Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3

Fifty pages into Mockingjay, I wanted to quit. It's not that the plot was dragging, the characters were poorly developed or the writing suddenly sucked. No, Collins had brought her A-game to the table in all of these areas. The problem was that what I was reading was so harrowing, so totally and utterly heartbreaking, that it threatened to rob me of breath.

From what I've been told, this is where a lot of people give up on Mockingjay. It's just too much. Seeing Katniss trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of self-loathing and utterly soul crushing despair is bad enough. Having it conveyed with such beautiful, powerful mastery of language makes it almost unbearable.

The good news is that just when it becomes too much it gets better.


Mockingjay picks up shortly after the spot that Catching Fire left off. The people of district 13 want Katniss to become the Mockingjay. But Katniss is still furious and heartbroken that Peeta was left at the mercy of those in the Capitol. After seeing Peeta in a Capitol broadcast, Katniss realizes that she must take action. The cease fire that Peeta is suggesting can help no one. And with the rebel forces viewing Peeta as a traitor, Katniss demanding he be given immunity if she takes up the role of Mockingjay may be her only hope to ensure his safety. When and if they can get him back.

Okay. I admit that I am focusing on the plot from the angle that I most care about: what will happen between Katniss, Gale and Peeta? There is plenty of action, political intrigue and fascinating twists and turns within Mockingjay's plot that it should keep a wide variety of readers happy. Whatever you've been reading the series for, I'm fairly confident in saying that Collins has you covered.

The ways that district 13 behaves differently then district 12 or the Capitol are described in an interesting manner that enriches everything that is happening. From word go it is questionable whether ot not district 13 can be trusted. (Sorry, folks. You won't get that answer from me.) Collins has a natural talent to know when to switch gears -- how long to focus on action, or switch to something more personal or emotional or when something might warrant some form of description. Her style retains the brisk pacing that made it so easy to finish her first two books.

I told everyone on Absolute Write that I would not finish Mockingjay within 24 hours because of how much the beginning was effecting me. I lied. I finished the book in less then twelve hours -- and at least six of those I was asleep.


THere are many fascinating discoveries to be made regarding the characters in Mockingjay. New characters range from likable to absolutely chilling. Old favorites, such as Haymitch, Gale, Finnick, Johanna and Peeta return as well, each with something important to add to the story.

I loved watching the relationship between Finnick and Annie, as well as when Finnick exposed secrets that he knew about the Capitol. Johanna and Katniss continue to have a complicated alliance / friendship / something, and when something bad happens to Johanna, Katniss' gesture to help her is moving. We learn more about why Haymitch ended up as he did, which is always welcome in my opinion.

The Romance:

You didn't think I was going to skip talking about this, did you? Collins does something brilliant here: she turns everything upside down.

In the first two books we have Peeta as the active guy in Katniss' life. He's the one who's there. The one she can count on. In Mockingjay, Gale gets a shot at this since Peeta is either unable or unwilling to do this for her for the majority of the book. I find it very interesting how the choices they make during a situation are so drastically different, as well. (Wait 'til you see what Gale proposes they do about "The Nut" in district 2. I won't spoil it for you. But I'll ask you to consider: Would Peeta have done this?) I also like how their respective ways of thinking end up effecting certain parts at the end of the book. Just trust me on this one.

I also liked the fact that in Mockingjay, it's Katniss who has to reach out to Peeta, rather then the other way around. (I won't spoil why that is.) We don't just see how she feels about him -- or even what she thinks she feels -- we tangibly experience it from the opening where he is missing to the end where... (you'll need to read the book.). The same is true for Gale: various situations throughout the book demonstrate what is going on between him and Katniss and how they differ.

Overall, I was pleased with how this aspect of the trilogy ended. I found Collins' handling of it to be classy, real and heartwarming without being a slap in the face to everything else these books have been about.

In General: 

As with the last two books, I had a fairly easy time getting through Mockingjay (excluding the beginning, as I said earlier.) At no point was I bored. I didn't feel the need to skim passages or pages. The book was very interesting and the plot moved quickly from beginning to end. If I have any major complaint aside from my struggle emotionally at the start, it is about the reasoning or execution of two deaths of characters. One because it was pointless and carried less weight then it should have. The other because though I ended up understanding the point of it, I felt that it was not given enough weight -- that only it's consequences mattered, rather then the character.

But you're not here to listen to me rant about character death. It's something I'm touchy about and it's definitely a personal thing. What you want to know is this:

This was a good book. Real or not real? 


Now go and read Mockingjay, so you'll understand what I'm talking about.

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