to being spoon-fed answers, thus justifying Collins's early attempts to spell things out. Who knows). Yet Collins's strength in writing is still apparent: her ability to maintain a riveting pace, in which everything flows smoothly from chapter to chapter, and suspense builds as the story goes on.
Having a dig around some of the other reviews, I was disappointed (though hardly surprised) at the criticisms leveled at Katniss's characterization. Generally speaking, it's immensely difficult to write female characters, especially protagonists, as they will always be held to a higher standard than male characters. If she's too competent, too loved, too successful, she'll be deemed a Mary Sue. If she's too flawed, too fallible, or makes too many mistakes, then she's a bad role model and an affront to feminism.
It feels as though that's what happened here. Many wanted her to step up as a hero and take control of every situation. Others dismiss her as "fickle" or "selfish" due to her interactions with Peeta and Gale (claims that baffle me considering her devotion to her sister and willingness to die for others). Others think she spent too much time under sedation, or gunning people down, or making the wrong decisions; and of course, with so much attention placed on the love triangle (not so much in the book, but certainly in on-line fan discussions - one can't help but feel that Stephenie Meyer's endorsements drew in the Twilight crowd) there were inevitably going to be disappointed shippers who would accuse Katniss of making "the wrong choice" no matter what boy she chose. So what was she: too good to be true, or a disappointing female character?
Actually, she was neither. She was a seventeen year old girl who goes through a devastating ordeal, and the crux of this trilogy is that the reader shares in her terror, her self-loathing, her mental collapse, and her gradual crawl back to some degree of normality. It's a grueling experience, but one that's unflinching in revealing the true cost of war.
So thank you Suzanne Collins for giving me Katniss: a three-dimensional, fully developed character who was nothing like me, and yet who I could relate to completely. Sometimes she failed, sometimes she succeeded, but she's embroiled in a story that is complex without being convoluted, and which raises difficult questions about the world without providing any sort of simplistic answer. The character development reflects this, for Collins doesn't make it easy: not for Katniss and not for the reader, and in my opinion, this uncompromising storytelling makes the complete trilogy stronger as a result. Will it be a classic? Only time will tell, but were I to place money on it, my bet would be yes.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
While I loved the whole series, mainly for its unforgettable characters, it had to be hard to sustain such tension over 3 books, and nearly 1000 pages. I think it might have been done better in 2 slightly longer books. I found the last book, Mockingjay, a little slow going. I was tired of war, betrayal and the destruction of not only whole districts, but of the humanity of the characters. Katniss' confusion throughout the last book, never let up. She never quite got her act together so when she let loose her last arrow (I'm trying not to spoil the ending) I was surprised, not at what she did, but that there wasn't a little more forewarning. Or maybe it just wasn't obvious enough for me.
I might think that this series is a little too dark for its target age-group. It rested too much on the material side for my tastes, and not enough on the spark of humanity that all but died in this series. Even the ending doesn't feel like hope, but more like awakening from a nightmare only to have it continue when you go back to sleep. Who would want to live in this world once the fighting was over? And was anything really solved? Did these people learn and evolve, enabling them to move away from the need to annihilate each other?
It's no wonder that the author mentions 1984 as one of her favorite books. The Hunger Games trilogy feels like it was played out with Orwell's novel as it's backdrop. Dark, dark, dark. Even the light at the end of the tunnel feels like it's a train coming to squash the victors with whatever it was that started this civilization down the road to total repression and the Hunger Games themselves.
Still, an entertaining, and worthwhile read which I would recommend that kids and adults read just to experience how far power can take us down the road to ruin.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Damn Suzanne Collins, anyway. I had plans for this sunny Saturday in Cali, and then her book finally shows up in the mail. If it sounds like I'm grousing, I'm not, really. MOCKINGJAY is a riveting read, and it nicely caps off what I think is the best trilogy of novels to have come out in recent years. Suzanne Collins holds you spellbound with the raw power in her prose and her ability to make you emotionally invested, make you well up, make your throat clench up. I was spent when I got done reading the thing, and already missing the girl on fire something fierce.
