This review of Suzanne Collins’s final book in the Hunger Games trilogy was written by contributing writer Aline Dolinh, 12, who’s been reading since she was 3 and writing short stories since she was 7. The review contains MAJOR SPOILERS.
I got Mockingjay on a Friday night and devoured it in less than four hours. It was one of those books that even if the quality was trash, I still would have kept reading. It was only after I finished those last few pages that I sat down on the couch and reflected on the whole thing.
I was liking the beginning a lot—there was crackling tension, nice dialogue, and a lot of badassery going on with Katniss Everdeen and Co. One of the most memorable scenes involved Katniss and her friend/love-interest Gale, all in black, shooting down planes with bows and arrows a la the Na’vi in Avatar while everything around them was exploding.
The underground rebel stronghold that is District 13 has finally made its face known—sending out armed squads to attack the Capitol, the center of government itself. Katniss is dispatched to the city as part of a sharpshooter squad with the best of the best. Her comrades include Boggs, a District 13 guard who’s my favorite new character, and of course some old friends: the gorgeous and kick-ass Finnick Odair, freshly engaged and the winner of a previous Hunger Games; and Gale, whose relationship with Katniss at this point is nothing but complicated.
A major subplot includes Peeta, one of Katniss’s significant love interests, rescued from the oppressive government by the rebels, only for people to realize he has been brainwashed by this government to the point of showing homicidal tendencies toward a person he was formerly in love with.
I had always preferred Gale both as a character and love interest for Katnis anyway but I liked this twist—Peeta portrayed in a much more disturbing and ultimately realistic light. Even those most opposed to his personality can’t help noticing the stark contrast between this unstable, potentially murderous Peeta and his former Dr. Jekyll-esque persona and it makes one appreciate the previous character more.
Collins throws a few more characters in the squad to round it out but they feel like cardboard extras, a notion supported when pretty much all of them are later killed off hastily and thrown aside. This is sad because wasted characters are authors’ Satan.
I’d like to say something here and I know some people will disagree: I disliked the last third of the book. When I put down Mockingjay, I just sort of sat there and thought, Well, that’s it?
The scenes where the squad crawls in the tunnels under the city bored me a little—think the parts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were on the run and living in their tent. I was saddened when Finnick died; my inner fangirl will probably mourn him forever. I can certainly stomach a main character dying but the fate Collins wrote for him was undeserving. I can take his being eaten up by horrific, mutated lizards, sure, but I don’t like the lack of reflection on it afterward. You wouldn’t have known that Finnick was a major supporting character from the second book Catching Fire onward by Katniss’s reaction to his death. Even Annie Cresta, his widow and implied love of his life, doesn’t seem to be majorly fazed by it when you see her at the end. This is made stranger by the fact that all previous context has her as mentally unstable. Any normal person would be shaken if someone they love died; I would think someone who has been portrayed as sometimes insane up to this point would be a little less pulled together than how Annie behaves in the end scenes.
But the award for Saddest Death comes later.
Prim, Katniss’s 13-year-old sister, dies. She was sweet, lovable, and basically was what Katniss fought for since the beginning. Prim’s death turned me into a blubbering mess but I understand Collins killing her off—I more or less predicted it—and thought Collins wrote the death well.
The very end was my least favorite part. I had to read it over a few times because it seemed a bit convoluted to me. I even thought it was a dream sequence at one point but no, after the third time, I realized it was just, well, muddled. Everything seemed a little too easily resolved despite all the deaths; the Capitol and its supporters have all been more or less crushed, and a rebel system of government is quickly put in power within a week. It just seems a bit unrealistic.
And Gale, our old friend, gets shipped off to another part of the country, District Two, leaving Katniss with a pretty much mentally restored Peeta. No only did my fangirly self hate this; as a critic and reader I was immensely dissatisfied by the fact there is no explanation given for this. Peeta and Katniss together is not a problem, but suddenly throwing Gale out of the picture is an insult to his character and wipes away every single moment between Gale and Katniss like they never existed. A lot of my favorite characters from the other two books—like Madge, the daughter of the mayor and one of Katniss’s few friends, as well as Cinna, her stylist—were simply erased from Mockingjay’s memory and this seems an insult to their characters as well.
I think I would like the book a lot more if Collins had made it a few dozen pages longer. I suppose I would still recommend it despite the ending because the story as a whole was decent.
If you’ve read Mockingjay, I’d love to hear what you think about it—the more differing opinion, the better. Polite comments are very much appreciated.