Michelle Rowen

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REVIEW: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins











Since I wanted to avoid online spoilers, I read the book faster than I might have normally — I’m not a really fast reader, but I got through MOCKINGJAY in two days, finishing last night about 1:30 a.m. Let’s just say, I didn’t sleep much last night and when I did sleep, I dreamed about Katniss and her world.

Immediately after finishing, I went online because I needed to see what other people had said about the book. I already knew — just like BREAKING DAWN — that some readers weren’t happy with it. I’ve seen reaction (both good and bad) referred to as PTMS — Post Traumatic Mockingjay Syndrome. I couldn’t agree more. I feel shell shocked and somewhat damaged by this book.

It all comes down to reader expectation, I think. A whole year between releases for a very successful series will give readers a lot of time to speculate about what they WANT to have happen.

I went to a local Midnight release party here in the Toronto area and the excitement from the teens present was evident. There were competing cheers to find out who was Team Peeta and who was Team Gale. There were cupcake decorating stations. There were puzzles and games and a bit of a scavenger hunt through the store. Fun, right? Totally.

This book wasn’t fun.

I should say, right up front that this is a solid five out of five star read for me. I cite THE HUNGER GAMES as my favorite book OF ALL TIME. I felt CATCHING FIRE was on par with it. And MOCKINGJAY was a brilliant end to the trilogy that is still affecting me emotionally twelve hours after I finished reading it.

But it wasn’t a fun, cupcake read.

My personal expectations for this book — after how CATCHING FIRE ended, I assumed that MOCKINGJAY would involve Katniss’s involvement in the rescue of Peeta and her helping to take down the Capitol so the world can have a bright and wonderful future. And she would have romantic love triangle angst — just like Bella and Edward and Jacob — but she would choose properly and everyone would be happy.

I was Team Peeta.

And… Team Peeta was the winning team.

Funny how this victory feels particularly empty for me, and for other readers. The characters are so broken, so damaged, have endured so much pain and torture and grief that the reader realizes once and for all that this has never has been a romance, a fun and angsty triangle, a book which we should celebrate with cupcakes. This is a horrific story about war and pain and despair and evil.

Fun, right?


But it was powerful and may be the book that has affected me more than any other book I’ve ever read in my life. I battled with this book. At one point I stared at the page and cursed Ms. Collins because she wasn’t being kind or nice or helpful — to her readers or to her characters. But her agenda with these books has remained consistent — war is hell. Killing each other to gain more power is not the answer. Ever.

Collins’s black moment truly is black. BLACK. Children die horribly. Needlessly. Including one child who is so important to the launching point of the entire series that you have to ask yourself — why? Why couldn’t the author have let this child live — this symbol of hope and love? But it made sense. War is not kind to anyone involved. And exceptions are rarely made.

I was certain the series would end with Katniss, Peeta and Gale’s death. The red herring of the poison capsules (not to mention Katniss’s father’s Hanging Tree song) had me convinced there was no other way it could.

There is hope, though. At the end. Love does survive. Memories survive. At the end, it’s really all we have left.

And the cat made me cry at the end. Just like Vincent the dog made me cry during the last episode of Lost. Damn it.

So there you go… my thoughts on this brilliant and difficult book that should be a classic in years to come. But you know what? Sometimes I just want the sheer entertainment and HEAs of books like Twilight or other romance novels. It’s a good thing to be reminded of the atrocities of this world (because, of course, The Hunger Games trilogy is one big metaphor isn’t it?) but sometimes an escape from the dark into the light is what helps to keep us going.

So would I recommend THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy? Without question. But don’t read it expecting romance and a great, warm feeling at the end. Victory is often empty when it comes at the cost of so many lives. Something that should be remembered. I know I’ll never forget.

8 comments to “REVIEW: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins”

  1. Sandyg02
     · August 26th, 2010 at 12:24 pm · Link

    I have to agree with everything.

    I bawled my eyes out from page 350 something on I was crying. I’d stop crying for like half a page, then I’d start again. I couldn’t even see the words when I read that scene with Buttercup (the cat).

    I also finished the book nearly two days ago and I still feel very sad, and hurt. Even thinking about some of the characters in the series and what they went through makes me cry again.
    This trilogy is powerful and I will always recommend it no matter how much it makes me hurt or cry.

  2. cories
     · August 26th, 2010 at 3:05 pm · Link

    Thanks for the review! So, this series is not unlike her previous series, Gregor the Overlander, except that Gregor gets to go home to New York City by himself and Katniss gets Peeta.

  3. Marie
     · August 26th, 2010 at 7:21 pm · Link

    I loved your review. It made me cry all over again. And since I was walking down the street while reading it, I think people may have looked at me funny, but I really didn’t notice. :-)

    I think you hit the nail on the head, or at least expressed my feelings when you say that this is not a cupcake read.

    I liked the first two books, but I don’t know if I’d say I loved them. I read them because I promised a friend, and because they were so popular. I had some problems with the first book. For some reason it seemed almost too dark to me. Like the author had tried to think of more horrifying things she could add. The second book seemed more believable to me, or maybe I’d just gotten used to the world.

    After reading your review I’ve been wondering if that is why I’m having problems loving these books. There really is very little hope, and it’s really too much to take sometimes.

