Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I don't remember exactly what inspired me to pick the first Hunger Games book, who recommended it to me, or how come I chose to read it when I knew nothing about it. I read The Hunger Games last year, well before I even discovered book blogs, so I know it's not any book blog that introduced me to this series, although that can't be said for most of the books I read nowadays. After I read The Hunger Games, I was left with an odd sense of weirdness and worry, because I didn't like the book right away. How could I, when the book had so much violence and gory death descriptions? How could I say I loved a book where kids killed each other - some without any sense of guilt? How could I love a book with one of the most horrifying deaths ever (those who read this book will remember how the last tribute died)? I felt horribly nauseated and remember closing the book many times. But after thinking about the book for a few days, I understood the message of the book and what Suzanne Collins meant to achieve. That I was disgusted was just the apt response. That I understood how horrible Katniss' dystopian world is - was just what I had to pick up. Once I accepted that, I saw the book in a whole new light. Soon after, I read Catching Fire and if possible, enjoyed loved appreciated it (for want of a stronger word) even more. But neither of those books actually prepared me for the ride Mockingjay gave me, because, my-oh-my, this book is definitely way more complex!

Picking up from where we left in Catching Fire, Katniss is now in District 13 (yeah, it was always up there). Gale had managed to save Katniss' and his family from the bombs that destroyed most of District 12. As for Peeta, no one knows if he's alive or dead, as he had been captured by the Capitol towards the end of Catching Fire. Katniss spends most of the first many chapters in a heavily drugged up stupor. In fact, Katniss is dazed at so many parts in this book, and since the story is from Katniss' perspective, it means we are also as dazed as her. Suzanne Collins really wrote those sections very well, so much so that there are parts I read twice just to understand what happened. In her dazed state, there was so much Katniss couldn't, wouldn't absorb, and I, the reader definitely didn't either. Much as those passages were realistic, I felt cheated sometimes, because that served as an excuse to gloss over certain parts of the book, so that we are effectively in a fast-forward mode. In fact, things seem to be happening when she is in one of her stupors.

Mockingjay is so much about war and its repercussions, as it is about relationships and sacrifices. Even with a very dystopian setting, the themes explored as very relevant in our world. It shows how much war can be used to manipulate people and how much it can tear people apart. It shows how you will always be scarred psychologically by the wounds (not always physical) exerted by the war. It shows how the powers that fight a war still look for power - both sides, no matter what their intentions - can still play by the dirty rules. Haven't we always seen that? It also explores how there is never a and they lived happily ever after for war survivors, how they are constantly tortured by the demons they faced. I loved the ending of Mockingjay. I couldn't imagine a more perfect and realistic way to end things. I didn't see a need for a long drawn out explanation of what happened to each character and what happened during the aftermath of a certain event. But what I objected to was the actions of two characters, who I won't name here.

I am still on the fence on how I found Katniss in this book. I never liked her much in the first two books either, because as so many other characters mention in this book and the other two, Katniss is extremely selfish. (That said, I don't know what I am when I am left alone to my thoughts. We all probably have thoughts that we are embarrassed to share with anyone, because they may show us in a different light.) Then again, Katniss' selfishness/survival instinct can be blamed on her upbringing, where she had to pretty much fend for herself since she was a young girl. I alternatively felt bad for her and mad at her through the book. It's hard to be always on her side.

Another thing I appreciated was that this book wasn't a Team Peeta vs Team Gale battle. I didn't want to read another YA book about a girl choosing between two guys. That would be so cheesy and demeaning of a genre that has some excellent books and yet so many that choose that path. It's not every girl who gets to choose between two dashing guys, and besides, that sucks anyways, it's too heart-breaking. Still, there was oodles of romance in this one too, which I think could have been done without. At least, I'm glad we didn't have the girly giggly Katniss here, that we saw so much of in the previous two books (because I really cringed at that).

The other selling point here is that we don't have superhero teens doing things that adults can't do. It's not that I think teens need to be rescued instead of the other way around, but it's clearly not realistic when adults play dumb and teens seem to know everything. Isn't that, well, two extremes? I wanted a moderate picture and Mockingjay gives that. I was pleased that Katniss was not a heroine. Because she never was. She was thrust into a limelight that she never wanted. She just wanted to take her bow and go hunting just like she always did, without having to wear makeup or outlandish gowns. She just wanted an ordinary childhood, but she never got that. This is another reason why so much of her dizziness through the book makes a lot of sense.That's another reason why the ending made a lot of sense too.

Suzanne Collins' writing is beautiful. Although the book is huge, no words are wasted. She doesn't ramble nor does she preach. And yet there are so many philosophies spread through the book that they are more conscience-pricking one-liners than passage-long (pun-intended!) observations. I love it when writers can express an idea in very little words. I will have to read this book again just to catch those quotes. I couldn't note down any earlier because I couldn't put the book down to fetch my notebook.

  

Check out this book @ Goodreads, BetterWorldBooks, Amazon, B&N.

I bought this one, in fact pre-ordered it because I couldn't stay away from the hype.
Tidbit: It's been just a month since this book released, but there are already 27k+ ratings in Goodreads. Which is the next book that's going to be as highly awaited as this book and the Potter books?

11 comments:

mummazappa said...

I thought this was an appropriate end to a fantastic series, and one I'll reread many times I'm sure.

Dazzling Mage said...

Great review. And it is a great trilogy in the end. =)

bermudaonion said...

I haven't even started this trilogy yet. My husband has and he loved it. He said Mockingjay started out slow, but by the end, he couldn't put it down.

Aths said...

mummazappa, I can't wait to reread this series as well. The ending was fabulous!

Dazzling Mage, thank you! And yep, a truly great review!

Kathy, you should read this trilogy! I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Wonderful review!

heather said...

I loved the ending also.

I've heard people say that they thought it was horrible because she just gave in to everything Peeta wanted. I think that it was very realistic. Maybe people who didn't like it wanted a version that could happen in a more idealized world than the one that Katniss lived in.

Aths said...

Sheila, thanks!

Heather, that's why I loved the ending too. Sure it wasn't an HEA one, and much as I would have liked Katniss to recover asap, that's not how real life happens, and a book is considered really good only when it feels realistic.

Roseann's 1001 Books said...

I have the second in this series waiting for me to read, so I didn't read much of your post. I loved the first one and hope to be finish with the trilogy by the end of the year.

By the way, weren't you going to do a read-a-long of ULYSSES? I haven't started, but wanted to know how it was going? Do you still have the link to the blog? I am still trying to get back into "Blogging Mode", but school is really eating my brain this semester. Talk to you soon!

Roseann

Aths said...

Roseann, I hope you enjoy the whole series!! If you loved the first, I think you'll love the rest too! As for Ulysses, well, I kind-of started it, then got side-tracked. That book was so boring that I didn't get anywhere. :( When do you plan to start? The link to the hosting blog is here.

christa @ mental foodie said...

I'm glad you like it much better than I did. I was rather disappointed by it - not because it didn't have a happy ending. I ended up from really liking Katniss from the first 2 books, to feeling indifferent about her. I think I'd have liked it better if she reminded Team K, rather than P or G.

Aths said...

Christa, so sorry about that. :( I never really liked Katniss. I found her too selfish from the first book onwards, so I was okay with her lack of action and participation in the third book.