The Hunger Games trilogy offers the very best of futuristic, post-apocalyptic stories. It is thought-provoking and sometimes very painful to read, and it all hinges on the vast appeal of Katniss Everdeen, who is only seventeen years old but who of late has led a hell of a life. In MOCKINGJAY, Collins expands the canvas. The closing pages of the book before, CATCHING FIRE, informed us that an underground rebellion had been quietly fomenting, deep within the previously thought to be extinct District 13, and this rebellion - ignited by Katniss's inspirational derring-do in the Games - comes to the fore in MOCKINGJAY, seeking to overthrow the corrupt, decadent rule of the Capitol. Televised during the Hunger Games, Katniss had become a beloved figure in the eyes of the people, and District 13 taps her as the ideal rallying point, whether she wants this or not. Katniss Everdeen, deeply conflicted, guilt-ridden, has always been a reluctant hero. We open with her in a daze and forlornly wandering the rubble of her destitute mining hometown, District 12, which months ago had been firebombed by the Capitol as a warning.
I think we all knew from the very start that Katniss would play a key role in overthrowing the Capitol, but Collins still makes it a compelling tale. We've come to expect certain things from this series, and the writer again strongly delivers. The Capitol is still despicable down to its roots, but Katniss discovers that the ruling council in District 13 may also harbor a shady agenda. Katniss is reunited with her mother and younger sister, Prim, and with her childhood friend Gale. But she's haunted by Peeta's captivity in the Capitol. And, once again, she's being manipulated. As the figurehead of the revolution, Katniss again has to go in front of the camera, try to put on an act, try to inspire the downtrodden. We learn that Katniss is utter disaster with coached lines, that she fares a lot better when thrown on the field of battle where she can be spontaneous and real and riveting. Where she can be the Mockingjay, the girl on fire.
Cripes, what a stunning trilogy, and what a remarkable book Suzanne Collins has again come up with, full of humanity (and inhumanity) and grace and heartbreak and wrenching choices and, yes, those electrifying moments that get you in the guts. There is a striking richness to the characters, even side characters like Johanna and Boggs and Katniss's flighty prep team. Katniss, of course, stands head and shoulders above the rest. Katniss Everdeen, a hunter with uncanny marksmanship, is unforgettable not only when she springs into action but in those reflective moments as well. I do like that there's a whiff of a Q element introduced here. Like Q from the James Bond mythos, there is a character in this book named Beetee who comes up with some very cool gadgets, and this includes hi-tech black bow and arrows for Katniss.
Terrible things happen in this book which I wish hadn't, and Collins goes down an even darker, bleaker path, and her story has never been as simple as good versus evil, anyway. And just when you start thinking the writer had veered away from the Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself returning to another arena. Or close enough, anyway. Something wonky happens with the pacing. There's almost this fake ending, when events build up to a harrowing, breakneck crescendo as Katniss and company desperately try to stay alive, and this dystopian world has created inventive, supremely horrifying ways for people to die. But then the pace slows down for the final, final act, and it just wasn't the way I thought it would end (although, to be honest, I wasn't sure, really, how it would end). There's a resolution to that whole Peeta vs. Gale thing, and in this book Gale finally gets ample screen time. And Peeta? What happens to the boy with the bread doesn't make Katniss's choice any easier. But this series isn't really about the love triangle. Suzanne Collins always had a more important message to impart, and that had more to do with the senselessness and depravity of waging war.
How this volume ends, it's not entirely gratifying. There's deep bittersweet sadness and a sense of people drifting apart and even a dose of cynicism. The writer doesn't exactly give you what you want. And, in a way, I appreciate this ending because it feels more real than any routine happily ever afters would have felt. Sometimes and often, things don't climax to a rousing song and dance, but taper off with only a tired sigh. Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, is gonna stick around in my brain for a long while. This is a remarkable series.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2013
My thoughts while reading this final installment in the much-lauded trilogy were mixed. On the one hand, it's much less focused than its predecessors, Katniss is much less personally dynamic, and the relationships are much less satisfying. As I neared the end, I was desperately pulling for a happy ending, but when I actually closed the book, I realized it couldn't have been more perfect.
On the surface, this is yet another YA story about an angsty teen triangle: female heroine is thrust into trying events that help her choose between her two hunky suitors. So right up to the end, there was a part of me that was expecting the ending to be classic YA romance. But that's not what this trilogy is about at all.
Although I love that the YA slant makes these stories so accessible, it's also something of a shame that they have to be YA. Because, really, they're not. Katniss's story isn't about being an angsty teen. It isn't about the traumas and trials of somehow falling in love with two guys at once. This is a story about war, and Collins consistently refuses to allow her characters to fall into stereotypes.
