Wednesday 15 September 2010

Review - Mockingjay / Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost. Goodreads.

Review - The wait and resulting anticipation for this title have been like a dark sky cloaking the YA bloggerdom.  Then it rained, absolutely poured Mockingjays and while the flowers were drinking plentifully, the mosquitoes were out in record numbers.  You've got to take the good with the bad and I, for one, am glad to have finally read the concluding title (even if accompanied by loud, ever present buzzing).

spoilers if you choose to continue...

Don't let my introduction to this review fool you - there are parts to enjoy.  The depiction of post traumatic stress disorder was finely integrated into many characters suffering.  It was done in a way that was true to themselves and their experiences.  The hunger games took their toll on their bodies but it was their minds and spirits that took the real hit.  Nothing exemplifies this more than the character of Finnick who arguably suffered more than most and deserved a Rue-like send off rather than the nothingness he did receive.  It is a thought provoking study of what people will do (and sacrifice) for freedom and the people they love.

As for the characterisation in general, I am less enamoured.  Many characters felt plopped into arcs that had less to do with their motivations and more to do with the machinations of the plot.  The directions taken were all depending on Collins' end point and it didn't service the integrity of the characters.  Gale and Peeta were the most consistent despite the issues along the way but Katniss...ah Katniss....failed to make an impact.

Collins continually wrote Katniss as a passive and occasionally reactive individual.  Does this gel with our poaching, berry eating heroine's past?    She only committed to an action when she was left with no other choice.  This doesn't make for an electric reading experience and was a huge disservice to a character that deserved better.  Gale's methods might have been dubious but he was full of conviction and drive.  Peeta might have been 'hijacked' but he committed himself toward recuperation and helping the cause.  Katniss, however, dithered until she couldn't afford to dither anymore.  The disappointment was overwhelming.

As for the writing - at times it rushed forward at the expense of clarity and at other times languished in the inconsequential, repetitive doldrums.  The pacing was a mess, never more so than the painful lurch towards the conclusion.  As if that wasn't enough, two characters are dismissed (death and a job transfer) with little attention.  One might have been used for a sloppy motivation to finally put a cracker under our protagonist's rear but it was still underwhelming.  The second character shuffle made a lie of a strong friendship. Collins' work felt rushed, under edited and simplistic.  In particular, there is an extended analogy regarding Katniss and Prim's cat, Buttercup, that made me wonder if Collins' had consider tossing in the kitchen sink too. This is my core difficulty with Mockingjay, the storytelling is heavy handed and lacking a deft hand. And then there's the tendency towards writing overwrought and excruciatingly painful scenes where the District 13 meal of the day is discussed.

As for the epilogue...oh boy.  If the final chapters made a lie of Katniss and Gale's friendship then the epilogue set it on fire and then fed it to the muttations.  While it is nice to think that Gale is doing good elsewhere it is genuinely sad that their friendship dies.  Katniss marries Peeta because he's stuck with her, eventually capitulates to having children and lives a generally blah existence.  My sympathies lie with Peeta - he might have won but geez did he lose.

Mockingjay was a disappointment in its delivery, more than its narrative arc.  Had the writing been stronger, less roughshod, then it would have sat better with me.

Published: August 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 390 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: gift
Origin: USA


Amy said...

I read the epilogue totally different than you! Sorry you didn't enjoy this one like I did.

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

I cannot read your review just yet, I still have my copy on the shelf. I'm just so afraid of spoilers :)

Rae said...

I disagree pretty strongly about Katniss. I felt she was consistently passive throughout all three books, only taking action when she had no other choice. Only being proactive when it was a matter of life or death to those she loved or herself. She is the very definition of a reluctant hero so her portrayal in this last book seemed pretty true to the Katniss I met in the first two books.

However, I do agree the end was way too rushed. I have no problem with the end of Gale and Katniss' friendship being one of the casualities of all that happened... But then I always felt like Collins had set that in motion very early on in the series. Gale was never a viable option for Katniss as far as I could see and I was just happy she didn't take the easy way out and have him killed to resolve the triangle. But I would have preferred a bit more time with the two of them at the end, seeing the discord between the two of them tearing at their friendship. The setup was there, the follow through not so much.

I did however like Prim's death. Errr, the scene (and aftermath) was way too rushed and obviously I didn't like Prim dying but I thought it was a good bookend to the overall story. In freeing a nation full of people with a revolution she never truly meant to start, she ultimately loses the one thing she intended to save. As dystopian fiction goes, it's the type of ending that appeals to me.

The epilogue felt... unnecssary. Ha, yes, somewhat because I don't really like my dystopian fiction to have "happy" endings. It's too neat and tidy. They completely disrupted the order of society in Panem, would peace really come that quickly and easily afterwards? Also, I was a little sad it closed the door so quickly on the possibility of other Panem stories. Not that the epilogue has to preclude that but it certainly seemed to be Collins giving people a definitive "ending" for these characters.

Adele said...

I totally get what you're saying, Rae. Like in THG when she hid from the Careers etc but it felt more grating in this novel as the situation had escalated to a point where having her sulk for days wasn't fun. I guess what I should have said was that her passivity in this novel was fun to read :)

Rae said...

