Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)SPOILERS AHEAD!!
What. the. f***. Words can't begin to express my disappointment. I bought Mockingjay the first day it came out and I was preparing myself for a truly epic novel, one worthy of its predecessors. I loved The Hunger Games; it was fast-paced, thrilling, suspenseful. Catching Fire wasn't as good but it was still enjoyable (I was majorly impressed by the game arena). I wasn't let down by Catching Fire though; I figured it was just a transition novel, build-up to what would undoubtedlySPOILERS AHEAD!!What. the. f***. Words can't begin to express my disappointment. I bought Mockingjay the first day it came out and I was preparing myself for a truly epic novel, one worthy of its predecessors. I loved The Hunger Games; it was fast-paced, thrilling, suspenseful. Catching Fire wasn't as good but it was still enjoyable (I was majorly impressed by the game arena). I wasn't let down by Catching Fire though; I figured it was just a transition novel, build-up to what would undoubtedly be a mindblowing, epic conclusion in Mockingjay. Maybe I set my expectations too high. I do think Collins is a good writer; she definitely knows how to write and tell a story. But I feel like she lost her way in this book. Or maybe the only thing that made this series so great was the Hunger Games, and now that it's absent, there's nothing to drive the story.The love triangle wasn't well played out. First of all, I'm getting a bit tired of reading about love triangles -- especially in novels where there's a much greater plot present. But I'll admit, I was on Team Gale throughout the series, because he was strong and resilient and resourceful and caring. There was this attractive manly quality about him and he was so in sync with Katniss, and hot to boot. But towards the end of this novel, I didn't give a flying fart about Katniss's love life and who she ended up with, because everything seemed like such a hopeless, depressing mess that there was no point. I also hated how she kept flip-flopping and toying with both Gale and Peeta (I've been bothered by this since CF). She should make up her mind about who she wants instead of leading them both on! Her fickleness is pretty inconsiderate to these two guys whom she supposedly cares about. And if she can't decide (I can see why, they both have great qualities), then she should give herself some space/time to decide, and in the meantime, don't go kissing or showing romantic affection to either one! She ended up with Peeta, which would have been fine if it had been executed properly. But even in this aspect of her life, she didn't get to CHOOSE, which is basically the story of her life. She just ended up with Peeta because he was the only one who stuck around. At the end, I found myself wanting her to end up alone, of her OWN choice. Heck, instead of spiraling into bleak depression and continuing life as a puppet, I would have rather seen her die for a noble cause and for doing the right thing. That would have been a more satisfactory ending, and that's saying something because I normally HATE when characters die.I didn't like that we didn't get to experience the action close-up. As the war unraveled, I felt like Katniss was always on the sidelines, only called in when other people commanded her to. We didn't get to see Katniss kicking butt against her enemies, we got to hear from other characters about events that occurred, or watch them on the TV. It is so mindnumbingly dull to be watching a character watching something, instead of experiencing the action with the character. Everything she did was for show, for a propo or campaign or whatever. It was all so .. fake. Here they are in the middle of a war, people are dying left and right, and all they care about is filming and getting good shots and angles and putting on a pretty face! It felt so staged and it was boring and infuriating to read. The only real action is towards the end when she and her team are going on the assassin mission to kill Snow, and even THAT was originally only for a propo (that went astray). The last third of the book (the assassin mission) was gorey and bloody, which I didn't mind. It's war after all. But many characters' deaths were so rushed and pointless. Prim's death didn't have the impact that I'm sure Collins was aiming for; I didn't feel sad when she died, as she's barely in the story as it is, so I didn't get to know her well enough and connect with her beforehand. She was absent for at least 100 pages before her death came out of nowhere, for God's sake, so her death felt like any stranger's death. (Although it seems her death kind of defeated the point of sparing her from the Hunger Games.) What DID kill me was Finnick's death. Finnick was one of the characters I loved most in this series, and call me petty, but I can't forgive Collins for killing him off after he'd been through so much and finally got to marry the love of his life. It wasn't even a death of purpose. He got eaten by mutts in a sewer, along with half their assassin team. It annoyed me so much because their deaths felt so UNNECESSARY, like they were just a way for Collins to emphasize that "this is a DEATHLY SERIOUS, VERY BLOODY BOOK!" It felt like she was just randomly and meaninglessly killing off supporting characters because she couldn't bear to part with her main ones. Deaths are fine when they're important to the plot, but this felt like death for the sake of death.Okay, now on to the REAL disappointment of this book: Katniss herself. One of the reasons why I loved this series was because of Katniss. She was strong, resourceful, clever and cunning, she had an amazing survival instinct and she knew how to persevere. In Catching Fire, these qualities diminished; she was mainly a pawn, a puppet for others to use for their own objectives. But she still had some semblance of control and she was still Katniss. In Mockingjay, all these traits are scrapped and we get a Katniss-clone who is angsty and bitchy and whiny (wasn't Bella in Twilight bad