Special note: this review is littered with SPOILERS. However, if I ruin the book for you and you wind up skipping it, you might be better off… because Mockingjay sucks.
Before my initial foray into the Hunger Games world, I admittedly thought it looked not worth my time. Of course, given the massive fuss that was made about the first movie, I figured it was worth a $1.50 Redbox rental and a little over two hours of my time. Then, if it stunk, I could spend the rest of eternity making fun of it… much like Twilight.
Of course, I watched the first movie and unexpectedly loved it. Immediately, I looked up the release dates for the next two movies (and in the process found out the last book is going to be two movies). Figuring I couldn’t wait until 2015 to find out how this all ends, I did something which I’ve never done before. I purchased the Kindle version of the “Catching Fire” instead of the real book and downloaded the Kindle iPhone app for my phone. I plowed through “Catching Fire” but as I neared the end, I recall thinking I couldn’t believe there were only 10 pages left in the book as there was just so much left to iron out. Then, in what felt like a flash, the Quarter Quell was over and District 12 is no more. My fiction literary catalog of knowledge is a little bare, but it brought me back to the Harry Potter series when I’d finish a book and just need to know what happened next.
Immediately upon finishing “Catching Fire,” I headed to Amazon, grabbed “Mockingjay,” and plowed through the first 100 pages. Literally nothing happened, but I wasn’t alarmed since the last book started quite slow and built into a fantastic finish. However, I continued to read another 100 pages and found myself still unattached to this book. By the time I got to page 300, I was starting to steam. When I finished the last 90 pages, I found myself full-fledged pissed off. Not because of the choices Suzanne Collins made killing off a few characters or who Katniss wound up with or even the fact that it wasn’t a fairy-tale ending. Rather, I was pissed off because this book absolutely and positively sucked and the story deserved much more than this. Had I waited a full year for this book to come out like many did, I can’t imagine how disappointed I would’ve been.
Mockingjay sucks so bad, but why did I feel that way? Here is a quick list of major problems I had with the book:
- Prim was a minor character in that she wasn’t actual physically present for most of the story. But given Katniss’s motivation for almost everything she did from the first reaping in the Hunger Games moving forward was to better the life for Prim, the fact that her death was given a measly sentence was very insulting and did not allow the readers to emotionally feel the impact that the such a major death warranted.
- Finnick was introduced in the second book as a tribute. Over the next book and a half, he became a character we knew, trusted, and liked especially as Peeta’s role was somewhat diminished in the third book. Again, when he is killed, he’s given maybe a sentence. There is no emotional impact whatsoever… just sort of a mention that “well… he’s dead.”
- The Peeta/Gale/Katniss story line was a central story line that probably is the major character story line in the entire trilogy. I’m not upset with how it ended and who she wound up with (honestly, I don’t think that I cared about this part of the story as much as Suzanne Collins probably intended readers to care), but I find myself extremely dissatisfied with the way that we got there. For the last half of the book, I’m made to believe Peeta can’t be trusted. He can’t control himself. Then, in the climatic scene of the book in the Capitol, Katniss and Gale are together to try to gain access to President Snow to assassinate him. Peeta trails behind with the plans of causing a scene if they get in trouble. The explosion happens and Prim dies. Katniss wakes up and they rebels have won. And then, she decides to choose Peeta over Gale because Gale is too much like herself. What? The “brainwashing” that seemed like a bit of a stretch in the first place just seems to wear away and now he can be trusted again?!? For how central this was to the plot of all three books, I would’ve liked to have seen Peeta show her a sign that he could be trusted again or a sign that Katniss knew it wasn’t his fault. Nevermind the fact that Gale’s sadness or lack thereof isn’t even mentioned. We have no idea what happened with Gale other than he’s in District 2. The love triangle felt clumsy during books 1 & 2, but when the plot lines that surrounded them were interesting, it worked. During “Mockingjay,” the whole love triangle felt strangely Pearl Harbor-esque.
- I got entirely sick of Katniss losing consciousness. It felt like a literary cop out. It felt a little bit like every time Suzanne Collins maybe ran into a stumbling point and didn’t know how to best move the plot forward, she’d knock Katniss out for a couple days, wake her up, and have another character tell her what happened. It’s one thing if this happens once or twice, but this was happening continually. Then, it once again happened at the end of the book and the reader isn’t given the satisfaction (or the horror) of that climactic moment. To me, this is a sin. Could you imagine reading Lord of the Rings. You’re well over 1,000 pages into the book. They are heading towards Mount Doom to destroy the ring. Then Frodo gets knocked out. He wakes up and he says what happened. “Ahh… don’t worry about it. The Ring was destroyed, Sauron’s dead, and you don’t have to worry about Gollum anymore.” Imagine if you were watching the Shawshank Redemption. Instead of seeing the scene that we’ve been building up to where Andy breaks out of prison, he gets knocked out and wakes up in Mexico next to Red. “What happened?” he asked. “Oh… you got knocked out, so I helped break you out and then smuggled both of us to Mexico.” Completely unsatisfying and insulting to someone who’s invested that much time. Stupid, stupid ending.
- There is exactly one interesting moment in the whole book – when she shoots Coin instead of Snow. Even then, we find out Snow either laughed to death or is crushed to death. We don’t know.
Reading the book, I felt like a bones of a good conclusion were there. I don’t know if Suzanne Collins felt pressure to get the book done by a certain deadline or living up to the pressure of delivering a satisfying conclusion after selling millions and millions of books and surely meeting thousands upon thousands of fans, but this book wound up feeling poorly paces, sloppily written, and altogether dull. Serious disappointment for fans of the series (something I never thought I’d consider myself). The fact that they are making this into two movies seems like the biggest cash grab ever as their simply isn’t enough of anything in the first half of the book to warrant a full movie. In the hands of the right director, I can see this movie done in a way that would be more satisfying than the book (making it possibly the first time in recorded history the movie is better than the book). Regardless, though, the book Mockingjay sucks and it’s a borderline travesty that such a great series ended so poorly.