Book Review: Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

Warning:  spoilers for all three books ahead.  It might also help you appreciate this critique to know my thoughts on the rest of the trilogy:

Review:  The Hunger Games
Review:  Catching Fire

And so we come to an end on this, my journey into the much hyped and loved trilogy set to replace Twilight and Harry Potter as the youth franchise.  I am glad to have finally read the books, if only because I hate being spoilered for things and the internet was becoming a mine field in that regard.  That said, I don’t anticipate ever reading these books again, nor would I recommend them.  This will set me apart from the vast majority, but then again, there are millions of Twilight fans, so make of that what you will.

I had high hopes for Mockingjay after the improvement in Collins’ work in Catching Fire.  I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but I did expect something enjoyable to pass the time while battling a cold.  Instead, I was delivered an increasingly implausible trainwreck that lost any semblance of its humanity and message, opting instead for shock value until the final twenty pages or so, at which point Collins seems to have went, “Oops!  Better wrap this up!” and jammed a conclusion in.

Mockingjay clarifies the ending events of Catching Fire for us:  namely, there was a vast allyship hidden from Peeta and Katniss, the goal of which was to yank a core group of Victors free from the Quell and begin the all-out rebellion against the Capitol.  Peeta is left behind, and has become the puppet of President Snow, urging for a ceasefire in official televised interviews, earning him the label of traitor.

Katniss, who is now “mentally disorganized”, lives with the survivors of the Quell and her decimated District in the “Surprise! Still here!” District 13, the key movers and shakers behind the rebellion.  To them, Katniss is a Propaganda Barbie for their video spots beaming throughout the Districts, a means of motivating the masses.  Katniss is much more fond of wallowing in self-pity and pining for Peeta (who she now gives a shit about), while toying further with Gale, who is gung-ho for the rebellion.  However, she spies a means of preventing Peeta from being executed for treason by District 13’s President Coin (Really, Collins? Coin?) and agrees to be their little Mockingjay to spare him.

The next half of the book is literally blah blah blah:  let’s film Katniss visiting people in hospitals and…. oh wait, an attack where she can shoot down hovercrafts!  Let’s take her to District 2 to chill while the Capitol stronghold there is seized and, oh wait, Katniss steps out into battle to be a star again.  Gale loves her, but she doesn’t seem to love anyone.  Instead, she loves being cared for and babied.  Some heroine.

Things get more ridiculous when Peeta is rescued and of course, he’s been brainwashed to want to murder Katniss.  This is Collins’ heavy-handed attempt to make the reader feel for Katniss, perhaps because she’s realized her heroine is indecisive, naive and has the personality of paste.  All it made me do was feel for Peeta, who is luckily brought around to his old self.

The one bright shining development for Katniss is her finally understanding what a cold, manipulative person she is, via overhearing an exchange between Peeta and Gale as to who she’ll choose to be with.  Between their agreeing that her choice will be based on who can keep her alive – not who has her love – and Peeta calling her out for being a cold bitch for her actions post-Games, it’s satisfying for her to feel bad for her behaviour.

Plot-wise, Collins is as predictable as ever, and just spends her time slaughtering as many characters as possible in order to wring sympathy for Katniss from us.  I’m wagering she believes she’s depicting the travesties and agonies of war, but it all comes off as overkill, particularly when she constantly “fades to black” mid-action and then quickly recaps the rest in the next chapter.  Things conveniently work out to ensure maximum bloodshed and as, usual, everyone just loves Katniss and wants to protect her.  Leading 8 people to certain death by lying about a mission?  These honey badgers don’t care, and it’s a good thing, since most of them die before Katniss ultimately fails anyway. Absolutely nothing surprised me, plot-wise:  it was the pessimism show, with non-stop dreary events and unhappy endings, couched in more blind devotion to protecting precious Katniss-Sue.

In fact, Katniss never has to make a decision on its own merits; she is always driven to one choice by default.  She can’t allow Peeta to die after saving her ass several times and breaking his heart, so she must choose to be the Mockingjay.  She really should know better than to help Coin seize power; that’s okay, she finds out Coin has royally betrayed her and killed her loved ones, the only thing that seems to trigger a human response from her – a move that requires massive suspension of disbelief when the key casualty is revealed.  Pick between the two evil Presidents?  Don’t bother; both will magically die.  Murderer?  No matter; some doctor will lie for you and get you off the hook.  As for her love life?  Gale turns cold, betrays her along with Coin, and Peeta is the only one who sticks around, anyway.

Speaking of her ending, it is the most rushed affair ever.  Collins literally ran out of pages and rammed everything in quickly.  The so-called epilogue is the coldest thing ever, as children are merely referred to as “the boy and girl”.  Did you run out of cute names?  How about Moughin and Kupkayke?

In the end, my gut instinct?  Collins blew her wad in Catching Fire and frankly, aside from the death of the Capitol, didn’t have the faintest clue of what she was doing with Mockingjay.  Weak, choppy plot, poor character development and deus ex machina out the wazoo sums up this final installment.

Rating:  2/5 stars

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