enough?). Half the book, she's throwing herself pity parties in the closet (literally!). Sure, she definitely has reason to be sad and angry, and her life is full of hardships and tragedies. But I thought that the Katniss from the Hunger Games, the Katniss who had to keep her family alive since the age of 12, would be able to fight through and persevere. I guess I wanted a strong victor, a strong heroine, not a self-pitying victim who can't make her own decisions. That's another thing that bothered me: throughout the whole book, she had no control over ANYTHING, not even her own life and actions. She was a empty, lifeless pawn, a zombie if you will, who didn't do anything that wasn't directed or commanded by other people. In this novel, I was expecting her to STEP UP, embrace her role as Mockingjay, use her power/influence to get involved in the rebellion, take control of her life, and make a difference in the outcome of her world. I was expecting to see her grow and change and I was excited for her metamorphosis. Instead, we get this weak girl who's shirking all responsibilities, addled on drugs half the time, and lashing out at people the other half. Not only did she not improve herself from the first book (she was kickass in the first book btw), she got WORSE, an empty shadow of her former self. At the beginning, I could understand her confusion, her pain, her reluctance to be the Mockingjay. It'd be weird if she DIDN'T feel this way, if she didn't have that time of indecision and unwillingness. But after, I expected her to be strong and work through it, to face her fears and obstacles and choose to do the right thing, to really fight for justice. The best things in life never come easy; anybody who's done anything has had to overcome obstacles to accomplish their goals. When she decided: "I must be the Mockingjay", my heart soared (cheesy but it did!) and I was rooting for her 100%. When I heard her inspirational words during the propos, the fire behind them, my heart soared because I thought Katniss was back. But as I kept reading, I realized .. even though she verbally accepted her role, her mind still wasn't in it and she wasn't in control of herself. She didn't grow and become stronger, that's what pisses me off.The post-traumatic stress, the mental breakdowns, the self-pity, the self-loathing, the nearing of insanity .. all of these things are realistic, yes, but a bit tiresome and not very interesting to read when it's all the same and the narrator is drowning herself in it in the face of much greater things to the point where it detracts from the plot. These feelings shouldn't be the main focus throughout the ENTIRE novel. There has to be a turning point when she overcomes all of this and actively decides not to let these obstacles stand in her way. Now, many people will say her breakdown is more true to life, and it's what any normal 17-year-old girl would feel and go through. But, maybe I'm weird here, but for some stories, I don't WANT to read about the average, normal teenager. I want to
read about someone who's a bit special, who's different, who displays traits (like courage, heart, perseverance) greater than the norm and accomplishes more than the "normal, average teen" even during the most difficult of times. Something that, when you close the book, makes you feel like "Wow, they're amazing. Inspirational. I want to be like that." & to be honest, I didn't sign up to read a war documentary or some nonfiction account of how war affects its victims. I came in expecting a break from reality, a fantasy sci-fi young adult novel about a girl who becomes a hero.In trying to be as realistic as possible, I think Collins chose a pessimistic extreme of "realism" to portray. There are perfectly human people in real life in real circumstances who are able to fight through obstacles and hardships and come out on top without relying on drugs and hiding in closets. They can find more constructive and positive ways to deal with their problems. Sure, it obviously affects them (they're not invincible) but they don't lose themselves the way Katniss does. Those are the kinds of inspirational stories I wanna read when it comes to these kinds of novels, not this "Diary of an Emo Puppet." This book was also REALLY anti-climactic. Whenever Collins finally gave us an exciting scene, as soon as it got intense, Katniss would get knocked out in the midst of things and we'd wake up to her in the hospital being treated. (MAJOR COP-OUT, in my opinion.) Then, of course, comes the inevitable centuries (that's what it felt like) of us hearing about her in pain and agony. Okay, we get it after reading about it the WHOLE novel! Now can she please pick herself up and make herself useful?Katniss doesn't deserve the title "girl who was on fire" and to be the main character in such an epic setting and story. Sure, she can be on fire, but only when someone sets her on fire or directs her to be on fire, not of her own doing. She was soulless and indifferent and cared about herself and her own feelings more than anyone else's (seeing as how she spends most of the novel grieving for herself and almost never for anyone else) .. if the main character, the narrator, doesn't care about anything and has no passion, why should we? What's the point when the main character whose eyes we're seeing through has no heart and no passion? And what happened to the selfless girl who willingly sacrificed her life to save her sister?The things I did like. I liked that Katniss had 2 seconds of mental clarity and shot Coin instead of Snow (the only time in the book when she was truly thinking clearly and acting of her own accord). I wonder if I'm giving her too much credit though; judging from her selfish one-track mind in this book, I fear that she did this only because Coin killed Prim, not because she saw the bigger picture. Worse yet, I fear this may just have been a result of Snow's manipulation, not her own decision. I also feel the significance and bravery of this smart moment was rendered meaningless by her immediate