Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins

Darker and much more mature, Mockingjay manages to convey the horror of war and the manipulation of the media during wartime while breaking our hearts for a teenage girl torn apart and broken by both.

Mockingjay is the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy by author Suzanne Collins.  This is a Young Adult series that has not only the ability to cross over between boys and girls, but it is a series that parents, teachers, and students of all ages should read and discuss.  There are themes of government, love, loss, family, friendship, war, rebellion, strategy, and survival.  If you haven't read The Hunger Games...go to your library, your local bookstore, or your neighbor and get yourself a copy. 

This is where I would write a synopsis, but I am afraid to write one, because I don't want to spoil the book for any readers, especially those who are new to the series.  To read the synopsis, click on the link below to take you to Scholastic's The Hunger Games page. 

Now, I will try my best to break it down...while keeping my review spoiler free

Suzanne Collins has outdone herself with our heroine, Katniss Everdeen.  There are times when I rallied for her, and drinking in her every moment; but there were other times when I cringed at the awful things she would say or do.  Don't get me wrong, I didn't cringe at the writing.  Quite the opposite.  I tip my hat to Collins for making Katniss so utterly honest and tragically flawed, while allowing her to change and grow with each book.  The first book in the trilogy showed Katniss to be somewhat innocent, naive even, while Mockingjay presented a scarred, tougher Katniss. Even though Katniss may have been conflicted in past books, she was never as unlikeable as she was, at times, in Mockingjay.  There were times her behavior completely confused me, but who am I to judge the words and actions of a girl who had been so tortured, bruised and used?  I think this was the point of Collins making her so ugly in Mockingjay.  She was a part of someone else's game, and when her only confidants are essentially stripped from her, she has no one to trust. Her actions on the outside were representative of what was going on on the inside.

As much as readers hated to imagine the grotesque voyeuristic display of the hunger games in previous books, Mockingjay is much more violent, and the media spin is brought to an entirely new level.  While children killing other children in an arena live on TV is horrible, there are too many different ways Collins has come up with for people to kill each other...most of which, once again, takes place in front of the cameras.

The line between what is real or not real was one of my favorites in the book, and was explored on so many levels throughout, but the most obvious and poignant of these is what comes across on the television screens.  Propaganda from both sides, no one is sure what to believe. 

Every single chapter left me breathless.  Before I picked up Mockingjay, I promised myself that I would read this book as slowly as I possibly could, savour it.  Suzanne Collins made it next to impossible not to tear through these pages!  I felt like each chapter, she dropped a bomb that compelled me to turn the pages! 

In one way, though, Mockingjay was not as easy to read as The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were.  In the first two books, Collins found a way of taking a horrific bloody scene and delicately balancing it with a tender, even loving, scene.  Mockingjay was harsh and dark and emotionally draining. There were not many victories, there was a lot of death, and there was not much hope.  No, I didn't expect Mockingjay to be all hearts and flowers, as too many families can tell you there is nothing pretty about war, but even the end of the book left me wanting more "light". 

I read the trilogy from start to finish consecutively, so I could get the full effect of the final book, and I am incredibly glad I did.  Mockingjay was quite a ride. Twists.  Turns.  Excitement.  Surprise.  Love.  Loss.  Despair.  Betrayal.  I look forward to taking this trip again, as this safely remains one of my favorite books sitting on my shelf.

Parents' Note:  There is much more blood and violence in Mockingjay than in previous books.  There are also more references to drugs, addicts (morphine), suicide pills, and depression.   I recommend that if you have a child under 15 reading this book, you read it along with them and discuss the personal, social, and political themes.

Book Extras:
Scholastic's Hunger Games page

Alison's Book Extras:
Review: The Hunger Games
Review:  Catching Fire
Favorite Quotes:  The Hunger Games
Favorite Quotes: Catching Fire
Favorite Quotes:  Mockingjay

About the Book:
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, book 3) by Suzanne Collins
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 24, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0439023513
ISBN-13: 978-0439023511

About the Author (from Scholastic):
Suzanne Collins is the author of the bestselling Underland Chronicles, which started with Gregor the Overlander. In The Hunger Games, she continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age. Suzanne lives with her family in Connecticut.

