Spoiler Alert!!! In order to fully do justice to the review of this novel, spoilers are contained.
I just spent a full two days reading a book that will undoubtably result in one of my most disappointing book reviews EVER. I am writing this review on a “post-high,” as I just finished the book about 10 minutes ago feeling overwhelmed by anger and a lack of fulfillment. To my pleasant surprise, I am not alone in these feelings. After doing a bit of online research, I noticed that other intellectual and avid readers of this series have the same problems I do with this final book. Not all readers had quite as disgruntled things to say. In all fairness, there were many that enjoyed this story, giving it rave reviews. Not I, unfortunately.
And of what final installment do I refer to? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. This news may come as a major shock for those who have read and loved the series up to this point; much as it came as a major shock to myself once I finished it. I must point out that I am not trying to deter you from reading this book, especially if you are an avid follower of The Hunger Games. There must be some sort of closure for all of us who followed Katniss Everdeen’s story so faithfully. Yet, for myself and many others, Suzanne Collins failed to live up to the expectations and standards established upon the closing of the second installment, Catching Fire.
First, a little background on the series. The Hunger Games is a science fiction series geared toward young adults, set in a post-apocalyptic world of Panem, where North America previously stood. A powerful government, called the Capitol, reigns over 12 Districts. Their main source of control: an annual televised event called The Hunger Games, in which one girl and one boy from each district is entered in a fight to the death. Our main character, Katniss, sacrifices herself when her sister’s name is called for their district, and thus is thrown into the games. In both the first and second book, Katniss makes allies and friends, including her district’s male counterpart, Peeta. The games are gory, violent, and heart-wrenching, but the reader also gets to experience love and compassion through our heroine. Mockingjay picks up after Katniss has been rescued from the games and taken to the recently discovered District 13, following a rebellion she knew nothing about.
I will admit, there are a couple of great qualities in this story. For one, it is a page-turner. I mainly attribute this to the fact that the previous two novels left on such a cliff-hanger, that I jumped into this story whole-heartedly, searching for answers and an exciting ending. It is not short on suspense and Collins is not afraid to “close the chapter” on some of our favorite and most-beloved characters. Secondly, Collins stays away from the scenarios of her previous two novels, and instead sends us into a real world arena in which rebels are in a struggle against the Capitol and President Snow. These are the two strong qualities that kept me frozen for two solid days until the book was finished.
However, this is where my positive review ends. In a nutshell, Mockingjay was altogether an unfulfilling closure. It starts off slowly as Katniss is suffering from post traumatic stress attributed to many things, but mainly Peeta’s capture by the Capitol. The reader thinks she is going to lead a strong rebellion when she finally comes to her senses and decides to be the mockingjay; the leader of the movement and a symbol of freedom and strength. However, Katniss, who is supposed to be strong and courageous, simply becomes a puppet of propaganda. She’s weak, passive, and only uses her own voice of power a few times in the story. In fact, she has more emotional breakdowns, lands in the hospital far too many times, and is drugged up for much of the book. Is that the same girl Collins displayed in the first two novels? Hell no!
Other negatives? There are far too few scenes of battle in which Katniss can display her talents with her bow and arrow. Favorite characters like Peeta, Haymitch, Johanna, and even Gale, are underused. Even the love triangle goes away, the very thing that kept so many teenage girls (and myself :-)) reading. Both Peeta and Gale become unlikable! And to make matters worse, Collins doesn’t give Gale and Katniss a proper goodbye towards the end and in no way gives justice to the final reunion of Katniss and Peeta, the very reunion that would last them forever. I was so angry that Peeta just shows up and a couple of pages later Katniss finally admits that she loves him. So weak, so lazy.
My main problems with the story were with the characters and the plot structure, but the ending sequence especially ruined things for me. In a small way, I understand why Collins did not take Katniss into the Capitol to finish off Snow. She was foreshadowing the overthrow by Coin the entire book, and it played on the theme of “big brother government control” and how children are not even above the law. I admired the actions of Katniss in those moments at the “execution.” Again, though, Collins yanked the main character from center stage, drugged her up, and then following a “trial,” she was dropped back off in District 12, with no explanation to her future, and only vague closures on characters like Gale, her mother, and all the others that played such a significant role in Katniss’ life. Yes, it was always meant to be Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch in the end. However, the final pages felt like another death to me the way Collins lazily summed things up.
In conclusion, my mockingjay would have done things much differently, and though the themes are strong and hard to miss, I finished feeling empty. Katniss never lived up to the potential I expected, killing the image I sustained from her earlier trials and tribulations. So, I thank you, Suzanne Collins, for inspiring me to attempt to write something better.