Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Mockingjay

Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year. -- Scholastic

Like the rest of the book blogging community (or was it the world?), I couldn't wait to read the last book in the Hunger Games series, MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins. I know I'm not alone in my adoration for this series; however, as excited as I was, I also found myself a little sad as I read this book because it's the end of a wonderful ride! 

I finished MOCKINGJAY almost a week ago and, like many of you, I couldn't put the book down. For some reason though, I haven't rushed to write my review. And I'm still not entirely sure that I can articulate my thoughts about this book in writing (although I have had a great time talking about this book with a friend.) While I definitely enjoyed MOCKINGJAY and I admit that the novel affected me a great deal, I think it's my least favorite of the entire series.  

Now, there are probably a number of reasons for my feelings that have nothing to do with the quality of MOCKINGJAY. The first being that I loved THE HUNGER GAMES so much because I thought it was such an original premise for a novel (my review.) Neither MOCKINGJAY or CATCHING FIRE (my review) were quite as good as the first book in my mind. I also think that the "letdown" of the series ending might have played another role. And, I set some my pretty unfair expectations for this novel because I got caught up in the excitement surrounding the book's release. So I guess what I'm saying is that I really liked this book at face value, but when I started to analyze it bit-by-bit, I found that I had a few issues with it. Lesson learned: sometimes it's possible to overthink a book!

Since there are already tons of wonderful reviews out there for MOCKINGJAY, I don't really feel that I have much more to add. So instead of a traditional review, I guess I'm just going to share a few of my thoughts:
  • I love Suzanne Collins' writing style and storytelling abilities, and MOCKINGJAY didn't disappoint on those fronts.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns as well as the many surprises that were thrown into the story.
  • I think Ms. Collins' social commentary on war and power are brilliant!
  •  I thought that having Prim become a casualty of war was perfect (even though it didn't come as a total shock for me.) The entire reason that Katniss entered into the Hunger Games and became caught up in all of the "games" was to protect her little sister. When Prim dies anyway, I felt as if it really hammered home the idea that so much of what Katniss did was in vain and that war affects so many innocent people.
  • I appreciated that Katniss eventually found some sort of peace in her life, even though it took many years. I would even go so far as to say that ending showed me that Katniss was resilient and strong and realized that life must go on despite all of the tragedy. I even felt some glimmer of hope for Katniss!
Now here were some of my issues -- warning: there are a few spoilers!
  • Katniss is one of my favorite female characters in any story and I just love her for her intelligence, loyalty and strength. What kind of bothered me in MOCKINGJAY is that I didn't feel like Katniss exhibited those traits in much of this book. I realize that Katniss had been to hell and back, but I really wanted to see more of the "old" Katniss.
  • I loved both Peeta and Gale in the first two books and I had a hard time picking a favorite. In my mind, I guess I expected that Katniss wouldn't end up with either one of them. It's not that I wasn't happy that Katniss ended up with Peeta because I do think he truly loved her. I was just disappointed with how Gale was portrayed throughout the last quarter of the book.
  • I felt as if there was a great deal of violence in the second half of this book. Of course, I realize that all of the books were violent to a degree, but this one seemed to affect me more than the others. At times, I became almost numb to all of it (maybe feeling a bit like Katniss?) and found myself not reading parts as closely as I should have.
  • There were a few storylines that left me confused and I would have liked more of an explanation. I still don't think I understood Peeta's condition or his recovery. And I have no idea what caused Gale to have such a major personality change (or at least it was major to me!)
Overall, my experience with MOCKINGJAY was extremely positive and I hate that this "review" might seem like I didn't appreciate the novel. I really, really liked it!!! Anyway.... I highly recommend MOCKINGJAY


Nise' said...

Reading everyone's thoughts about the book/series has been just as enjoyable as reading it has been!

Amy said...

I've actually found that analyzing this book and the series has increased my appreciation for it! I'm really loving digging into the layers of meaning in the books...and may write a few essays.

I loved this book and while I may have had some minor issues with things they aren't enough for me to feel truly bothered.

It's funny because I liked The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, but I loved Mockingjay so much as a conclusion it moved the entire series up in my estimation.

I'm glad you enjoyed it even if you didn't love it. ;)

Unknown said...

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September 1, 2010 12:23 PM

Alyce said...

I have mixed feelings about this book too. I enjoyed reading it, but it did have some flaws that annoyed me (like the second half feeling rushed). I thought that the first half of the book was more intriguing than most of the first two books (of course it wouldn't have made sense w/o the first two books though). I was disappointed with the lack of detail about Prim and about Peeta's recovery.

Beth Kephart said...

I have not read any of the books in this series — a terrible confession, and only making it public here — but I have been fascinated by the conversation. Someday I will dig in (I've read pieces of each). For now I am listening closely.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm not home and don't have a word processor so I can't write up my thoughts yet, but I pretty much feel the same way as you and Beth Fish Reads about Mockingjay. Still, I love the series so much, and think that the way so many of us have questions about Mockingjay shows how much we care about the characters!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who hasn't read these.

Anonymous said...

In hindsight, I completely understand how you would have seen Prim's death coming. I am a total blockhead though, and while I think it was fitting given how Katniss got started in the games to begin with, I never saw Prim's death coming!

Unknown said...

I'm with Amy, the more I discuss it and read everyone else's reviews, the more excited I get and interesting it becomes!

There is so much I want to say, but I don't want to bore you, so I'll limit myself to one comment on Peeta's mental condition, for lack of a better term.

I think this is one of those sci-fi things that we just have to accept without understanding it fully. Collins shocked us, and then confused us. Once I just let go of the hows and whys and just let his role play out, I enjoyed it more. The "real or not real" with his squad was one of my favorite parts - it was a Band of Brothers meets The Hunger Games moment for me.

Sandy Nawrot said...

The kids and I are SLOWLY making our way through the audio (only on disc 2). Freaking schedule is going to drive me to the bottle. Anyway, I think no matter what happens and how it all works out, we will feel at peace because at least it is done. We are invested in the characters and will go along for the ride. Stay tuned on our opinions...

bermudaonion said...

Carl read this one, but I haven't even read The Hunger Games yet! I am so behind. He said the beginning was slow but the second half grabbed him and he couldn't put the book down.

Beth F said...

As you know, we agree on so many things. And yes, I see now why Prim died and I think I just missed the boat on that one when I wrote my post.

I think if we had been witness to more of the story, I would have accepted some of the changes in personality and so on -- but to me, they just kind of happened magically.

Anonymous said...

I had some minor issues with the book myself, but overall I really enjoyed it.

Matching Socks said...

Reading these reviews was interesting to me. I didn't like this book but consider Hunger Games to be one of my all time favorite YA books.

I teach middle school. This year our 8th graders, all 400 of them, read Hunger Games. This prompted hundreds to go on and read the whole series. The overwhelming majority didn't like Mockingjay either. Their reactions ranged from literally throwing the book across the room and into the wall, alerting dad. to "Eehh, it was alright."

My adult reading group read and discussed this as well. Discussed is not an accurate verb. Blasted would be more accurate.

I won't waste time listing the myriad of problems I have heard from readers. I will lament that this last book really ruined the reread value of the series for YA. One weird thing about YA's is they reread books they like. Like watching a movie or TV show you have already seen. However, this dark and unsatisfying ending really killed its reread appeal.

I actually mourned at the end of the Mockingjay because of what had been done to characters I had come to love.