Suzanne Collins answers your burning questions!

Suzanne Collins official website

Shop Indie Bookstores

The Hunger GamesCatching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)


Amanda said...

I actually thought Katniss was far more unlikeable in Catching Fire. She returned to the person I loved in her in this book.

You're right about the light and dark, though. Finnick provided some good light moments, but not enough.

Amanda said...

btw, my review went up today as well!

s christopher said...


I thought Mockingjay was a massive disappointment, and not because of its bleakness - that part I actually liked. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it either, I just don't think of it at all. It didn't grip me like the other two, and by the end I just stopped caring.

Katniss knew the whole time that she was a pawn and she simply went along with it, which I thought was out-of-character, as was the fact that she voted 'yes' to another Hunger Games.

Prim's death was pointless. The only reason I can come up with for her sacrafice, was to give Katniss a reason to break from Gale.

The notion that they can just put Katniss' face on television and the whole course of the war is going to change is just absurd.

In the end, there is no resolution with Gale or her mother. Furthermore, Katniss & Peeta were virtually unrecognizable by the final pages to a point where I just didn't care about them anymore.

The first two books were so good - and I believe will be remembered as masterpeices of YA literature from this time - but this final installment just didn't live up. I understand why some folks genuinely like it (because it's so stripped-down, honest & brutal, and doesn't end with a pretty bow wrapped around it - I get that); maybe some are praising it because they feel they have to. I just think the Katniss we came to know as a flawed, but strong female character was diminished to an almost humiliating point in this one. And, Ms. Collins: War is bad, right? Dictators are replaced with other dictators, right? I get it... uncle, uncle.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I liked that line too - Real Or not real? At the very end it made me really think.... a

Heather said...

This is a great review-which I completely agree with. In fact, this review is what my review of Mockingjay wants to be when it grows up! I was so glad that things did not tie up neatly, and that everyone was scarred from the experience.

Alison's Book Marks said...

@Amanda - I felt like Katniss wasn't as strong in this one as she was in Catching Fire, though. She was hell bent on saving Peeta in Catching Fire, but I think she had no purpose in Mockingjay, and that made her unlikable to me. I am going to check out your review. I tried to keep my eyes off of any other reviews until I wrote mine, so I wouldn't be influenced by any other opinions.

@Sheila - I have turned Real or Not Real into a game in my house...more humorous than what it was in the book though!

@Heather - OMG, you made my day!


@s christopher - Thank you for your insightful opinions! I too was completely shocked when she voted Yes. I also expected hers to be the deciding opinion, not Haymitch...and we never found out if the Hunger Games was continued! What do you think?

Katniss's character was without purpose in Mockingjay. She didn't know who or what she was fighting for, and without that goal, she was useless to herself, but a pawn for them. That was the POINT. The gov'mt stripped her of everything she cared about so they could use her more effectively. Give her something to fight for, even though she never was sure herself.

Prim's death was terrible. The entire series began with Katniss volunteering to save her sister's life, and in the end it was wasted.
I agree that there was no conclusion with her mother, but it seemed like her mother was dependent on Katniss so much throughout the books, and in the end she finally found her own calling/reason for being, and didn't need Katniss anymore. Sad, but that's the way I read into it.

The horror of war and dictatorship felt like a warning somehow. I'm not sure if it was a statement against the control our gov'mt seems to be taking away from the people right now, but the horse was dead and she kept on kicking. It was harsh, and horrible, but I think it matched with the overall feel of the book. And if it was a message, well I don't like to get political on my blog, but I heard her loud and clear!

I'm also going to ignore the Epilogue. I hate them in general, as I think it's a cheap way of having a happy ending, without showing us HOW they got there. This one did nothing to make me feel any differently. I can't judge the whole book on that, though. Like the last Harry Potter, I choose to ignore the fact that it exists. I fear the fan fiction that will follow, though! ugh.


Amy said...

I might write a post on why I loved the epilogue!

Jamie said...

I would add sexual exploitation to the parents note.

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