Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and references to victors having been forced into prostitution, tastefully handled and presented in the correct light)

My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

The first time I read this book, two and a half years ago, I read it in two days, zooming through the horrors of war to the sort of a little bit happy ending that does its best to make up for it. Another time, I stayed up late reading the last third of the book, feeling the utter heartbreak of all that happened to them. After seeing Mockingjay Part 2 last week, I gave this book a full reread. The horrors of the war hit me hard. The gruesome deaths. The instability of mind. How hard it is to put yourself back together. I hate this book, yet I still manage to really like it. Because it's not just fluff. It's not a fun, relaxing read. It's not even all about "which guy is Katniss gonna choose." It's deep. It means something. It makes you think. That's why I like it.

Writing: 4/5

The first time I read The Hunger Games trilogy, I wasn't overly impressed with the writing quality. Honestly, I think it's mostly because I wasn't used to present tense narrative. It's still not my favorite, but that's not a good reason to say it's horribly written. No, it's not classic literature quality writing. However, it really does pull you into the story and keep you there. It makes you feel like you're experiencing the story. I wouldn't have been constantly gasping and grimacing as I read Mockingjay otherwise. The deep character point of view/character voice is excellent. We're really in Katniss's head and her way of thinking is unique. And really, Mockingjay couldn't have been easy to write. We're in the head of a girl who's mentally unstable. You can tell from the way it's written that she's losing it. And yet the story is still well told. Now, there were a few times I felt the grammar was iffy, and that bugged me a bit, but it wasn't too bad. Katniss tends to think in fragments, a lot more than in a typical book, which I know bothers some people, but it was kind of part of her voice.

Setting: 5/5

The worldbuilding of Panem is excellent. Horrible, but excellent. Collins overlooked no detail that I can see in developing this world. I continue to find it interesting how she mixed futuristic technology with old fashioned things and reality TV in a way that works so well. In Mockingjay specifically, I'm interested by the fact that District 13 is just about as bad as the Capitol but in a different way. They're controlling, Coin certainly is. Rarely is there a truly good side in a war. And another aspect of Panem I find interesting is the handling of the violence. Yes, these stories are very violent. Innocent people die. But it's never condoned. It's not okay. Look at this quote:

"It costs your life," says Caesar.
"Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?" says Peeta. "It costs everything you are."
Caesar Flickerman and Peeta Mellark, pg. 23

Yes, sometimes war is necessary, and Katniss in her brokenness does want revenge, but does that make it a good thing? No.

Plot: 4/5

It's hard to rate this plot. I felt like it was fairly well developed. I personally didn't see any glaring plot holes (though the better point is that my sister didn't point any out to me), but it's hard. They're at war. War has casualties. The thing is, this book remembers that the only casualties of war are not deaths. War causes a lot more than that. You're never the same after going through that. It scars you. Also, Katniss isn't the actual leader and mastermind behind the war. Most stories have the child hero as the actual leader. Katniss is a figurehead. She's a powerful figurehead, she inspires people, unites people. As Peeta says, she has no idea the effect she has. But she's a piece in Coin's games just as she used to be a piece in Snow's games. She's not a very cooperative piece, though. There's so much that happens in this book, visiting districts, fighting in attacks, attacking districts, attacking the Capitol, filming propos, for it really is a war on reality TV, and then there's Peeta. If you don't know what happens to him, be prepared for heartbreak. It's pretty horrible. But as hard as this story is, it makes sense, the plot works, and...I have a hard time reducing it to literary analysis. I tend to focus more on the message behind it. Because it's powerful.

Character Development: 5/5

I've heard people say the characters aren't well developed, but I don't see it. To me, they're all very real and three dimensional. They change as their circumstances change them. I can't exactly say they grow, because in most cases they're broken. But they feel very real, and I'm quite attached to them. Katniss is the one we know best, as we're in her head the whole time. She's complex. She's broken. Maybe sometimes she has a harsh outlook on life, but she's also driven by love. Volunteering for Prim? How could that be motivated by anything other than love? Considering the horrors she's been through, it's no wonder her grasp on reality is shaky. Peeta will always be my favorite, despite how he is in this book. The boy with the bread appears to be gone, but perhaps he's still there, fighting to get back. All these characters. Gale the soldier. Haymitch the drunk. Prim. Finnick. Annie. Johanna. Plutarch. Boggs. Coin. Snow. So real. So much they've been through, so much they've done. They face consequences for it, no bad deeds go forever unpunished, and even the good guys have to make sacrifices.

The Hunger Games trilogy and especially Mockingjay are not easy stories to read. If you're a sensitive reader, you should probably stay away. I do recommend them, though. Read them as a warning. Don't take it lightly...don't be Capitol about it. And remember "the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again."


  1. just made me cry. I love this review. You hit it on the head. I need to go re-read...

    1. You're welcome. Not like you don't make yourself cry for fun. :) Thanks. Glad you agree with what I said. Reread already? You need to see the movie. ;)

    2. Oh, not like I do it for fun at all. XD

      Maybe I should have said that you hit the nail on the head, not just "it." When talking about compliments and also torture, I should probably keep it straight.

      Um...yes? I know, movie soon. ;)


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