Title: Mockingjay
Series: Sequel to Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
ISBN: 9780439023511
Pages: 398 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2010.

The president allows a few moments of unrest, and then continues in her brisk fashion. Only now the words coming out of her mouth are news to me. “But in return for this unprecedented request, Soldier Everdeen has promised to devote herself to our cause. It follows that any deviance from her mission, in either motive or deed, will be viewed as a break in this agreement. The immunity would be terminated and the fate of the four victors determined by the law of District Thirteen. As would her own. Thank you.”
In other words, I step out of line and we’re all dead. (58)

I’ve always tried really hard to avoid spoilers in this blog. I’ve really, truly, desperately tried to avoid spoilers. And Mockingjay is one of those books that really challenges me to NOT reveal anything. I’m sure by this time that the die-hard fans have probably read it. If you haven’t and you’re still patiently waiting on the hold list (like I was) for your turn at the library’s copy, then what I say probably isn’t going to change your opinion of the author, the series, or the book, and you’re still going to want to read it.

DON’T.

That’s right, I said it, and I’m risking alienating myself from the rest of the reading community with this review that I’ve been working on for over a week now. But I did not like this book. Well, I guess that’s the wrong way to say it. I liked the adventure, the action, and the premise behind the story. It was just as suspensful as the others, although a little rambling at times. I think I should have listened to the book as opposed to reading it, because it would have prevented me from skipping around and skipping ahead while reading it. It was Katniss who really, REALLY got on my nerves. And talking it over with my coworker, I’m not the only one. And seeing this other brave reviewer’s thoughts, I know I’m not the only one. So for all those people out there who are afraid to say it, here’s why Katniss really, REALLY got on my nerves.

So there’s only so much I can say without ruining anything. Because in typical Hunger Games style, there are a lot of twists and turns that Collins throws at readers. I think most people realize, especially after reading my review of Catching Fire, that there is an impending revolt in the Districts as they finally realize how awful their living situations have been. Katniss is still stressed beyond belief trying to protect the people she loves and she is still being manipulated by groups of people, most of whom seem driven by their own agendas.

I know that’s a vague summary, but in essence that’s the best I can give you. Because there’s a lot of pages in this book where Katniss is considering the situations she’s in. I cut her some slack in the first book. I even cut her some slack in the second book. But now we’re in the third book, and she is still relying on other people to make her decisions for her. She keeps putting other people before herself, other causes before herself, and while some people might see that as selfless, I see it as spineless. She assumes the role that is most likely to keep her and her family and friends safe, but then when she finally has everyone together she STILL refuses to act on her gut instincts. She STILL agrees to serve as the pawn, prancing around as the spokesperson to a cause towards which she really isn’t committed. Katniss is not a fighter. Oh sure, she plays one on tv really well (she plays one in the games really well too), but she wants to live her life out of the spotlight. She’ll fight to save herself, but I think she ultimately wants peace. It’s frustrating to see her cave to the pressures that everyone around her is forcing on her. The only real responsibility she has is to take care of her family, but she has all these other things placed on her. I guess is it any wonder that she caves, and wouldn’t we do the same if in that position?

I was EXTREMELY angry with how things ended in the epilogue, as I’m sure some other people as well, and not because of who Katniss ends up with in the end. I’ve always been torn between Peeta and Gale because I never saw either of them as very good options. There’s this great blog about how Peeta people like Peeta because that’s who we see in the stories, and Gale people like Gale because of the mystery surrounding his responses if he was in Peeta’s situations. (And if anyone knows who posted that discussion, please provide me the link, because now of course after a week of searching I can’t find it!) But Gale is too timid for me, Peeta is too manipulative, and both lay the guilt trip on Katniss for trying to keep herself and basically EVERYONE alive. Although, I have to admit that seeing Katniss and Gale together pulled at my heart strings, just a little bit.

I roll my eyes. “So when did I become so special? When they carted me off to the Capitol?”
“No. About six months before that. Right after New Year’s. We were in the Hob, eating some slop of Greasy Sae’s. And Darius was teasing you about trading a rabbit for one of his kisses. And I realized . . . I minded,” he tells me. (199)

And, in an effort to keep things fair, here’s an equally touching half of a scene with Peeta. Just try reading the whole thing without getting goosebumps.

It’s a long shot, it’s suicide maybe, but I do the only thing I can think of. I lean in and kiss Peeta full on the mouth. His whole body starts shuddering, but I keep my lips pressed to his until I have to come up for air. My hands slide up his wrists to clasp his. “Don’t let him take you from me.” (314)

And while I appreciated these moments where the action slowed down and we got to see the Katniss and Gale and Peeta and… everybody that we’d grown to love, they were few and far between. Most of the time, readers would witness the preceading action, and then it would fast forward to the next day, or an hour later. Part of that is due to the cliff hanger endings that are present with most of the chapters and that lead to the breakneck pace of the novel. And I think that’s the appeal, is that readers want to be swept away into this distopian world and forget everything. And she succeeds with the break neck speed maybe to well, because I at least really wished for some more of those quiet moments. But I can’t forget the other problems with this book.

I think my biggest problem with this book is that there is really no happy ending for Katniss, there is no joy, and she caves. She gives up. There are a lot of deaths in this book. Heck in the series there are a lot of deaths, but it was characters that we really didn’t know and really didn’t care about. In Mockingjay, people we’ve grown to love and cheer for either die or leave. And Katniss loses all of that drive to succeed and loses her hope for a better, quieter future. Blaming herself for every bad thing that has ever happened, she resigns to live the life that everyone has dictated for her. Katniss, by the end of the novel, has lost the spitfire personality that encouraged so many people to root for her in the beginning. And it’s disheartening for everyone who saw her as such a strong capable woman see her cave under the pressure the way she does.

The professional journals rave about this book. Booklist gave it a starred review, stating that Collins “brings readers to questions and conclusions about war throughout the story. […] Yet readers will instinctively understand what Katniss knows in her soul, that war mixes the slogans and justifications, the deceptions and plans, the causes and ideals into an unsavory stew whose taste brings madness. That there is still a human spirit yearning for good is the book’s primrose of hope.” Publishers Weekly says that “the latest installment being the best yet, a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every label.” I can’t accept that.

Yes, I realize that war is horrible. I think we all know that war is horrible. And I’ll admit that Collins portrays the horrors of war beautifully. People are shot at and stabbed and burned and blown up. But is that really what we want to be able to remember about a book? Is that really what we promote to our teens five years down the line? “Oh, here’s this novel about a girl who finds herself a pawn in a war and is trying to save all her friends and family members by serving as spokesperson for a revolutionary movement she doesn’t completely believe in. You’re going to hate what she becomes and be flabbergasted by what happens that pushes her in that direction, but war is portrayed realistically.” Is this something you’d want to read.

Actually, I just might want to pick up a copy of that book. Oh wait, I did.

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