Nowhere is this more evident than in this final book. At this point, we might expect Katniss to start acting like the standard hero. She's the Mockingjay, she's the superhero, she takes charge, plans the battles, fights the battles, and just generally wins the war singlehandedly. That's what we see all the time in the movies, so that's naturally what we expect.
But what Collins gives us is a starker reality: a seventeen-year-old girl scarred by violence, death, and manipulation. She's not a hero. She's not going to take charge. She's a pawn from start to finish, and all she can do is try to survive and stay sane. The events that take place in these stories aren't the kind that build young love; they're the kind that tear relationships apart. And that's what we see. They're not the kind that lead to happy endings, even after they end the way we want them too. And that's what we see.
I cruised through this book pretty blithely. I was totally unprepared for the shattered feeling at the end when I closed the back cover. It's not a perfect book and not a perfect trilogy. But I take my hat off to Collins for her guts, her honesty, and her refusal to bow to stereotypes and expectations.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2010
Let me first say that after "Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire", I implicitly trust Ms. Collins to take her books wherever they need to go. Her storytelling is incredibly compelling and this book is no exception.
That said, "Mockingjay" has reminded me why I do not read sad stories. I finished the book last night and I have been depressed all day. (Don't worry, I'll bounce back.) Reading effects people differently, but I can't always take the hit of reading something so gut-wrenching and then continue with life as normal. Some people are able to sit through the most existentially dark movie and then go out for ice cream. I'm the type of person who still feels too nauseous.
Books change the way I look at life, so there's only so much darkness I can take. I'm not saying there can't be horrific events, sadness, agony, but the final message has to be one of hope. Like watching "Schindler's List", or even reading "Little Bee". But after hundred of pages of Katniss being stripped down to her skin, then having even that taken from her, of journeying deep into darkness and despair, there are only a handful of pages to bandage up our heroine and the reader. There were not enough to get me out of the emotional pit I was in at that point. I felt like the first time I read "Gone With the Wind", when I realized that there weren't enough pages left to fix everything. Another book about war, I suppose that was the point, there is no way to fully heal, war can warp the soul.
I wouldn't change anything about the plot of this book, but I would change the amount of time we got to spend with our heroine healing at the end...feeling that there are still things that can make life worthwhile, balancing the horror with hope...and the love that still miraculously remains.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2011
This is a good book. A lot of people were disappointed by it, and maybe knowing that lowered my expectations going in. But when I read it for myself, I discovered that it really is on the same level as the other two books in the series. Everything you loved from the first two books is here: the brutal world, the violent action, the romance, the tragedy, and most of all, the fierce heroine of the story, Katniss. She's been aflame for two novels, and here she gets to burn brighter than ever before, even as the story goes to a darker place than we've seen yet.
Not everything comes out right for everyone. I don't think I'm spoiling anything for you by telling you this, since I feel that has been the standard from book one, and if you've gotten this far then you should already know it. Like the first two, the story doesn't pull any punches. Not everyone makes it, and those who do aren't by any means unscathed. But that's what we expected. It's what we wanted: the most dangerous game.
The ending satisfies. Everything is resolved: the love triangle between Katniss and the two guys in her life, the conflict between the Capitol and the rebels, and Katniss' own Hero's Journey. I won't tell you it's perfect, but it works, and it works well. This is a solid book, and a great close to the series. I personally think that some of the criticism of it has been unfair. This is by no means the weakest part of the trilogy.
Everyone who loved the first two books will want to read this, and I think it closes the series well.
Now, to fully explain my review of the book I have to address a few important scenes from the story, so if you haven't read the book (which I do recommend), then you should really stop reading now, because the rest of the review will spoil the ending for you.
