I am so sorry to say this, but–I was disappointed by Mockingjay. If you read my earlier reviews, you know that I thought The Hunger Games was brilliant. Catching Fire had flaws, but was promising. And Mockingjay never fulfilled on the promises.
My Katniss problems of the second book magnified enormously in the third. She carries on with her inability to figure out what to do. I had hoped that this was a second book, bridge-segment issue, and that it was just setting up the third book’s resolution. But no. The rebellion is in full swing by this point, but Katniss still spends large portions of the book moping and moaning and debating what she should do. Even after she makes some decisions, she still spends way too much time hiding in closets (yes, literally), heavily medicated, or sunk deep in depression.
Part of me wants to be understanding. She has, after all, been through Hell, and is in some ways still there. But so has everyone else. And a lot of people are handling it much better than Katniss. People are literally fighting and dying for their freedom, Katniss is in a unique position to help the cause–and she can’t seem to rise to it.
That, I think, is the crux of the problem. I wanted the story of Katniss taking her pain and her horror, using it all to become a stronger person, and to grow into her role as the Mockingjay, the rebellion’s symbolic leader. Instead, I feel like I got the story of how Katniss (and Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, Finnick…everyone, really) has been severely damaged by all they’ve been through, and will never fully recover. It’s probably very realistic. But it’s not narratively satisfying.
I find myself looking at stories from two angles. Is it realistic–can I believe that it could be real? Yes. But was it a good choice for the writer to make? I don’t think so. Maybe Katniss really would lose it completely. But I can’t imagine why a writer would choose to have her protagonist fall to pieces for the second half of a trilogy (starting midway through book two and going on until the end).
Another problem is that we’re so removed from the rebellion in many ways. Katniss is a symbolic leader, but she’s not a strategic leader and she only occasionally engages with real fighting. Mostly, she’s used by the rebel leaders for PR purposes (which actually are some of the best parts, because at least she’s doing something). In a way it makes sense, but it also traps us in the point of view someone who is only peripherally engaged in this huge sweeping conflict.
I really liked Gale. He does develop a ruthless streak that certainly wasn’t admirable, and he doesn’t always know the right thing to say to Katniss. He’s flawed. But he takes an active role in the rebellion, he engages with what’s going on and understands what they’re fighting for, and he’s still trying to protect the people he loves. There’s a scene where the community is threatened, and it’s actually Gale, not Katniss, who makes sure that Katniss’ sister is all right. He’s still thinking straight. Unfortunately, he’s not the protagonist.
It’s still an exciting book, and I did find it absorbing–although one reason it was a page-turner was because I was trying to get to a more satisfying part of the book, and then I never did. I liked the grayness of good and evil, which we saw before and was even more evident now. The character development, so good in the others, was lacking. When new characters were introduced, they didn’t feel as vivid as similar minor characters in the first two books.
As to the love triangle. Well. It was resolved, but it was resolved quickly, and ultimately I didn’t find it that satisfying. Maybe this just wasn’t the right setting for a romance. But the first book managed such a nice balance with that, I feel like there must have been a better way to do it.
I realize that some of what I wanted from the book may be cliches. Maybe Collins was trying to tell something really different, that didn’t follow the normal conventions of a coming-of-age story, or of a traditional romance. But you know something? Some devices are used a lot because they work.
I still think The Hunger Games is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it was worth reading the other two just to find out what happened. I just wish I’d liked what happened!
Author’s Site: http://www.thehungergames.co.uk/