    The books are definitely going to stay with me for a long time, though. Maybe forever. Although they’ve done nothing to improve my faith in humanity.
    Yes, there is hope in the things you mention: Memories and love. But that’s about the individual. What about mankind as a whole? Are we doomed to repeat history? Are citizens always going to be just pawns in the games of the rulers? I guess they have a respit at the end of the book, but for how long?

    I often like books/movies/TV shows that make me sad, but this is almost too much for me. On the other hand, like I said, these are not books I’m going to forget, and that’s also a way to measure what a book means, even if I don’t “love” it. I think I may re-read these books. If I can work up the courage.

  4. Michelle Rowen
     · August 26th, 2010 at 11:15 pm · Link

    I think I loved Hunger Games so much because it was that emotionally draining, violent ride, but with a happy ending — they lived! All that really remained was the love triangle to sort through.

    Catching Fire was the same kind of ride, but with more progress on the romance front — and the cliffhanger ending, that set us all up to believe that it would all be nicely wrapped up in book three when Katniss realizes she loves Peeta and goes in to kick ass and take names.

    I would have written a happy ending for them all. But it wouldn’t be the same experience. I might love the trilogy more if it wrapped the way I wanted it to, but I wouldn’t appreciate it more, if that makes any sense.

    Collins could have taken two paths to her ending, and this was one of them. Not wrong, but not cozy enough for me to want to reread it again and again. Books that can challenge me and my world views are so rare these days that I have to appreciate the ones that do even if they aren’t tied up in that pretty blue ribbon that Prim gave to the cat instead of keeping for herself. Another symbol? Maybe.

    Does this book give us hope for the world’s future? Maybe not. It’s a cautionary tale. Not everyone gets a happy ending. But luckily there are plenty of other books that do give us that.

  5. notemily
     · August 31st, 2010 at 1:23 pm · Link

    I pretty much agree with what you said here. It was brutal to kill the one character, but I think it was necessary to the plot. It made Katniss see what she had to do, and what she absolutely COULD NOT do anymore, and it led to her final decision to shoot that arrow at the execution. I think this book was bleak and harsh because it had to be. Because war rarely has a happy ending.

    I mean, this is basically the anti-Breaking Dawn–in BD, there’s all this setup for a conflict and then no real conflict, everyone escapes unhurt, the child is fine, etc. It really frustrated me reading BD that Bella, who had talked the whole series about the sacrifices she was going to have to make to become a vampire–her father, her friendship with Jacob, etc–didn’t end up having to make any sacrifices at all. She got everything she wanted. That’s such a copout way to write an ending, to me. Mockingjay, on the other hand, forces its characters to grow and change through the most awful circumstances. In other words, it’s realistic, where BD wasn’t.

    And yeah, I cried at the scene with Buttercup at the end. I didn’t cry when the death actually happened, but when Buttercup was so hopeful and then Katniss was like “you stupid cat”… TEARS.

  6. Tori
     · September 11th, 2010 at 12:07 pm · Link

    I agree with everything you’ve said Michelle! Mockingjay was a powerful book, but by no means a cozy/fun read. It broke my heart, made me cry and I think even changed me a little bit.

    A part of me wishes she had written this last book a little differently, but in the end I understand. It wouldn’t really have the same impact if it was all light and fluffy would it?

    What kept you reading Michelle? Do you have a favorite part? Did you cry?

  7. Finn
     · October 26th, 2010 at 11:31 pm · Link

    I was definitely rooting for Gale, never really liked Peeta that much because he seemed like a caricature rather than a character.

    The point where I really became disappointed though was when Finnick died. Something about the image of him trying desperately up a ladder and getting brutally ripped back down and eaten alive was too much. Especially after he’d gone through so much and finally started to turn things around.

    So much of this series was great that I didn’t want Collins to stiff me again with the ending like in Gregor. I think I would have been able to deal with all the dying if Prim and Finnick had lived, but their deaths in particular just didn’t seem appropriate. I’m sure, of course, that that was how they were meant to seem.

    This is one of those cases I hate; the author kills some characters towards the end to create an emotional impact when the reader thinks that they might just be out of the clear. I loved the series overall, but the ending is making me seriously contemplate imagining that it turned out differently.

  8. Tracee Orman
     · December 6th, 2010 at 9:14 pm · Link

    I came across your review by chance and just have to say that I felt the same in so many ways. I teach high school English and have been teaching the novels in my classroom. Mockingjay is, by far, the hardest to teach, but yet, the most fulfilling. I think it drives the point home for everyone that war is hell. How else can that be portrayed unless some key characters that you know and love die? It just wouldn’t be the same. I don’t think she could have ended it any other way; if it was happier, it would be glorifying war. One thing I wish is that she hadn’t rushed chapter 27. So much time passes compared to the rest of the novel (and series) in that one chapter…and yet, how symbolic that she turned into her mother–silent, broken, depressed, cut off from the rest of the world. So I realize that years had to slip by because she was basically a recluse as she healed her inner wounds.
    I’ve read it several times, and each time I cry harder when I reach the Buttercup moment. I’ll be reading it out loud for my class next week, and I seriously don’t think I’ll get through it. Considering I have a class of almost all boys (ages 15-16) and they got choked up when Rue died, it’s going to be a sob fest. Wish me luck! And thanks, again, for sharing your views & allowing me to, as well. :)

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