*MAJOR PLOT/ENDING SPOILERS FOLLOW*
When I first finished the book, there was a particular scene that seemed to ruin everything for me. I'm speaking about the scene where Katniss votes to have a final Hunger Games with Capitol children to satisfy the rebels and make peace. "How, after everything that happened, could she do that?" I asked myself. Honestly, I closed the book with disgust. It took a lot of thinking about it to reach the decision to like the scene. Now, a lot of people believe that she only went along with the vote to get her shot at Coin, and really put an end to the evil of the Hunger Games once and for all. I believe that too. The problem I have with the scene is that the author doesn't tell you if that is the case or not. That annoyed me. A lot. When I first read it, fresh from Katniss losing her mind after Prim's death, I completely believed that she was damaged enough to want another Hunger Games. After three books of being inside her head, the author leaves it up to you to decide what her intentions are. And that's when I realized that that scene might actually be brilliant. Katniss thinks, "This is the moment, then. When we find out exactly just how alike we are, and how much he truly understands me." And in a way, this scene is Collins saying to the reader that it's up to us to decide whether she has fallen to the point where she can condone the murder of her enemies' children or not. As for me, I read the scene one way the first time, another the next. I think I know how it went down now, but I can't say I'm one hundred percent sure. The thing you are going to have to decide is whether that ambiguity is a mistake on the part of the author, and she should have told us what Katniss wanted, and were there actually another Hunger Games or not (the book doesn't say, but Plutarch does say that the world is "in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated"). This review, and my final score of the book, is based on my belief that holding that back from the audience and letting the readers decide how well they know Kat was a brilliant move on the author's part.
Now, about the death of Prim. Some people have a problem with the scene because it is unnecessary. We've already lost enough people to give the readers a sense of danger, and didn't Rue's death in book one serve the same emotional purpose for Katniss? I disagree. Everything Katniss had ever gone through in all three books had spun out of her trying to save Prim that day. Losing her sister was the most devastating blow the author could have given her, and absolutely necessary to bring her to the place where we might believe she would vote for another Hunger Games. She says "I vote yes...for Prim." Prim's death is what made her wake up to the evils being done by her side of the war. Rue's death belongs to the Capitol, Prim's to the rebels. It made the hell of war universal. Of course, it was also fiercely dramatic, since the character was the purest and most innocent of everyone in the books (takes in strays, wants to be a doctor, more forgiving than Kat...).
Finally, regarding the end of the book, and the epilogue: I think the bittersweet ending was appropriate for the story. I'm glad she chose Peeta, and for the right reasons (though the scene where she confronts Gale is very sad). I can't say I'm fond of love triangles in storytelling, but the romance in the Hunger Games books is really a mirror into Kat's soul. The scene where the boys talk about how Kat will choose between them is perfect. I love how the author doesn't try to refute their reasoning in Kat's final choice. She does exactly as Gale said she would, and chooses the boy she can't survive without. The epilogue is a little unnecessary, but still important. Collins doesn't leave Kat's future up our imaginations. She used ambiguity as a storytelling device when it was appropriate, but here she tells us exactly what happened, leaving nothing to chance. We get to find out that Kat ended up happy. Not unscathed, not by a long shot, but happy nonetheless. And the final scene where she watches her children play in the meadow grown over the ashes of District 12 is hopeful and beautiful. At the close of such a bleak and violent series, this was as perfect an ending as anyone could have hoped for our heroine.
Mockingjay is a great book. It's not a perfect book, but it ends the series well. As series endings go, I believe it is superior to Suzanne Collins' Underland Chronicles. Recommended to everyone who read the first two books.
Final Grade: B
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2010
I won't give a plot summary since so many others have done that. Instead I'll just focus on some of the most important points for me. First, this is a terrific page turner. It ranks with the first of the trilogy in unpredictability and suspense. Second, it transcends the YA, love triangle, spunky heroine genre and becomes a much more ambitious work, handling major themes. Among them are the horror of war, its lingering effects on survivors, and the corruption brought about by power. Not new, but powerfully expressed.
The negative reviews seem to focus on the fact that Katniss has become a helpless, often passive, pawn, and is not the strong person she was earlier, that she doesn't become a leader. I would suggest that anything else would be unbelievable. She's seventeen, she's undergone major trauma, not once, but twice. Furthermore, she's always been a pawn, although one with unpredictable strength and daring. In this book she continues that pattern. Her relative helplessness underscores one of the themes: there is only so much that individual courage and compassion can do to overcome powerful evil, corrupt, and violent forces. At the climactic moment she does choose, and acting with her usual rebelliousness, profoundly changes the course of events. That she sinks into obscurity and slowly rebuilds her private life afterwards seems appropriate and is quite movingly depicted.
