Book Review – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

After a year of waiting, fans of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy can finally satisfy their curiosity concerning the fate of Katniss Everdeen and the rebellion against the Capitol of Panem with last Tuesday’s release of Mockingjay.

Picking up right where Catching Fire left off, Katniss faces the ashes that were once her home in District 12 with more questions than answers. Grieving for those whose fates she doesn’t know, she must decide whether or not to truly become the Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion that’s been forced on her, and if she does accept that role, how she can possibly live up to the expectations of so many. The relationships with those around her that have been steadying for her in the past begin to change and Katniss struggles they and she herself are redefined.

The characters fans fell in love with before are just as vivid and engaging in this final installment. Though we learn that some of our favorite characters from the first two books really didn’t survive Catching Fire, the new characters Collins introduces capture the readers’ hearts just as firmly. In this latest installment, Katniss is joined by the militarized citizens of the struggling to survive District 13 including their cold leader, President Coin. One of Coin’s apparent henchmen, Boggs, turns out to be someone Katniss can look to, though she still isn’t sure she trusts him. A camera crew and production team earn Katniss’ respect early on though she bonds best with Pollux, a former Avox.

It’s easy for the characters to eclipse what is a carefully constructed plot. It becomes clear in Mockingjay that Suzanne Collins had every aspect of the plot for all three books worked out when she started writing (demonstrating a creativity and forward thinking reminiscent of J. K. Rowling). Catching Fire and Mockingjay are not sequels; the three books work together to create one functioning unit. Also like Rowling, Collins recognized that in a war, people die and they die on both sides, whether they’re loathed, liked, or loved. Collins captures the grief of the circumstances with heartbreaking realism. There are times when Katniss is simply unable to process events that have just happened and there are times when it feels like getting punched in the chest just reading about when it hits her. There are several characters whose deaths I’m still in denial about.

My favorite aspect of the books is the world that Collins creates. The attention and detail applied to the politics and history of the situation mean that the books don’t have to rely solely on the romantic storyline to hold the readers’ attention. In fact, while the romantic angle is still there, it takes a back seat and the constantly shifting force war takes over, driving this book.

But the love triangle is one of the major draws of the novels. In the end, it doesn’t feel like Collins or Katniss tossed a coin to see which one, Peeta or Gale, she would end up with. There are definite indicators throughout the books and when it comes down to it, Collins does a fantastic job of showing that it isn’t something a person actively chooses, especially when there are so many forces in the world that constantly change who we are as people.

With all that time to speculate about what would happen, inevitably there were certain images or scenarios that I thought, hoped, or wanted to see in Mockingjay but I wasn’t quite sure how they would or could be strung together. It was eerie how many of them I saw on the page, and what’s better is that they still managed to surprise me. The circumstances of the final pages were not how I anticipated the trilogy to end and yet, they were the only appropriate way to really end things (and I know there will be some people who aren’t satisfied because they don’t like the tone of the ending but I will gladly defend Collins’ decisions).

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