Book Reviews Young Adult Books

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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.

Set about a month after the end of Catching Fire, Mockingjay
begins in District 13, where Katniss and her family and friends are living with the rebels and plotting the downfall of the Capitol.

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.

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  • Reply RA September 7, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Sigh. I did not like this one at all, and I am thoroughly bummed out about it. It took me four days to read it, and when it was over, I wanted to break something. I completely agree with you about pretty much everything here, but it all added up to me disliking the book intensely. Bluh.

  • Reply lifeofadoctorswife September 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I didn't actually read this post, because I am still deciding whether or not to read the series… But I loved your paragraph about the titles. Little things like that – even if they are unintentional (but I hope it isn't!) – are so fun to tease out and discover.

    (As an English major in college, I probably could have written a whole 20-page paper on the number of words in the title. So fun!)

  • Reply Operation Pink Herring September 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    There needs to be some sort of psych study about Team Edward/Jacob and Team Gale/Peeta. I was firmly (as you know) on Team Edward, and as much as I liked Gale, I was always rooting for Peeta. I know you were a Jacob fan, so I wonder if all the other Team Jacob members preferred Gale? In both series, I loved BOTH the romantic choices — but Edward and Peeta always had my heart. I find this fascinating. I think waaaay too much about YA love triangles.

  • Reply Rachel September 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Yea! I've been waiting for your review. Very good points. I'm glad you gave me a good reason for Katniss to vote for the Hunger Games, that bothered me a lot. And, I totally agree about the deaths- they all happened too quick to feel any sadness (I too cried for days over Sirius and Fred and almost couldn't finish the book when I thought Harry was dying.)

  • Reply Janelle September 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. You summed up my feelings for this book perfectly. Especially about Gale. And I was totally thrown off by her "yes" vote, but once she killed Coin, it totally made sense.

    So, basically, amen.

  • Reply Lady Susan September 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I have been waiting to see what your review would be. I think that one reason I didn't feel sadness regarding the deaths was that for the most part, the deaths were characters that didn't get a lot of air time. (Well, perhaps not Finnick (sp?) but I was a bit bothered by that.)

    I mean, in the HP books, You *really* get to know Fred and Dumbledore. And Sirius' death bothered me more by how it affected Harry than because I felt a connection to Sirius.

    And perhaps that was a bit intentional. I mean, in a scenario like that with so much going on, can you really process your feelings at the moment?

    I agree that for much of the book Katniss was more acted upon versus doing any acting and so it was hard to feel any of the human connections. It was also hard that it was told by her perspective and then have her be out of it or away from what was happening.

    And I have always known it was going to be Peeta. 😉

  • Reply Braden September 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Great post. I wasn't so surprised that Gale gave up on the romance, though; I expect he knew that his work would horrify Katniss and deliberately chose the war over their relationship.

  • Reply smarteze September 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I assumed things were all over with Gale as soon as Prim died, because Katniss could never be with someone who may have been indirectly responsible for her sister's death. I also felt like that was kind of a lame way to solve the love triangle, since Katniss didn't end up making a decision between the two… she just couldn't be with the one who may have indirectly killed her sister, so Peeta was it by default. (I was Team Peeta/Edward.)

    I guess that was a good reason for her to vote in favor of the Hunger Games, but when I first read that part, I was horribly disappointed in her decision.

  • Reply the Danosaur September 7, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Well put. It's been a week since I finished this, I've read two books in the interim, and I'm still processing Mockingjay. Is that healthy?

    I think you're spot on about Katniss, and my biggest beef is that the ending was so rushed — the sudden deaths (Prim's in particular seemed unbelievable), Gale's disappearance, Peeta's recovery, all that. It's almost like Collins was writing and hit 200 pages and said, "Crap, I've got to pack everything in here!" I also don't think the Coin-as-a-villain was built up very well; it left me confused.

    And one more thing (sorry, I guess I still need to talk about this), I've wondered — what is the theme of this book? Is it that this horrible government will break you? Or that despite all the odds you can be happy again? It seems from the last chapter and the epilogue that the message is the latter, but it's so hurried that it isn't what you come away with.

    Oookay, I'm done.

  • Reply emandtrev September 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I didn't read the review or any of the comments because I haven't read it yet! The book arrived on my doorstep last week, but I am right in the middle of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I'll revisit this post once I am done with Mockingjay. I'll be really interested in what you have to say (already am, but am waiting to read it).

  • Reply Marie September 7, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    You summed up my thoughts exactly. I also thought there was so much "filler" at the beginning and then it just ended abruptly. I think I may have to re-read this one.

  • Reply Megan September 8, 2010 at 2:59 am

    I finished this last week as well and am still thinking about it. I too was shocked about the Gale/Peeta resolution. I was also especially disappointed in the pathetic end to Snow. He just died? No one killed him? Coin and Katniss were going to flip "coins" (no pun intended!) as to who was going to kill him, and the man just DIED. So anticlimactic.

  • Reply Kathleen September 8, 2010 at 4:31 am

    Totally agree with all your points. I can't believe that such an amazing series would end with such a lame (when compared to the others) book. It just wasn't as good. And I hated how she took care of the Gale/Peeta problem. And Prim didn't need to die. And Snow totally needed to be killed, not just *somehow when no one's looking* die. And I agree why she voted yes to the next hunger games…she had to be able to get to Coin.

    This book was such a letdown for me. I was really expecting more. 🙁

    Oh and I've always been a Peeta/Jacob fan. But it's a little weird – I always knew Bella would end up with Edward, but I liked Jacob more. And I thought Katniss might end up with Gale, even though I liked Peeta more. He was always the underdog to me, like Jacob, which is probably why I thought he wouldn't get her in the end.