The other criticism is that Katniss "dumps" Gale for Peeta. She doesn't. She and Gale seem to mutually agree that the two of them can't be together, no matter how much they care about one another. Gale is the angry, violent side of Katniss that she must leave to rebuild her life; instead she chooses Peeta, who is her loving, self-sacrificing side--the side of her which volunteered for the Hunger Games to save her little sister. I didn't see this until the end, but the choice seems perfectly right.
Why not five stars? Because it's a YA book after all, and doesn't have the length, the breadth of a five-star book. For what it is, it's excellent.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2012
Perhaps one of my most avoided categories of books is the "Young Adult" section. It's that section in the bookstore that sits somewhere between greeting cards and mystery novels that normally smells of too much perfume and hormones. A section that more mature readers tend to thumb their noses at and move on to the "real love stories".
I imagine that it is very difficult to write about the life of a teenager, even one pressed into such extreme circumstances depicted in the Hunger Games without alienating a host of older readers who are long past the days of fantasizing about being loved by two attractive men who ultimately want to kill the other for the heroines affection. I mean, it's been at least two months since I've had that fantasy.
Still the teenage brain is, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing, horrifying and vast canvases upon which to start a trilogy of books. There is nothing a teenager cannot do. They are developed adults physically and range from Dora the Explorer to Stephen Hawking mentally.
That's not to say those storylines can't be compelling, but it takes a truly great writer to dive into the inner angst of the teenage brain and pull out of it a story that is both moving and relatable. For the most part, Ms. Collins brings to life all of these aspects in her wildly popular Hunger Games Trilogy.
Katniss Everdeen, the main heroine of this trilogy, is the stereotypical young female that is confused by things like love, boys and is often betrayed and confounded by her own emotions and thoughts. Katniss is the representation of what this author seems to believe are some of the most basic concerns of young females the world 'round. The Hunger Games really gives its reader a front row seat to the inner emotional turmoil of its main character. We get a glimpse at the inner struggle of a young female trying to find her way in a world that has thrown her, by chance, into the most difficult of situations. It isn't enough for her to simply survive the Hunger Games, she is asked to be the poster-child of a movement that will change not only her personal world, but that of every single person in this fictitious nation known as Panem.
The basic tenets of a teenager unwillingly pushed into an undesired situation that ultimately proves her mettle while depicting her mental unraveling aren't new (think as far back as, I don't know, Harry Potter). However, one of the greatest assets of this book is that the idea of the Hunger Games is uniquely compelling, violent, and refreshing. It wasn't lost on me the similarities of this series of books to that brilliant film Pan's Labrynthe. It is the fusion of intense innocence with utter depravity and gut wrenching violence.
The age old question is asked, at the epicenter of this collision, when good and evil fight to the death, which will emerge victorious out of the unimaginable destruction that will be left in the wake of their war and, will it have all been worth it?
The backdrop of this story mixes the extreme lavishness of the Capitol city, led by an evil President Snow and a group of citizens that live to feed their most base desires while 12 districts of slaves spend their waking lives working to insure the status quo is preserved.
The Hunger Games are the piece de resistance of the Capitol lifestyle. They are the brutal display of two young adults, one male and one female from each district, forced into an arena where they fight to the death and only one walks out the victor. 23 dead, one alive. Are you not entertained?
Think The Truman Show, only instead of cameras following every moment of one man's fake life, the Hunger Games arena has cameras that follow every move and fatality dished from one innocent victim on another for the amusement of the gluttons and bon vivantes of the capital city. The districts who were forced to offer up their progeny for the Capitols entertainment are required to watch and cheer for the small chance they get a devastated son or daughter back or watch in agony as their life is snuffed out either through murder or unspeakable horror.
The foundation of this story is so compelling that it wasn't difficult to become invested not only in the story of Katniss, but also for her Games-mate Peeta. Both were well developed characters that stood together in the games and created a spark that began a revolution. The world created in the Hunger Games is so interesting that, at times, it even outshines the characters built to give it life.
Unlike many authors who take on the unique challenges of writing a trilogy, Suzanne Collins rarely loses control of the pace of her novels. This pace has one speed. Fast. Most of the times this is extremely refreshing. Her story moves quickly and outside of the occasional Katniss introspection rarely wastes words. One of the unfortunate side effects of this fast pacing is that, at times, critical and interesting details are left up to the reader's imagination to fill in the holes. Perhaps this is on purpose but the general effect is that the development of certain characters are lost.
