The long-awaited third book of the Hunger Games trilogy. I waited, waited, waited. I bought it the day it was released. I came home, read for two hours. The next morning I very luckily had my mother-in-law here to let me be a totally lazy excuse for a mom give me time to myself. I read for three hours, finished the book…
…and spent the rest of the day moaning about it.
But first, what worked: Collins handled the plot, with its many twists, exceptionally well. I cannot imagine trying to keep track of all the ins and outs of scenes and developments and secrets and subplots wrapped in agendas and sprinkled with yet more secrets. The themes of power and politics were fleshed out beautifully. The twist with Peeta, while not wholly unexpected, was done in a way I didn’t expect, which made for some fun and fascinating reading.
[Alert, danger danger, LOOK OUT – SPOILER ALERT!]
[And also warning: this is the place where I start sounding even less like a book reviewer, and more like a reader ranting.]
Blood and gore abound in Mockingjay, which doesn’t make it very different from its predecessors. What killed me, though, absolutely killed me, was the downer of an ending. Lives are completely changed by war, I get that. It’s terrible and sad and maybe Collins was right not to soften the way Katniss’s life changes. It was just so depressing, though. Maybe this makes me shallow, and that’s okay, but I kinda wish I hadn’t read it. I was looking for entertainment, a seemingly-impossible satisfying wrap-up to a love triangle, and the end of Voldemort, er, I mean President Snow.
In addition to those things, I got oodles of violence. I guess I could handle it in the first two books, but if this had been a movie I’d have walked out. (I sat through Sin City with a blanket over my head in the movie theater. Yes, I brought a blanket with me. Based on reviews I expected to be a little freaked out. I was a LOT freaked out and so glad I had a snuggly blanket to hide under. I thought of giving it to the nine-year-old girls sitting down the row from me, then thought it would be better used to strangle their father who sat with them, but I just cowered under it like the cowered [couldn’t resist] I am. But I digress.)
The problem with the violence in Mockingjay wasn’t that it was unexpected or too detailed. I guess it was the children. This sounds a little funny, I suppose. I mean, the Hunger Games themselves are fights-to-the-death of 12- to 18-year-olds. But there were little kids dying all over the place in this book, and even if you aren’t a mother I’m sure this kind of thing would get to you.
Then, of course, we get the piece de resistance at the end, the big explosion, the one that changes everything. It changes Katniss, her place in the war, her allegiances, her trust, and her relationship with Gale. Really it was a brilliant explosion for the plot. But it’s what turned me off to the whole book, just a few chapters from the end. It sounds funny, I know, complaining about violence against children in the Hunger Games books. It’s like saying, “I prefer my violence against children to be a little more light-hearted and smaller-scale, thanks.”
After the bombing, it was all different shades of bleak.
Despite the Harry Potter-esque epilogue tacked on to the end, I felt hopeless. Katniss was forever changed by the war, the people she lost, and the part she had in it all. How could she not be? I just, I don’t know. Some hope would be good, occasionally.
Overall, I think Collins accomplished what she set out to do: she wrote a piece of realistic science fiction that does not glorify war or killing. She kept Katniss true to Katniss’s self, she didn’t sell out (and that “she” can be deliberately ambiguous, referring to Collins or Katniss). She kept us all glued to the page, cheering and crying for Katniss.
Sigh. But mostly crying.
(PS: I don’t know what happened to my paragraph breaks, but I’m on my way out the door and don’t have time to mess with it. I apologize for the irritating lack of white space, and I’ll try to fix it later.)