Book Review of Mockingjay (The Hunger Games Book Three)

by JoHarrington

The concluding part in Suzanne Collins's brilliant trilogy is played out on a much bigger arena. Hollywood is splitting it in two for a double-bill movie.

I had a problem when I finished 'Catching Fire'. I hadn't got the final installment in the trilogy.

Naturally I was waiting at my brother's house for my nephew to finish school. I wanted that book!

Unfortunately, I'd read the first two so quickly that he hadn't yet completed the third. An emergency plan B had to be initiated immediately.

I couldn't rest until I knew what happened. I simply bought the book on Kindle and devoured it in a night.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3)

This is the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. It took the themes of the previous two and applied them in a new direction and on a much bigger scale.
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3)

'Mockingjay' is the Grand Finale

Everything in the previous two installments has been building up to this. In terms of sheer scale and noise, it does not disappoint.

The first two Hunger Games books were always going to be a hard act to follow.  I'd been told in advance that Suzanne Collins had pulled it off with aplomb.

A friend, knowing that I was currently reading Catching Fire, wrinkled up her nose. That one, she informed me, wasn't very good, but Mockingjay was absolutely brilliant. It was the best of the three.

It certainly urged me on, because I was enjoying the second one very much. If the concluding part eclipsed this story, then it had to be good.

I'm now in a position to comment on that opinion and I have to respectfully disagree. 

Oh!  Mockingjay is epic!  In the book equivalent of special effects, it pulls out all the stops.  There is far more action than The Hunger Games and, after Catching Fire, a cast of thousands to play with.

Just when you're thinking that Collins couldn't possibly squeeze another games in there, she takes us off into an entirely new direction.  It concludes everything wonderfully well, with fireworks and fanfares aplenty.

But it lost what I loved best about the previous books.

Please note that there are spoilers for The Hunger Games Book One and Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book Two) coming up.

I was probably the only person left who had not read Suzanne Collins's amazing trilogy. Once I'd taken the plunge, I was riveted for days, until all three books were read.
Suzanne Collins's epic trilogy appears to have caught the imagination of a generation. The second installment was my personal favorite. I simply could not put it down.

Did Suzanne Collins Lose Control of Her Characters?

The people who you fell in love with in 'Catching Fire' are forced back into the shadows (or worse) in 'Mockingjay'.

The great supporting cast pretty much merged into an homogeneous blob.  We get more details about them, but they're like flakes of gold in a pan of iron pyrite.

Then they're pretty much dismissed. Only Johanna Mason has the force of character to not fade away.  She emerged with such force that I felt Collins had to side-line her to stop her taking over from Katniss Everdeen. Johanna so easily could have done that.

It all reminded me of a situation in the manga Death Note.  The character of Mello exploded onto the pages with such brilliance that the readers started moving towards him.  He was in danger of becoming the protagonist, rather than maintaining his intended role as a cameo antagonist. 

Then he disappeared. 

In later interviews, the author Tsugumi Ohba admitted that it was because Mello would have solved the case too quickly, and he had always intended the ultimate showdown to be between Kira and Near.

As soon as I realized what was happening with Johanna Mason in Mockingjay, I had her labelled as a Mello.  She wasn't alone in that either.  So many people, whom we spent Catching Fire learning to care about, appeared to get dismissed in its sequel. Often in the most blase of manners. 

In the end, it felt like Collins had so lost control over her fantastic characters, that she had to cheat her way into bringing it all back to Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  That part just left me cold.  I was so busy being furious about the cavalier fashion in which the supporting cast were side-lined that I found that I stopped caring about the main three.

That was not the right attitude with which to approach the ending, so I feel that I somewhat missed its impact.

Buy The Hunger Games Trilogy on Kindle

I do thoroughly recommend reading this trilogy. All of the hype is because it really is that good.
The Hunger Games (Book 1)Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2)Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3)

Mockingjay is a War Novel, Not a Romance

A love triangle does underpin the trilogy, as the foremost of the sub-plots, but that's not what it's all about.