That I can relate to, it was definitely frustrating at times how long it took her to snap out of it. Though, I have to admit that's probably more because I was worried about other characters and less because I didn't think it was justified character-wise.

nomadreader said...

I hated this book. It was a disappointing follow-up to Catching Fire, which I loved. It really soured the whole series for me.

Holly said...

I liked how Katniss was written in this one. She's tired, beaten down, and just going through the motions without a lot of drive anymore. Seems like an ideal reaction to the situation she has faced. Also I can imagine the deep depression would also make her behave the way she does in the book.

Great review!

Carla said...

YAY you read it!!! You like me couldn't get hold of a copy for a while!

and I love this review like I have never loved a review before, because you have NAILED exactly why I had a lot of issues with the book, so much more articulately than i ever did in my review. I felt that certain plot points were lingered on too long and the scenes that should've packed a punch left me reeling and back pedeling because they happen so fast I had no idea how they were supposed to make me feel, or what point they had to the storyline.

PLUS, the character traits and personalities in this installment just really confused me. Where were the people we met in the first two books? I think collins got hijacked and someone else wrote this book. i really do.

Jordyn said...

Wow, our reviews went up on the same day but our reactions couldn't have been more different. I felt like Katniss was somewhat passive throughout all three books (for the most part), but at least that in this book we really saw why. It made more sense to me here than it did in THG or CATCHING FIRE (which, unlike a lot of readers, I wasn't a big fan of). I also saw the Peeta/Katniss/Gale ending differently than some... I feel like Collins set it up for Katniss to make this choice much earlier than we actually saw in the book. The romance was never a huge part of this trilogy and by the time we saw who she ended up with it seemed as though she hadn't really made a choice; I think she DID make a choice, but Collins just didn't let it play out "on-screen" as much as most readers were expecting/wanting.


I agree!! I was severely disappointed with this book. The characters felt like strangers to me, and Katniss was nothing of her former self.

I'd rather read the fan fiction for Mockingjay than what Collins gave us...that should say something.

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you for this. All I'm reading everywhere is adulation, and I was so frustrated by Mockingjay. I disliked the writing, the pacing, the plot in general. When Katniss started explaining The Hanging Tree song I almost banged my head against the wall in disgust, in a GAH does she think readers are stupid? way. I agree with you about Finnick's death - it was not only badly handled, but when Annie said, all calmly, at the end, that she voted no and so would Finnick - that is so outrageously out of character as well.

The thing I disliked most about the book, though, was that there was no character growth. Katniss stayed the same person from the first book on, and since I never especially liked her, that was a bit frustrating to read.

The sad part is that I was expecting to enjoy the book, because I thought that Catching Fire was an improvement on The Hunger Games - more original, better pacing. But I was so disappointed. Oh well.

Book Butterfly (Kim) said...

You really captured this book so perfectly for me. I completely agree more with everything you said. I felt so shell-shocked afterward, like I needed a stiff drink and therapy! I don't feel satisfied with this book whatsoever. I hated the way Gale and Katniss' friendship ended and just the overall lack of hope. Katniss was so emotionally and physically broken for most of the book, it was so painful!

Beth S. said...

You managed to articulate my exact thought much better than I was able to. Great review!

Wings said...

excellent review!

i will admit to not having read this series yet, and also not really understanding the hype surrounding it.

but i am glad you posted a review with spoilers because even though i didn't know anything about the characters..i kind of wanted to know who ended up with katniss.

excellent review anyway, i still probably wont pick up this series.


Michelle said...

A to the MEN!

I feel like this was a book in a totally different series. Sure, there were things to enjoy and The Hunger Games trilogy is still my favorite but Mockingjay is the least of the three for sure. Everything you've said here is absolutely spot on in my opinion. I'll add, I've discussed with a few people that we wonder if Collins wrote the book this way so that it would be easier to adapt for the eventual movie. Either that and/or she was just over done because she was working on this and the screenplay for Hunger Games at the same time.

Either way I find myself a bit disappointed in how the book flowed and some of the larger plot points didn't do it for me.

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Unknown said...

I would just like to say...

that I love you and your review SO. FREAGGIN. HARD.

You've articulated exactly what I thought was completely off-kilter about Mockingjay, what a complete cop-out the epilogue was, and how utter crap the pacing was. I felt like SO much of the action was skipped out on, that there was so many wonderful scenes to be had that Collins opted to skip out on or make Katniss's POV *fade to black* on.... BLAH. Katniss and Gale's broken friendship was truly heartbreaking for me, especially since Collins seems to have made that a total plot device so that Peeta could get together with her and screw like rabbits. Arrggghhhh.

Thomas Adams said...

Mockingjay a rush job. This is exactly what crossed my mind towards the end of the book.

So many weird plot twists, way too many dead Good Ones, and quite a few unanswered questions as well.

I'm not sure how writing for money works. But could the publishing house have approached the author and demanded the book to fit into say 450 paperback pages? That would explain a lot for me then.