“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins is the third and final book in “The Hunger Games” trilogy. It was published on Aug. 24, 2010 by Scholastic Press.
Just in time for the movie, it’s time to take a look at this final novel in a trilogy that has gone on to become the flagship of the young adult (YA) dystopian genre. I read “Mockingjay” a little late into its career, not getting to it until sometime in late 2011 or early 2012. I never read any reviews for it out of the fear of spoilers, but I had already heard plenty of the rumors that people were not pleased with the novel’s unsettling conclusion. I did not care. I doubted they understood. “The Hunger Games” trilogy is one of the only times in my life in which I found the second book to be even better than the first, which made my expectations for “Mockingjay” absolutely through the ceiling.
The novel picks back up with Katniss and friends in District 13. Many of them are in a shell shocked state, and it takes a lengthy amount of time to adjust into the reality that they have been given. It doesn’t take long for Katniss to realize that Peeta has been taken by the Capitol, and her life feels morbidly destroyed.
Much of the first half of the novel focuses on Katniss’s slow and painful acceptance of all that has happened around her, and how she must once again become a key part of it. The leader of District 13, President Coin, wants her to embrace her role as the symbol of the rebellion, as people have already associated her. Katniss plods around the district and eventually makes a few appearances around Panem in order to appease President Coin and everyone else supporting her. This leads to a few more traumatic moments for Katniss, but ultimately she is removed from most of the events happening in the background. This changes about halfway through the novel, when Peeta has been rescued and Katniss comes to realize his warped mental state.
From this point on, the novel becomes about infiltrating and recapturing the Capitol. The Capitol itself takes on the form of a maze, similar to the hunger games in both of the previous novels. Katniss, Peeta and her closest allies march through, encountering troops, traps and mutants along the way.
I will not be spoiling the final chapters of the novel, as it is what has opened this story to so much debate and criticism.
First off, it was definitely an interesting choice to backload so much of the novel’s action sequences. The first half of the novel, as it reflects in the movie, is a bit plodding and drawn out. It heavily emphasizes Katniss’s depression and all the raw emotions that she feels towards the people who have put her in this situation. In the novel format, I was able to give it a lenient pass, because I was already so invested in her character. It wasn’t up to the same high-tension, constant movement standard that the previous novels instill in the reader. I think Collins was going with the “feeling of being trapped” approach. She played up Katniss’s emotions even higher by making her unable to assist in the only things that she still cared about, all the while having people like Coin breathing down her neck to work the political field. Unfortunately, this does not make the novel as easy to read as its predecessors.
The second half of the novel put me right back into the mindset of the first two books, full of drama and a never ending feeling of movement and plot progression. I enjoyed Peeta’s new dynamic. I felt like his character lacked blemishes in the story thus far, and seeing him in such an altered state, while terrible, really brought out his flaws and showed us what it looked like for him to be violent. The plot of the second half itself was just much more interesting than the first half. Collins was finally able to make more use out of the “mutants” that we had been building up to and only seen glimpses of at the end of the first novel.
My opinions of the ending are fairly positive. This is a YA book with a very adult ending. It goes from being a sci-fi fantasy in which anything can happen to a stunning and crushing example of pessimistic realism. While the end may not give all readers the elated feeling of victory that they had been waiting for, it is an ending that you will likely never forget and still brings about hope for what is yet to come.
You can buy “Mockingjay”from Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and most other major booksellers.
You can also checkout the film, “Mockingjay – Part II” in theaters on Friday, Nov. 20.