Saturday, March 3, 2012
Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)
By Suzanne Collins
Synopsis: Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12.
Warning: This review may contain spoilers from book one and two.
Mockingjay is the third and final book in the Hunger Games series. Once again, I've heard people (my sister and brother included) say that this was one of the weakest links in the series, and while I didn't agree with that regarding book two, I do in this case. I did still find myself racing through it and I definitely enjoyed it, but after I finished I found myself questioning the storyline that Suzanne Collins decided to use.
After the explosive end of book two I expected big things in this book, but instead it ended up weirdly paced and a little unfocused. Katniss, Gale and their families and friends have settled in district 13, the town that was believed to be destroyed until recently. And while they've escaped the tyranny of the Capitol, they're now contained by District 13's strict rules and guidelines. Katniss may have never been free in the true sense of the word, but at least in District 12 she could escape over the fence and run in the forest, swim in the lake and provide for her family. In District 13 everything is strictly monitored, food, work, free time...not to mention everything takes place deep underground, away from the sky and fresh air. Furthermore, while Katniss fought against the adults trying to control and manipulate her actions and future in the previous two books, by book three she has become a mere symbol for what the men and women in charge want, and her opinion is no longer held with much regard.
While I could see what Suzanne Collins wanted to do, I didn't feel like it was played out particularly well. Every now and then the pacing would pick up and it would seem like the action was going to develop to the place where I felt like it should be. For example, the scene where she visits the hospital in District 8, things progressed from a safe TV spot into something way more kick-ass. But then things slowed down to a crawl again. I'd been anticipating the rebellion from the early pages of book one, and half way through the final book barely anything was happening except PR stunts. I found the TV persona aspect overwhelming, I feel like by the third book there should have been less attention paid to Katniss as an individual and more to the actual rebellion. Snippets of news from the other districts weren't enough, when Katniss found herself defending the hospital in Disrict 8 I thought this was the role she'd play from now on, but nooooooooo. She went back to District 13 and walked around corridors and argued with people in small rooms. It seemed like Collins wanted the book to play out like a chess game, with Katniss as one of the pawns, but the approach really bugged me.
My other issue was the love triangle. I was never a big fan of it as anything other than a metaphor for the choice she had to take (rebellion vs Capitol control), and this book just really pushed it too far. I've never really enjoyed Gale as a character (mostly because of the love triange) and his place in this book just added to the slow and monotonous pacing. He never acts like a friend of Katniss, let alone a potential boyfriend, unless he's whining about how little attention she gives him or how much she gives Peeta. Considering Peeta is being held captive by the Capitol you'd think he'd be a little less egocentric but apparently that would be too out of character so he just behaves like an ass. Meanwhile Peeta is (SPOILER AHEAD) being brainwashed and turned into an anti-Katniss robot, and everyone is being so self-centred that none of them can think about anything outside of their own little bubble.
The reality TV elements and love triangle elements of the first two books were amplified far too much in these books so the story stagnated. Why was all the action happening in reports back to the group? Even if Katniss was being contained and controlled by the adults in charge, why wasn't there a main character (Gale perhaps?) the focus of several chapters kicking butt in each district as they overturn Capitol control? Why did the end speed through so quickly? Was Collins out of time, room or ideas?
Grievances aside though, I did really enjoy the book as I read it. These issues niggled at me a little as I read, but it wasn't until I put it down after racing all the way through it that I realised how disappointed I was. It wasn't that it was a bad book (because it wasn't) it's that I felt like there was great potential to create an amazing action/rebellion book that was completely missed. Regardless, the writing was of equal quality to the previous two books, and Collins put in great effort to paint the world so that we, the readers, could imagine every element of it. The story-telling itself was top-notch, it was the story that made the quality lag. I also have to commend Collins for her ability to kill of characters without hesitation! It's far more realistic to see a character you've invested in emotionally injured or killed when they're placed in a dangerous position, than the Hollywood ideal of three people managing to take down an entire army! It was heartbreaking, but it made me respect Collins a great deal more for having the balls to do it.
I know I've made it seem like a complete failure of a book with this review, I want to reiterate that this ISN'T the case. It was just a disappointing third installment FOR ME after two remarkable books. I'd still recommend reading the series at a whole, this book does provide the climax, answers and resolutions that have been building through the entire series. It wasn't the final book I was hoping for, but it was interesting nonetheless, and I certainly was invested in it as I read it.
What did everyone else think about this one?