I really wanted to love Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. After all, I had raced through the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy both times that I read them. When news of the third book hit the web, I didn’t even wait for its arrival at my local library. Instead I bought the boxed trilogy at a local bookstore. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen in the newly-discovered District 13, with the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, and to the Capitol now that its districts were staging rebellions. Yet despite winning me over by the end, this book is the weakest link.
To start, there are large logic holes: For example, can anyone tell me how exactly did Gale pull off the rescue of District 12? If the electricity was disabled solely due to the district being bombed, how did its hundreds of citizens flee in time to the lake? And how did Gale know about the lake? Last I heard Katniss hadn’t shared its location with anyone because of its held memories of her dad. Perhaps she shared its whereabouts at some point in her discreet talks with Gale, was of course overheard by all the knowing Capitol, and I have simply forgotten this moment. Even given this, why didn’t the Capitol didn’t simply pursue everyone to the lake in their hovercrafts?
I do admire the careful attention Collins bestows to new readers. In both Catching Fire and Mockingjay, she spends the first few chapters deftly alluding to earlier events. In a new twist, in Mockingjay, she even portrays Katniss as mentally instable, being visited by doctors, and using their recommended technique of remembering the simplest things she knows to be true: “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capital hates me. Peeta was taking prisoner. He is thought to be dead….” Personally, I thought this chant–repeated more than once in the first few chapters–to be overkill, but perhaps this is merely the arrogant reaction of a fan.
Collins also never really convinced me that former tribute and victor Finnick would have also succumbed to mental instability to the point that he rarely left his hospital bed. Yes, In Catching Fire, he did race after an imitation of his love’s voice. Yet afterwards he was the one who kept Katniss from chasing an imitation of her best friend’s voice. He also conspired with the allies to blow up the Hunger Games arena. Collins seemed to want to include him, without having any valid reason, and ultimately I dislike the role she gave him in the final section.
Which brings up another flaw. I tend to prefer character books. Collins’ masterful depiction of both major and minor characters is partially what drew me into her suspense books. In Mockingjay, I feel instead inundated with a dizzying array of bland characters from the newly-discovered District 13. Even when familar characters step into the scene such as Beeter, who was introduced in Catching Fire and instrumental to the escape of the allies from the death arena, very little new is revealed about them. And far too many favorite characters such as Effie and Cinna and Madge are absent, dead, or conveniently resurrected when Collins needs them.
Then there’s the setting. I don’t need the places in my novels to be visceral. After all, they’re rather lacking in plenty of other books on my wish list. Yet Collins’ adept delination of detail is partially what drew me into her suspense trilogy. There is a glimmer of her style in a line in the chapter about the lockdown drills, where Katniss stays behind a pipe in the laundry room and watches a spider construct a web. But it is only a glimmer, in contrast to the plentitude I found in her first two books: “ugly urn filled with fake flowers” “watch a beetle crawl up the side of a honeysuckle bush” “green and silver moth on his wrist” “fine wool coat that always seems too tight in the shoulders” “scent of oranges that still lingered on his chin” “feeble flame that burns on one end of a charred log”. No doubt, her craft suffered here due to District 13 being uniform in buildings, rooms, schedules, food, and pretty much everything else you could imagine. Then again, Collins created this bland other district. Why, I am not sure.
There were other moments besides that of the spider that I liked. There is the chapter where Haymitch challenges everyone to identify the moments when Katniss shone as a hero. There are the moments with Boggs, one of the District 13 military leaders, that endear him to Katniss and therefore to me. And there are the surprise twists such as what happened to those allies who were captured by the Capitol, what happens in District 2 when the rebels attempt to take it over, and other events that I can’t mention. Actually, with those twists, the suspense and the emotional angst builds. So, with this last book, the page-turning thrills (with its fighting and killing) are sadly are mostly what engaged me. What a disappointing finale to an otherwise brillant trilogy.
My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.
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