cowardly reaction: instead of having conviction in her action and facing the consequences, she scrambled frantically to find the most painless and quickest way to kill herself. She never once in the book acknowledges all she has to live for and all the positive things she still has in her life. When a character's will to survive is absent through a whole novel, I as a reader have no desire for them to live either; grant their wish already! But to continue on .. I liked learning about more of the characters in depth: Gale (who I grew to love even more in this book), Finnick, Annie, Boggs, Johanna, etc. I liked the ending passages (fitting and beautifully haunting) and I liked the songs (The Hanging Tree and the meadow one). There are probably some other things that I'll update this review with once disappointment and frustration are no longer clouding my brain.I wouldn't have minded so much if it had been a page-turner that was exciting to read, but trying to finish this book felt like a chore. When reading for enjoyment starts feeling like a chore, that's the ultimate sign that I dislike the book. 90% of the book, Katniss was wandering aimlessly through hallways, drugged out on morphling, hiding in a closet, or lying in a hospital bed. I kept waiting, I was so sure it would happen any minute, for the story-changing moment when Katniss would pick herself up and say "Enough is enough." I kept waiting for the moment when the winds would change and she would decide with conviction to actively work through her problems -- but to my shock, that moment never came. This book seriously dragged and dragged and dragged, and just got slower and slower until everyone started dropping dead towards the last quarter of the book. The Hunger Games, I couldn't put it down; for this, I dreaded picking it up to finish it. I did tons of things in between reading this book (doing my nails, watching TV, taking a walk, etc) because I couldn't read it in one sitting without wanting to gouge my eyes out. It was the same reoccurring theme: Katniss was manipulated and controlled by everyone around her and she didn't think or do anything of her own will. It got old. I read all this build-up and didn't get rewarded for it. And even though the rebels triumphed, I didn't feel anything for them, not relief, not happiness, just nothing. I was just detached. And none of it was thanks to Katniss: her only role in the Capitol's defeat was watching Prim die, getting burned, and waking up in a hospital, where we're TOLD instead of SHOWN how the Capitol fell (all while she was unconscious, an occurrence that's way too common in this book). Again, anti-climactic! During the scene when it really mattered!I understand the message Collins is trying to convey and I agree with it: that war is awful and no one truly wins. And good and bad are not clearly defined black and white. (It got too preachy at certain points though, didn't it?) And I understand that not all books are unicorns-and-ponies happy endings, and that this series has always been intense and dark and a bit bleak. But that only works when there's an underlying message of hope and of optimism. I felt it in the 1st books, but this ending was devoid of all hope and happiness. Yes, humans are disgusting creatures who hurt and kill one another, who do horrible things because of greed and selfishness and just pure malice. But humans are also capable of love and compassion and kindness, and I wish she'd incorporated a bit of that into the story as well so there'd be a more hopeful ending. Even in real life, no matter how bad things may be, there is always hope. Isn't that the kind of message you really want young people to be left with? Instead of pessimistic doom and "give up on mankind"? I finished the book feeling hopeless and lost and depressed, and not in that deep, profound way where it motivates me to get up off my ass and do something to make a difference.Gosh, at least Harry was his own person and got to face Voldemort in the end. What did Katniss get to do except be an empty canvas for them to paint and feed lines to?Though I guess since I'm feeling so passionately about all of this, it wasn't a worthless read. It was just very, VERY disappointing.Edit:I just re-read this review a month or so after I wrote it and I sincerely apologize for my sloppy writing and overindulgence in run-on sentences! I was in a rush to unleash all my feelings after finishing the book so I wouldn't forget anything. I hope this review was understandable and enjoyable anyway :)That's the end of the review and you can stop here but I wanted to add on .. and I'm thinking those who grew up with Harry Potter like I did can relate:So I decided to re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to prepare myself for the upcoming movie, and to get the bitter taste of Mockingjay out of my mouth, and here's a passage towards the end where Harry's character really touched me and left me in awe:"Because," said Harry, "sometimes you've got to think about more than your own safety! Sometimes you've got to think about the greater good! This is war!""You're seventeen, boy!""I'm of age, and I'm going to keep fighting even if you've given up!" a few sentences later .. "I'm going to keep going until I succeed -- or I die. Don't think I don't know how this might end. I've known it for years."Reading it again makes me all emotional and teary all over again, from Dobby's heartfelt burial to Harry's courageous walk to his death in the forest, knowing fully well what awaits him and yet willing to sacrifice himself for others and for a better world ...all the while, struggling with his fears and the temptation to run away .. and I swear, tears of pride and joy sprang from my eyes and exhilaration shot through my veins when Harry, the boy we grew up with, stepped up as a man and faced his enemy with confidence, strength, wisdom.
Whatever faults the last HP book may have, I just have to say: Thank you, Harry, for giving me hope again and proving there are still admirable heroes in young literature....more