Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Title:  Mockingjay
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Genre: YA
Hardcover: 390 pages
ISBN: 0439023513
Summary from Goodreads: 
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
Overall rating: 10/10
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Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay is the riveting final book of the Hunger Games trilogy.  To say that this book is absorbing seems like a massive understatement.  I carried this book around with me all day yesterday and simply could not tear my eyes off the pages.  The Hunger Games was intense, Catching Fire was gripping, but Mockingjay felt like being caught in a heartrending emotional firestorm!  The characters are brilliantly drawn, the scope of the action is broader, and the horrors of war take center stage in a remarkably vivid way.  If you enjoyed the first two books in this series or if you have any interest in dystopian novels, books about war, or stories with courageous heroines, Mockingjay should definitely be on your must-read list!

What I Liked:
-     Katniss is still reluctant to see her public image used to promote other people's agendas, but even as she is being manipulated and used, she manages to blaze her own path and make her own decisions.  She is still a practical survivor at her core, but she is also a young girl who is tormented by nightmares, wracked by guilt, and plagued by grief.  Her insecurities, fears, and sense of guilt are more apparent than ever, but I love that she consistently leads her life with an impressive amount of compassion and courage, even when bombarded by one harrowing challenge after another.
-     I expected Mockingjay to have a lot to say about freedom, justice, and personal and political responsibility, but I was surprised and emotionally captivated by this book's incisive portrayal of the horrors of war.  Absolutely haunting!  Suzanne Collins does not glorify or sugarcoat the bloody atrocities of war.
-     The potent effect of media on society and the idea that the people who control the media, control the populace are used more effectively than ever in Mockingjay.  In the previous two books, we saw the Capitol controlling every broadcast across all of Panem.  This time we get to see two opposing sides airing their own propaganda messages, and the effect is powerful.
-     Seeing compassion highlighted as one of Katniss' greatest strengths is one of my favorite themes within this series.  In Mockingjay, Katniss gains a much broader view of the whole of Panem, so we get to see her compassionate impulses put into action across a war-torn country.
-     The characters in this series learn, adapt, struggle, and sometimes crack under the stress and trauma of their situations.  A few of the experiences they encounter do irreparable damage, and every bit of that is achingly painful to endure (as it should be).  This series has never shied away from showing characters pushed to their limits (and beyond), and Mockingjay takes that to a whole new level.
-     Not only does Katniss learn more about the world in this book, but her understanding of herself and of her own power also grow by leaps and bounds.
-     There are so many poignant moments in this book, moments of heartbreak, despair, fury, and tenderness.  Mockingjay brought me to tears more than once, but alongside the pain and grief that several of the characters in this book must endure, there is an underlying thread of hope and perseverance, and I loved that.

What I Wished:
-     I wanted Peeta to have more time on the page.  I know this is a fairly selfish desire brought on by the fact that I love his character and can never really get enough of him.  There were certainly valid reasons for his lack of page-time, but that didn't stop me from wishing we got to see more of him in this final book.
-     Since this series follows Katniss in first-person, present tense, when her perspective narrows or is overwhelmed by her own situation, our view of her world also shrinks dramatically.  I'm finding it difficult to phrase this clearly without revealing spoilers, but basically I occasionally wanted to see more of what was happening all over Panem and not just focus on Katniss' corner of the world.

Mockingjay provides an emotionally powerful conclusion to one of the best YA series I've ever read.  It reveals a wider view of Panem than the first two books since Katniss' knowledge of (and effect on) life in all thirteen districts has grown considerably over the course of the series.  The war-time action is brutal, realistic, and often inexcusable in a way that makes a very strong statement.  Don't expect a light and fluffy read out of this book, but do expect to be absolutely riveted to the pages.  If you would like to learn more about Mockingay or Suzanne Collins' other books, visit her website, Scholastic's Hunger Games website, or stop by this page to see if Suzanne will be making an appearance near your hometown on her Mockingjay tour.


Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I felt drained by this book! I enjoyed it though. I've written a review plus an essay.


Snow vs Coin analysis

Anna said...

I had a really great discussion today with my mother about these books. (she hasn't and probably never will) read them and it lead me to an interesting conclusion. I'm not a fan of books where "bad things" happen. I don't like books about war or sadness or death. In fact I usually hate them but these were different because I think the bad things that happen in this book don't happen just because the author wanted to do bad things to her characters for shock value. I think each thing that happens is a commentary on humanity, on war and on peace.

I don't want to spoil but I was struck by Coin's ideas for reparation.....How very human. And how very inhumane. In any war....what makes the next war is often the moment where the victors become the enemy. I see this in some of what we are doing in the middle east and in what has been done in the past. That seems to be a theme as you pointed out with the media portions of your review. Sometimes the good guys aren't that different from the bad guys. I think that's something we need to look at more as a global society.

This book isn't trauma drama. It's very very real and very close to what we could easily become.

And it's just damn good writing.

Ava said...

I finished this earlier today, and I really loved it. It was simply incredible. There's so much I want to say about it, though, but I really don't want to give away any spoiler! It's sort of frustrating!

Candace said...

I don't think I could possibly do a review without spoilers! You did awesome! Next week I think Lori and I (and maybe Angel) will post a discussion (which will be full of spoilers, I'm sure!).
This is definitely one of those series that when someone asks for a recommendation its one of the first to pop into my head.

Laurie London said...

I just finished Mockingjay and am still sifting through my thoughts. An amazing whirlwind--yes. A comfortable, satisfying read--no.

Just like you, I'd have loved seeing the world (and Katniss) through Peeta's and Gale's eyes. So much happened off-camera when Katniss wasn't present. The limitations (or beauty) of a first person narration, I guess.

But then, much of what happened off-camera was brutal and torturous, so maybe it's a good thing we only saw the world through her eyes. I'm not sure I could've taken more.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I agree with your summary and passion for this book. I was so saddened by Peeta's situation that I had a tough time reconciling that he wasn't the same old doting baker's son. But, I think that Katniss needed him to not see her as perfection in order for her to fall in love with him. And, I was happy that Gale had some more "page time" (as you put it). It actually made me like him less.

Thanks for review! I love talking ab out this book. I'm glad that someone else loved it as much as I did!

danya said...

This is a really fabulous review! You highlighted lots of things that I liked about Mockingjay. Also, I totally agree with you about both wanting more Peeta to be shown (both character and relationship development in my opinion, because I felt kind of like he got lost and never really surfaced again), and also that the perspective is restricted to Katniss' own perspective - this made things more difficult to visualize sometimes in a bigger picture kind of way.

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