Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: Mockingjay (spoiler free!)

Suzanne Collins

Looking at MOCKINGJAY objectively is going to be nearly impossible. For me, for you, for anyone, I think, if only because it's such an emotional novel. Love it or hate it, there's no way to get through these four hundred pages unscathed, without having some sort of extreme emotional reaction. Some have said this book broke their brain. Others describe it as the Mockingjay hangover or Post-Traumatic-Mockingjay-Disorder.

Yes. I am writing this the day after finishing the book and I agree with the above. It broke my brain. I'm in a post-Mockingjay haze and attempting to write a review. So please, bear with me.

First, as if the extraordinarily high score above wasn't clue enough, you should know that I love this book. I think it's brilliant, I think it ended the trilogy perfectly, and in fact I think it was the best of the bunch. I love it so much that a mere 10 of 10 seems like a low score. Honestly, I wish I could break the rules of math and give it a 12 on the "fangirly" scale.

Of course the premise and plot are continuations of the first two books in the series, but this time things are different. Katniss Everdeen, after breaking the force field surrounding her second Hunger Games, has been rescued by District 13. While Peeta Mellark is captured by the Capitol, the rebels are asking Katniss to become the Mockingjay -- the symbol, the face, of the revolution. Agreeing to this means working for District 13's president, who isn't exactly the biggest fan of Katniss, but it's also the only way she can save Peeta and the rest of the victors. And the only way she can kill President Snow. This book puts us in an entirely new setting -- not District 12, not the arena or the Capitol, but instead District 13, underground, and the various poor districts where the revolution is being fought. The atmosphere, mood, and setting is clearer than ever in this book. Between the ruins of Katniss' and Gale's home, the stark and strict District 13, and the fighting, every place we visit in this book is so incredibly intense. Full of emotion and desperation, I'm not sure I've come across a book that did a better job of showing setting.

In this book, Katniss really grows into herself. Unlike in the previous books, now she has some power (although maybe not so much as she'd like) and is much less unsure and wishy-washy than before. Yes, she still goes back and forth on some issues, but when she does her motivations and confusions are much clearer. There was, surprisingly, only one point during this book that I wanted to throw it across the room. And, in hindsight, I believe there was more at play in this moment than was clear in the scene itself. (Those of you who've read the book may know what I'm talking about.) Since this is the one book that doesn't feature the Hunger Games, we get to see Katniss with the people she grew up with. This means that her and Gale's relationship is pushed to the forefront, the relationships with her mother and Prim are revisted in more detail, and we really get to see the love she has for the place she grew up. Throughout THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE, Katniss was so incredibly independent that it was really hard to see the feelings she had for her family. She was often impatient with her mother and though she took her sister's place in the Games, we really didn't get to see much of this relationship. In this book, that was remedied. We get to know the sisters' relationship, as well as getting to know Prim as her own character. It was also nice getting to know Gale better. I'm not a Gale fan and always felt that his relationship with Katniss was closer to that of a brother or cousin than boyfriend, but that said, I loved really being able to see the history that the two of them had together before the Games.

As for Peeta and what happens to him in the last installment, there's not much I can say that isn't a spoiler. I will say that there is a new (and very painful) component to the Peeta/Katniss relationship. And yet, as painful and awful as it was, I think it played out perfectly, especially as we got deeper into the story. That said, this book is definitely not about Gale v. Peeta. Yes, that is an element, and one that Katniss struggles with. But it's not at the forefront. It shouldn't be at the forefront. Katniss, Gale, Peeta, and everyone else in this incredible book, are dealing with a war and the consequences of war. There's not a lot of time for teenage love here.

Throughout the entire series, I had some pretty big problems with Katniss. I wasn't sure I ever liked her. As compelling as she was, it wasn't her that made me want to continue the series after THE HUNGER GAMES. It was Peeta, it was the twists that happened along the day, it was her world that sucked me in. And while MOCKINGJAY still didn't make her my favorite character ever, it did an impressively good job of redeeming her in my eyes. In this book, she had emotions. She was conflicted, but it was understandable. On the whole, she wasn't cold, and when she was you could see why. With the exception of one scene, one heart-wrenching, what-the-hell-are-you-doing-Katniss!!!?? scene that boggled my mind, I liked Katniss. For the first time I felt like I understood her. (And that one scene? I think Collins leaves it up to us to figure out what we think was going through Katniss' mind at that point, and what I think was happening behind the scenes redeems her, if that makes any sense to you.)

This series ended perfectly. This book ended perfectly. Collins did the seemingly-impossible in that she wrote a real, true-to-the-story ending that only made me love the series more. She stayed true to what she'd set up previously and somehow made it work unbelievably well. Honestly, the ending might just be my favorite part of the entire series.

If you've read MOCKINGJAY, I'd love to discuss it with you!! Please keep comments spoiler-free, but feel free to email me!

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