Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games #3)
Mockingjay starts almost right where Catching Fire left off, with Katniss settling into District 13 and coming to terms with the destruction of her home district, 12. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol, although Gale has managed to rescue Katniss' mother and Prim and bring them to 13. Katniss is supposed to be playing the role of the figurehead of the revolution, but she is uneasy with the implications of this and struggles with what she should do. Meanwhile, the war rages on and it becomes apparent that Peeta is being tortured under the authority of President Snow, maybe even beyond recognition.
I had mixed feelings about Mockingjay. I so wanted to like it, and it did have many positive elements, but ultimately I closed the book feeling a bit let down. To start with the positives; I enjoyed seeing what District 13 was like and the military fashion in which the people there had prepared themselves for war with Snow. I like that Collins didn't shy away from the brutality of war, and that there were quite a few darker scenes included, especially later in the book. War is merciless, and Collins most certainly gets that message across. Katniss' confusion at what role she should play came across as genuine, and it felt realistic for someone who may have had a big role to play symbolically, but who hadn't been involved in any strategic planning etc. I'm glad Collins didn't go down the route of having a super-Katniss save the world. And the twist where Katniss shoots someone different at the end was clever indeed, I did not see that coming!
Unfortunately, there were negatives to go alongside these positives. Plot-wise, I liked that Peeta had been tortured in such a way to corrupt his memories and turn him against the rebels. However, after all these detailed passages about how new and permanent this hijacking torture method was, he seemed to recover at crucial points pretty conveniently and quickly. Also, Katniss had a tendency to get herself injured at key moments, which means that too often Collins told us what happened rather than showed us. Katniss is acquitted at the end and all that gets is a paragraph from Haymitch - I wanted to actually see it happen and I was frustrated with the action scenes being cut off so abruptly. The pods in the city were just silly and felt like an unnecessary nod to the earlier Hunger Games plots. But most of all, although I liked that war was shown as being brutal, Collins did too much without enough impact. I wanted to feel the deaths and I just didn't, and I never felt the emotion of being in a war properly.
On the whole, Mockingjay is still a good book. It was certainly a page-turner and I did enjoy it, it was just a bit of a let down after how strong the previous two volumes in the trilogy were. It's worth picking up to find out what happens in the end, but be prepared that it may not be as amazing as you are hoping.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2011
Score: 3.5 out of 5