Archive | March, 2011

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

17 Mar

Series: Hunger Games, book 3

Published:  August 24th 2010 by Scholastic Press

Details:  Hardcover, 390 pages

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Summary:

In this final installment of the much acclaimed Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss finds herself in the middle of a civil war in Panem. It turns out that district 13 exists, and they are bent on destroying Capitol. I loved the two previous books, but found this one to be a little bit too much on the darker side for me. Still a good book, which I recommend anyone who is following this series to read. Just be prepared for a somewhat painful ride, that´s all.

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A few chapters in:

I must be the last person on earth to read this last installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy. At least, that´s how it feels. Its two predecessors took me by storm, and I was anxious to read this final part, yet other books came in between – well you know how it is.

Anyway, here I am, finally about to read the final part of Katniss’s story! I have managed to avoid reading any reviews and so I have no idea of the content – not a small feat considering the endless stream of reviews that have been flooding the web ever since its release in August last year.

What I couldn’t escape noticing however was the general opinion of the book, which seems to be quite a bit lower than the other two. Why that is I have no idea. Time to find out:

This final book continues just after Catching Fire left off. Plutarch, the head of the Hunger Games, has been collaborating with the rebellions, and managed to save Katniss from the arena just as it exploded. Other tributes like Finnick and Betee were also saved, while others such as Peeta, were captured by the Capitol.

As Katniss recovers from her injuries in the hospital of district 13 – the headquarters of the rebels – she becomes aware of how far the country has got into a full-on civil war. The first and biggest shock is that the Capitol bombarded the entire district 12 – killing all the habitants – save from a few thousand that managed to escape to district 13.

The second biggest shock of course is that President Snow has got Peeta, and the realisation that Peeta may very well be dead – or if not – under ongoing torture.

It’s a grim world to wake up to – and I understand when Katniss feels the desire to hide in the oblivious clouds of the morphine provided to her at the hospital. Nevertheless, the world is calling her. The rebels did save her for a reason. And they need her as their Mockingjay- the symbol of the rebellion.

After some hesitation, Katniss decides to play along with the rebels, and accepts the various missions they have in store for her – essentially various tv promos to promote the cause of the rebels.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but so far so good.


 

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I finished it last night. And I’m having troubles collecting my thoughts.

So let’s start with the most important question: was it as good as the first two books?

No, it wasn’t.

There, I said it. I still liked it, and I recommend anyone who has read the Hunger Games and Catching Fire to go for it. Just don’t expect the same thrilling ride provided in its predecessors, that’s all.

But let’s start with what was good:

First of all – the extended world-building. Collins knows her world well, there is no denying that.

In this final book, we are provided with explanations to what happened during the dark years. We are given the background story behind district 13 and how it was able to escape the Capitol and become self-sufficient. In short, many more details are provided to give you a clearer picture of Panem and its history, as well as the workings of the current civil-war. All this was really intriguing.

What I loved as well was how she (Collins) manages to make it all so realistic. There is a civil war going on and there is nothing heroic about that. War in any form is pain and misery which is described really well here. Even though the Capitol are the bad guys, the rebels are no angles either – as shown in one episode involving Katniss’s preparation team. It is also illustrated how difficult it is to stay sane in a war – to not become as evil as your enemy, especially if influenced by revenge, as in a scene involving Gale and some minors in district 2.

And what is to happen if the rebels win the war? Will the new leader provide a better example than president Snow? As in real life, there are no guarantees. Nothing is black and white. And this is precisely what I like with Collins. Despite its dystopian setting, it all felt so very real!

Yet, the harsh reality of a war provided here made it a very grim book to read. A bit too grim even.

You see, as you may recall from my review of the Hunger Games, I need some light and warmth in a book in order to really devour it. There can be darkness and cruelty, as long as there is some heart and warmth as well. What made Hunger Games so good was that despite its cruel premise, warmth was also present as well.

In this installment however, the darkness was overwhelming. Apart from a few heart-warming moments (usually involving Finnick or Prim), everything was just so sad and dark that it was downright painful to read.

Moreover, our heroine Katniss is crumbling, physically and mentally (understandably of course considering everything she´s gone through) but it made it a painful read to follow her. It reminded me of following Tally on her aventures through the Uglies Series, where it towards the third book Specials turned from exciting to painful to read , simply because Tally was falling apart.

I also found that this installment had a much slower pace. While the other two books provided a non-stop fast-paced tempo, Mockingjay provided more time for reflection. There were a lot of flashbacks towards the other two books, and Katniss spent time reflecting over things that mattered, and how she became the Mockingjay and what that meant – for her and for the rebellion.

This is certainly not a bad thing as it provided a better insight of the course of events of this series. Yet, because of it, quite a few chapters in the middle of the book got a bit repetitious. Apart from the promos Katniss would make combined with the occasional stay at the hospital, the plot did not seem to move forward for a large chunk of the book.

The final reason why this book did not resonate with me as much as the other two was the absent Peeta. I didn’t realise how much Peeta meant to me in this series before he was taken away, as a prisoner of the Capitol. I devoured the moments he and Katniss had in the previous two books. Peeta to me was the reasonable voice, the heart and warmth of the series, the much-needed support to Katniss. Without him, the story lost a bit of its magic.

The Bottom Line

In short, this was a good solid final installment. Yet I had no problems putting the book down for a few days and it didn´t provoke any gasping out loud moments, nor tears.

In other words, it was good – but not great.

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