Suzanne Collins has stated that she got the idea for The Hunger Games from flicking through the channels of a television in a hotel room.

On one side there was a reality TV show. It disturbed her to see that people could be humiliated for our entertainment. 

On another channel, news from the Iraq War was being broadcast. The shock and awe aspects desensitizing viewers from the fact that those were real people, with real thoughts and feelings, and real families around them.

The two disturbing images fused into her imagination and The Hunger Games were born.

With that in mind, it's somewhat missing the point to reduce the whole story arc into a tale about a teenage love triangle.  In Mockingjay, that sub-plot really does take a back-seat. We are looking at a much bigger picture than that.

Instead the focus is much more upon what Wilfred Owen called 'war, and the futility of war.'

The arena itself always had been a metaphor for the much wider condition of the Districts, as opposed to the Capitol.  In the final novel, the hints are smashed away with a sledgehammer's touch. The reality is presented as something stark, not merely to the viewers in Panem, but to the trilogy's readers too.

While I begrudged the clumsiness with which Collins treated her supporting cast, I did appreciate the realism.  Not everyone could make it out of such situations alive and sane. 

I also thought it right that a single teenage girl, no matter how symbolically important, would not be present at every major event.  That would not have happened in the context of that world, nor did Collins force it to happen in her story.

Unfortunately, it did mean that, as readers seeing through Katniss's eyes, we did miss out on a great deal of the action too.  If our eye-witness isn't there, then we don't get to witness it.

The Hunger Games Reading Guides

Buy these studies to enable you to examine the trilogy's themes and symbolism in more depth.
The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Cr...Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized ...The Girl Who Was on Fire (Movie Editi...

Final Thoughts About Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay

Of the three books, I left Mockingjay feeling that it was the weakest story. But also aware that I may have been so blind-sided by the treatment of the supporting cast, that I too could have been missing the point.

There is far more realism here.  More to apply onto real world situations and to ask questions about our role in combating them.  With all my human rights endeavors, it should have been my favorite in the trilogy.

Instead, I found myself harking back to Catching Fire and its strong characterizations.  I wished that I could have followed this story through the eyes of Finnick or Johanna, maybe even Gale.  When Katniss is forced to take a back-seat, then so did we; and that wasn't the greatest story-telling that it could have been.

But then again, aren't we all spectators watching on a screen?  And wasn't that the over-riding message of The Hunger Games?

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Brooch

The Hunger Games Brooch Prop Replica
Updated: 09/21/2012, JoHarrington
 
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JoHarrington on 09/21/2012

Peppermint latte is also a winner!

Cheated! Yes, that's a really good word for it. It wasn't a good time to be looking through Katniss's eyes. In fact, it made it clear that we were looking through her eyes and that broke the fourth wall somewhat.

Shonna on 09/21/2012

Me too! I'd be more than OK with that - or there's always your peppermint latte ;)
I can also see what she was trying to do and appreciate the angle she took, but I still felt cheated jumping from action to "what, it's over already?! Whaaa?"

JoHarrington on 09/21/2012

I love how I'm following you around these books, discussing them with you via comments. I'd so love to be sitting on your deck, chatting about them over a nice glass of pomegranate wine.

I can see the literary device that Collins was going for. We don't know all that's going on in any given situation. That's made obvious here. It does make us also want to see things from different angles, which is always good.

But in terms of story-telling, I thought that device left a lot to be desired.

Shonna on 09/21/2012

I'm right there with you. The putting aside of Katniss is a great way to put it because there's a lot we miss as her paranoia and variety of other issues kick in and absolutely miss out on the other incredibly rich variety of supporting characters find their way around - made me want to know them more for sure and to have entire major things happen when Katniss is blacked out did sort of piss me off. I wanted to SEE these things happen....but no go. Still a good book, but the first two together made the trilogy work for me.

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