Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This review contains spoilers for the entire Hunger Games series. Proceed with care. There are also some comments about the series at the end.

Mockingjay is the last book on the Hunger Games series, a series which, in my opinion, had its peak on the first book.

After being rescued by the rebels from District 13, Katniss becomes a vital part of their plan to overthrow the government from the Capitol. They believe she can rally all the districts to a common cause. But for that to happen she has to become the symbol of defiance, the Mockingjay.

However, the bad news are that the rebels weren't able to rescue everyone, and President Snow has Peeta as a prisoner, and isn't below playing dirty to get what he wants.

Mockingjay is clearly inferior to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. There is the bonus of the greater development of the back story (and I believe there is no reason, or excuse, to do that only on the last book of the series), but even that left more questions unanswered.

The story was captivating enough at first, especially because I was learning so much about District 13 and their militaristic society. However the drama and angst started to pile up so much that I eventually got so fed up with it that I just wanted it to be over.

There was some development on the characters as well, which I liked even if the direction it took was not to my liking. Katniss lost most of her self-assuredness, becoming a depressed, lost and even weak girl. In fact, she became the opposite of what she was in the beginning of the series. This sense of loss had its impact on the storytelling because, as it is told from her point of view in the 1st person, her confusion was my confusion, and there where times I truly felt like screaming at her to wake up and start doing something.

Although there was a clear evolution to the characters, I'm not sure the same can be said about the society of Panem. One phrase that came to my mind at the beginning of the book and stuck was “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”, which I believe describes what happened. I'm not sure the general population got a better deal out of this revolution and, unfortunately, by the end of the book I'm still left wondering.

One of my fears after reading Catching Fire was that I wasn't going to have a fulfilling ending, and I'm afraid I was right about that. But by the point it came about it didn't bother me so much as I thought it would – I was quite bored already with the story and didn't care whichever way it ended, only that it did.

Mockingjay was entertaining at first, but lost all of its appeal midway when the angst became too much – to the point that I lost all interest in it.


I do, however, have some comments to make on the entire series, and some questions left unanswered.

First, I must say I felt that this series suffered from being targeted to young adults. Young Adult Literature can be great, there are a lot of examples of that, but there are also a lot of examples where it seems that something is missing, some depth, and this holds true for the Hunger Games. I cared about the world, the politics, the society. What I did not care about was long descriptions of dresses, spa treatments, waxing of legs and constant angst about which boy to pick.

Another thing that irked me a bit was the use of first person, present tense. First person narrative is not easy, it limits what can be said about other characters, and usually makes it impossible to know what is happening outside the scope of “our” character. Present tense, although it allows for the reader to identify with the character more easily, can be awkward, especially when trying to convey the passage of time. And it was on this point that I didn't like its use on the series. Every time there was a break in the story time, be it days or just a couple of hours, I had to get my bearings and realise that it was not a continuation of the previous action.

My biggest question, and I have to admit it only started to really nag me on the third book, is: What about the rest of World? What happened to them? On the first book it is mentioned that Panem is in US. With that in mind, I had the picture of the United States – with the districts somewhere in there. But when on the beginning of Mockingjay the story of District 13 is being told, and there is the part when it says that they had no help because no other district would help it, the question about the rest of the world becomes quite blatant. Couldn't they have gone to Canada for help? I'm not talking about crossing an ocean, or half the world, just the non-existent border.

On Catching Fire, when they are inserting Katniss' tracker I realised I didn't think much about her first tracker. They must have taken it out, otherwise they wouldn't need to get her a new one. And it must be removed, it doesn't disappear, otherwise Johanna wouldn't have to dig through Katniss' arm to get it out.
But if I was a government keen on spying and controlling the population, and since the Victors of the Hunger Games are the heroes of their district (and a bit a sign of defiance – they played by Capitol's rules and survived), I would want to keep a tracker on them, know exactly where they are, and if they were meeting other Victors.

Also on Catching Fire, at the beginning, President Snow make it quite certain that he knew Gale wasn't just a cousin, he even said he knew about the kiss. He was also in a bit of trouble with the other districts thinking of Katniss as a sign of rebellion – their icon of rebellion, actually. Wouldn't it make much more sense to try to undermine Katniss' popularity, make her dislikeable (which is not that hard, especially since Peeta was the only reason for her likeability), by showing how she was lying to Peeta, “going behind his back” with another boy? She would become evil to the eyes of most viewers, lose her power, and her fame as a girl-in-love. She wouldn't be a suitable Mockingjay, if most of the people didn't like her.


  1. Huge post.

    Mmm, I don't think Canada existed any more...only Panem had living people...(not sure :s)

    *rofl* that scene when Snow tells her he knows about the kiss I laugh so hard, it's SO ridiculous! xD

    Can you tell me why the cat suddenly became so important and had so many scenes? I'm still hoping someone will explain me.

  2. I agree with your opinion of the last book, entirely.

    Also, that thing about the rest of the world bugged me as well, from book one onwards. I guess, the author didn't want to go there with the story, but she should've at last told us something. It almost seems like only the USA is still on earth and the rest just vanished.
    I hadn't though about that issue with the tracker, but you make a VERY good point there, and I also was O.o when Snow mentioned the kiss. I was like "where did that come from". And you're right. He could've just ended it all there if he used that info.

    Still, I recommend the series as a whole because I find it an enjoyable read.

  3. A bit pretentious to assume the rest of the world wouldn't survive, I think. If the rest of the world didn't matter, it would be much more easy to never mention it was the US. Then it wouldn't matter because we didn't know there was supposed to be more land besides Panem.

    The cat probably got that much attention because the goat disappeared. But I like cats, so it was ok to me.

    I recommend the series, but I must warn about being totally disappointed with the ending.