8 of 10: Look, Mockingjay is still a good book. It’s just not anywhere as good as the series started out.
This will be full of SPOILERS,so proceed at your own risk.
The rebels believe that they need Katniss to be the face of the rebellion (the Mockingjay, as it were) and that the other districts will join District 13 in overthrowing the Capitol. Katniss has no desire to do so, especially with Peeta still in captivity, but she eventually takes on the role.
Having read The Hunger Games twice (once on audio with Bart, which makes me far more critical of a book because I’m wondering what he’s thinking), I still stand by my 2008 review – I think The Hunger Games is just about perfect in terms of plotting and pacing. There was such a nice balance between the high intensity violence of the Games and the quieter, sweeter moments where Katniss remembered her old life, and then the scenes with Peeta.
This book didn’t really have that – it was pretty much violence and action the whole way through (if there were pauses in the violence, it was for Katniss to hide in a corner and be depressed. I can’t blame her for feeling that way, but it doesn’t exactly make for gripping reading).
And that was the biggest weakness in the book for me. Early on, when the rebels are making propaganda movies starring Katniss and it’s clear she is not a good actress, Haymitch asks the assembled group to think of a time when they were genuinely moved by Katniss (rather than just impressed by her costumes or skills). People mention several – when she took Prim’s place in the Games, when she sang for Rue’s death, when she drugged Peeta so she could go save his life. Those moments, where she is so human, are missing for me in this book. She never gets a chance to be truly likable or a really sympathetic character.
And, speaking of Haymitch, whenever I recommend The Hunger Games to someone (which is frequently), I say “I know that it just sounds like a horrible premise, but really, it’s a great book.” And much of that is that I think a lot of The Hunger Games is quite funny. Peeta and Haymitch, in particular, bring a lot of lightheartedness to the first two books. And this one? Not very funny. Haymitch gets about two good lines and that’s about it. If there was ANY book in this trilogy that could have used some laughter, this was it.
Also, I felt like nearly every chapter had that Dan Brown cliffhanger technique, which I find quite annoying, but I never actually felt any real suspense – it felt pretty manufactured to me. The other books had things that really took me off guard or were legitimately tense, and this one just didn’t have this. Also. . . everything was kind of straightforward in terms of taking down the Capitol. I was quite shocked – there were casualties yes, but I was kind of envisioning a bloodbath and it wasn’t exactly like that (I’m not saying I WANTED a bloodbath, mind you). The only thing in the book that truly caught me off guard was when Peeta came away from the Capitol so changed by his torture.
Another thing – when Rue died in The Hunger Games, there was such a nice moment of closure, where Katniss sang for her and it was just really moving and I may have been a bit teary, especially when I listened to it on CD. In this one? The two or three major deaths were so abrupt and there was no reflection about those deaths, that I didn’t feel any emotion at all. And this is coming from someone who was depressed for days when Sirius Black died or after Fred Weasley didn’t survive the series.
Which, if we’re speaking of deaths, I was sure that either Gale or Peeta was going to die, but they both make it out alive. I have preferred Gale throughout the series, but I thought her rationale for choosing Peeta was pretty convincing. On the other hand, I refuse to believe that Gale would have just gone so quietly away without a fight for her. I mean, really?
It sounds like I hated this book and that’s not true; it’s a good book. But my expectations based on the first book especially were really high and it just didn’t quite meet up to that. If you’ve read and enjoyed the first two, though, you’ll not want to miss this one.
Based on a few conversations and many reviews in the blogosphere, it seems like a lot of people are hung up on why Katniss voted yes on having one final Hunger Games, but I feel certain that she only voted yes in order to make sure that Coin was at ease and that she’d be allowed to go out with her bow to kill Snow. I’m particularly convinced of this because of what she says about Haymitch just after she votes yes and he has the deciding vote: “This is the moment, then. When we find out exactly just how alike we are, ad how much he truly understands me.” She needs him to carry the vote for yes so that she’ll have her opportunity to kill Coin.
Also, is it weird that it just thoroughly delights me that the titles of these books go from three words (The Hunger Games) to two words (Catching Fire) to one word (Mockingjay)? Oh, okay, then.
Book purchased by me (thanks to a kind gift card from Smalldog), so I guess not really purchased by me at all.