The most poignant example of this is the character of Gale, Katniss's childhood friend, a friend that she, in typical teenager fashion, misreads as just a friend. Gale's love for Katniss is undeniable but falls deeply in that "Eros" section, a love that requires affection be returned to last. Gale might be Katniss's closest confidant but instead of coming across as a protector until the final chapters of the last book he comes across as jealous, bitter, and even vengeful of Katniss and her relationship with Peeta. At the end, when he is sold to us a wounded hero it rings hollow. When compared to love for Katniss shown by her Games-mate Peeta, Gale is character that suffers from a lack of any serious development, a situation perhaps even Suzanne Collins realizes at the end of her trilogy as he is epilogued away into nothingness.
For its violence and understated political messages the Hunger Games is, at its core, a love story. It's a love story that is not well told by its heroine but by her supporting cast, and in this way Ms. Collins created something akin to a masterpiece.
Love is usually broken down into three categories, ranging from least to greatest:
1. Eros - a love that is based on the erotic. It's the physical attraction love that relies on romance.
2. Philos - a love based on friendship and mutual respect. At its core, there is a mutual admiration for one another that goes beyond just the physical.
3. Agape - unconditional love. This love is selfless, like that of a parent or best friend.
While Gale was relegated to some kind of hybrid of Eros and Philos love, the characters of Peeta and Finnick showed a true development from Philos to Agape and it's a story that truly stands out far above the violence and glamor of the Hunger Games and the resulting rebellion.
At the end, when the innocence, violence, and depravity of this story collide and lay waste to everyone and everything, the love of these two characters for Katniss (and in Finnick's case Annie as well) tells a story far more compelling and powerful.
In book two, we are introduced to the character of Finnick who at first glance seems to be the typical knucklehead brochacho who thinks that he is all that. Over the course of one half novel Suzanne Collins develops a single character that steals the story away from her heroine with a love story so compelling that it completely overpowers anything created between Katniss and Gale. Finnick, who puts everything on the line to keep Katniss alive in a true act of Philos love during the Quarter Quell in the second book, shows true Agape love when he sacrifices everything for her at the very end. It was the ultimate tragedy. It was brilliant.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
As these books raced to a climax Suzanne Collins was in what must have been her storytelling finest. The descriptions of the rebels path through the Capital city put her writing skill on full display but as she crashed her readers through the streets of her final battleground something went wrong.
I have never written a novel before so I can't imagine how difficult it is to finish out a story but I imagine it is one of the hardest things for a writer to do. As hard as it must be to lay those first words on paper, it must be ten times harder to write those final words.
There is a moment near the end of "Mockingjay" where everything seems to come to a grinding halt, suspended in time. A certain action one way or the other would send this story in completely different directions to its end. Katniss and her soldiers have made it up to the steps of President Snow's mansion which he has protected with a front line of children, the ultimate show of cowardice and brutality. Then, in a moment of true horror, she watches as she and they are all obliterated by fire.
It is here that Suzanne Collins had the mammoth task of making everything that Katniss and her loved ones went through worthwhile. Instead, Katniss falls into a confusing mixture of grief, self-pity, and catatonia. As readers we are left to wonder if everything Katniss did leading up to that final climax would have made any difference at all, or should she have simply kept back where it was safe and helped by continually making more propoganda videos for the rebel cause?
It is almost like the ending became too big for its author. The ending too important and consequences too serious. The love story leading up to this moment fell away to utter violence and destruction and once again, as the chapter closes, the reader is sped along as months pass wondering what the point of that moment really was other than to completely break our heroine?
As the story is wrapped up neatly in a short epilogue the redeeming qualities of Peeta and the men and women who played a part in this story are forgotten behind a backdrop of personal devastation. Once again, a critical part of this story is left up to the reader's imagination.
After the Capital has been overthrown a character we hardly know has taken over as President; leaving the future of Panem nothing short of meaningless. While the reader may be interested in the results of the rebellion in Panem, we focus instead back to District 12 and Katniss who, years into the future, watches the kids she never wanted play on a graveyard of memories she will never recover from. There will be no salvation for Katniss Everdeen.
And in light of this fact Suzanne Collins plays one final game of Real or Not Real with her readers:
Katniss and Peeta live happily ever after...