  • Reply Melissa September 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I enjoyed the book overall and felt it was a good end to the series. I was disappointed by the lack of reaction to the deaths within the book. I found myself jolted by the deaths, but never saw the characters deal with it. I know the book is written for young adults, but it discussed torture and war, so I assumed we would get a deeper perspective into Katniss' depression and Peeta's torture, but alas, no.

  • Reply Kristy September 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    And an amen from me also. Great review.

  • Reply Melissa September 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I still tear up when I think of Dobby's death. Still.

    I agree with you on that point. I think the deaths should have had more closure, especially my personal favorite character Finnick.

    Interesting point with the decision/Coin perspective. When I read her exact quote "I vote yes…for Prim" It felt disconnected, like she was only voting yes for that reason–but didn't agree with it.

    I thought this book was amazing and ended with one of the most amazing/haunting final lines of all time (right up there with HP and 1984)

    Although it didn't have those sweet moments or basically any breaks at all I thought it was very realistic to human nature and what the characters were actually feeling. I like that Peeta wasn't automatically cured and he had to basically fall in love with her all over again.

    I also loved her reason for choosing Peeta. She needed a dandelion, not fire. Forget about Prim's death and Gale's involvement, Katnis needed Peeta's clear head and sweet heart, not Gale's fire.

    I understand your points but I felt like all of those had explanations that I was satisfied with.

  • Reply Melanie September 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I agree with you (and it seems the other commenters) on just about every point. This book just didn't pull me in like the others did. I was also rooting for Gale; I don't feel like he got as much of a chance as Peeta did.

    I heard that Collins didn't send this book out to reviewers so that there wouldn't be any leaks, and as a result she didn't get some of the feedback and do some of the edits that would have normally been done. I'm not sure whether or not that's true, but it would explain why this book feels more unpolished than the others.

  • Reply Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Another thing–with that Hanging Man song, I was truly worried that Katniss and at least one of her 'guys' were going to die. I was relieved that it didn't happen.

    Becky AKA Lighthearted Librarian

    (for some reason, wordpress is freezing up when I try to comment via my blog)

  • Reply pcb September 8, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    This one had a pretty slow start for me – it took a while to get into "Hunger" mode. I actually always thought Peeta would make a better choice for her personality (and am a die hard Edward fan too). Gale was divided in his attentions and Peeta was all hers – and she really needed someone to be completely devoted to her – after all she had been through (which by the way Peeta could really relate to) she would need someone 100%. Gale was just too much like her.

  • Reply Miri September 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I felt basically the same way. Mockingjay was excellent, but not as good as the first two books, and I was disappointed in several things about the ending–one of which was the fact that Katniss voted to have a final Game, which I thought was pretty awful. I was definitely with Peeta on that one.

  • Reply Mel September 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Totally agree with your post. This book was disappointing for me.
    The thing I hated the most was katniss missing in action so many times. Every time a big thing is about to happen she just gets injured, blacks out and wakes up in the hospital. One time would have been ok but it happened at least three time in the series which became super annoying

  • Reply Jaime Wilkins October 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Wow. I loved your review because I agreed with everything–except about liking Gale more than Peeta. I never felt connected with Gale and Peeta was so likable! I agree, Gale just leaving didn't give me the closure I was hoping for. Someone I know told me they cried and cried at the end of this book. I felt almost nothing. It was not a good way to end the series.

  • Reply Janice October 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I agree. I finished it last night and was glad to be done, but not satisfied with the book. I think I'll have to go read Hunger Games again. I liked that one much more!

  • Reply Carly February 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Ok, so I read your review of Mockingjay when it came out, even though I knew I wouldn't get a chance to read the book for months (I finished it two days ago). Now I came back to see if I agree with your assessment.

    While yes, you make some very accurate points, I still loved this book. I thought Katniss was very real, and I appreciated her more for all her depression and withdrawl. I preferred Peeta the whole series, but was hung up because he just didn't seem real enough (a little too forgiving and overlooking of Katniss' flaws maybe?). I liked that he had to re-fall in love with her here. It made it more real for me that he actually did love her. And this book clinched it for me that Gale was just too violent and war-focused all the way through. Although I really appreciated that they reestablished their friendship and we actually got to see them interact more in this book than the other two.

    I was not expecting Katniss to kill Coin, but as soon as she did, I understood why she had voted yes on another Hunger Games.

    Anyhow, sorry to leave a comment months after the fact, but I needed a place to hash out all the thoughts I've had since finishing it!

  • Reply Erica November 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I'm rereading the series (actually listening to it), and you READ MY MIND EXACTLY about this book. EVERYTHING you said is what I felt. Freaky.

    and I just have to say, I used to love Katniss, but by the end of this book, I felt about her the same way I felt about Bella: ugh. She went from likeable albeit a bit gruff to thoroughly annoying.

    North Meets South

  • Reply heidikins November 30, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    For the record, I still completely agree with this review. COMPLETELY. 🙂


  • Reply Meredith December 7, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    word. katniss is kinda the worst. we read these books for book club and by the time we got to this one we were so over them. 1 was good but i really thought the kids were gonna refuse to kill each other and there would be this huge revolution that continued in 2+3. way to draaag it out, Collins. plus i never saw these books as a romance. weird. if she HAD to hook up with anyone i thought it'd be Gale for sure. Peeta was such a stalker. I'm getting old.

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