Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

by Blythe Robbins

A Good, if not Great, Ending

If you haven’t yet read The Hunger Games trilogy, then prepare yourself for a reading experience unlike any other. No matter what you’re doing, you’ll want to devour the story; pizza will be left uneaten, homework incomplete, and your boyfriend left dateless and cranky- until you hook him onto the trilogy too. Like violence? Check. Love triangles? Check. Never-ending action with shocking plot twists? Check and check!

Suzanne Collins’ trilogy The Hunger GamesCatching Fire, and now the newly released Mockingjay, never fails to keep the reader hypnotized.  As the last book in the series, Mockingjay concludes seventeen year old Katniss Everdeen’s journey (WARNING: Spoiler Alert) from a struggling District 12 citizen to figurehead of Panem’s rebellion. Mockingjay answers all the questions sparked in the first two books (Peeta or Gale?; The Rebellion or the Capitol?), and even takes all the beloved themes of the series (violence, love, self-determination) to new heights.

Violence is inescapable in the first two books, and book three is no exception. While much of the violence that existed within and around the Hunger Games arena in the first two novels often revolved around our personal investment in the characters (remember Rue? Cinna? Maggie?), conversely Mockingjay unrolls the violence more haphazardly to give it an impersonal pitch. While Peeta experiences torture at the hands of President Snow (with shocking consequences), his torment in the Capitol happens behind the scenes. The real violence emerges in the narrative of the ongoing war between the Rebels and the Capitol. Descriptive and gratuitous, featureless people on both sides of the war die frequently. The reader becomes so numb to the continuing onslaught of violence that when a beloved character does die, it seems unnecessary and unfeeling-no tears are provoked, as was so often the case in the first two books.

The resulting high levels of violence in the book act as a backdrop to Katniss’ growing distaste for the bloodshed around her. With Peeta out of the picture for the first half of the book, Katniss and Gale seem set up to develop a deeper relationship. But their relationship falls flat. Katniss rejects Gale’s growing involvement in the war, and even their friendship feels stale and forced at times. Love, in fact, feels secondary to the ongoing war throughout the novel. Even the big question  that we are all dying to know – will Katniss choose Peeta or Gale – seems solved as an afterthought. With no grand climax to the choice, no discovery of hidden emotions, the resulting final choice feels indistinct – as though Katniss could just as easily have ended up with either man and it would have made no difference to the ending of the novel.

Katniss’ disinterest in love throughout the novel (until the epilogue) seems due to her new role in the rebellion. After being pressured to be the Rebellion’s mockingjay, Katniss accepts but struggles to deal with others’ high expectations mixed with her own dissatisfaction. Katniss struggles to make peace with her past and present choices. But this struggle is not always easy to sit with as the reader, as we long for her to return to the self-assured Katniss that won our hearts in the arena. As though in answer to our thoughts, Collins creates another arena in the third book, where we expect Katniss to shine. Yet, the scenes are convoluted and disappointing; there’s plenty of violence and tough choices to be made, but no resolution at the end of the scenes.

The real climax of Mockingjay comes as Katniss must make one last choice about who is her greater enemy: the past puppet master in the form of President Snow or the present one in the form of the Rebellion leader, Coin. Her final choice is supposed to be surprising but feels rather expected, and we never feel as though Katniss has emerged victorious. Still, in the end this is a novel that demands our attention. While Mockingjay isn’t as satisfying as the first two novels, it’s an equally addictive and compelling read because it adds essential pieces to The Hunger Games puzzle. No matter what are Mockingjay’s limitations, you definitely won’t walk away from the trilogy disappointed.

Blythe Robbins, a Californian living in New York City, is a geeky editor by day. At night, she can be found reading fiction or writing her blog: theonegoodthingblog.blogspot.com.

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