First Published: 2010
Pages: 455 (Paperback)
Series: The Hunger Games #3
“If we burn you burn with us”
Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But she’s still not safe. A revolution is unfolding, and everyone, it seems, has a hand in the carefully laid plans – everyone except Katniss.
And yet she must play the most vital part in the final battle. Katniss must become their Mockingjay – the symbol of rebellion – no matter what the personal cost.
Catching up on some reviews that, for various reasons, I never got round to writing in 2013.
What happened? The first two books in this series were both four stars (flawed as hell but very enjoyable)! But Mockingjay…Mockingjay I can barely summon up enough enthusiasm to give two stars. And it’s not because I hated the ending – bits of the ending I actually loved – but because everything leading up to the ending was interminably boring.
Looking through the notes I took on finishing this book the very first reads “bits/most is utterly terrible” and yeah, a few months down the line I’m going to stand behind that. Most of this book is absolute shite. The pacing is weird, nothing really happens for most of the book but Katniss moping about in district 13 complaining about not doing anything. What happens in the wider world is mainly told through info-dumps rather than played out on the page. Then in the last half Katniss sees some action and it suddenly turns into a nonsensically stupid Urban-Explorer-themed version of the Hunger Games from books one and two. The evil regime boobytrapped their own suburbs with flesh eating mutations? Really?
I understand that, with the events of book two, Mockingjay is going to be a very different book from The Hunger Games or Catching Fire (which did, essentially, have the identical plot and story structure). It had to be different if it was to be any good. I also get that what Collins was going for was to deconstruct what she had shown in the first books, to explore the realities of child warfare and post-traumatic stress rather than glorify in the ‘badass-ness’ of the character. And as an idea that’s really admirable and one of the themes I should have enjoyed most, but it was really poorly executed.
Maybe if Katniss hadn’t spent so long fretting about her love life, maybe if she didn’t seem irrationally convinced that she had to choose between Gale and Peeta as if that was the most important thing in the world (chose neither, chose both, chose Johanna! Really, chose Johanna.) then I would find her easier to sympathise with, but no. The love triangle reared its hideous head and stomped all over almost all the plot of the book. Districts 1-11 are openly rebelling against the capitol? Fuck that! Lets mope over Peeta! It looks like they might actually win? Not important! Gale’s not talking to Katniss! I know it’s written from the point of view of a teenager, but when exciting stuff like that is happening I couldn’t give less of a shit about which boy she currently fancies (or doesn’t – she doesn’t seem to fancy either so much as feel bizarrely obligated to be with one of them).
I wanted to learn more about the rebellion, about what sparked the people in it to join. But that never happens. Questions about how Haymitch found out about district 13, did they contact him? Did he contact them? How long ago and how did the former winners start working to undermine the Capitol? How do members of the rebellion outside district 13 know who to trust? How was the rebellion organised? Why would a well-off Capitol resident join the revolution? They’re never answered. Hell, they’re never even fucking asked. I wanted to finally see more of the other districts, now that Katniss wasn’t bound by the rules of the Capitol, but even when she did visit them the reader managed to learn nothing new. In the book that was meant to draw back and show Katniss as just a pawn of larger powers, the failure of the author to create a world beyond Katniss was at its most obvious. The new characters were simply archetypes, the old characters weren’t developed any further and the world-building hasn’t gotten any better since the first book. ‘District x makes y, they look like z‘. Remind me again why I should care about this world if the lead character and narrator can barely summon up enthusiasm for it. All things that I can willingly overlook if a book is fun. But this wasn’t. It was angst on a plate with a side order of boredom.
The only thing I really liked about this book was the ending. And I suspect the bits I liked about the ending are the bits other people may have hated. In dystopian fiction, as far as I’m concerned, the bleaker the ending, the better – think 1984, it just doesn’t work with a happy ending. And while the ending of Mokingjay is not really what I would call an unhappy one, it did have enough upset in there to temper the happiness somewhat.
But then the final chapter and epilogue managed to ruin my goodwill for the book by making it once again all about who Katniss ends up with. And, unfortunately, it wasn’t Johanna. Bleh.