Katniss Everdeen has unknowingly become the face of the revolution to bring down the Capitol. It has grown stronger than ever in the shell of what used to be known as district 13. Katniss agrees to take on the public role of the mockingjay, and help film promo spots and videos to be aired in all of the districts in order to drum up more fighters for the cause. The Capitol sees an opportunity to break her, and beings airing their own videos of Peeta looking worse and worse as time goes on. Falling deeper into a pit into depression and worriment over his health, Katniss becomes a shadow of her former self, riddled with guilt over the war that she views as her fault due to the berry stunt. The rebels realize the only person that can make Katniss function again is Peeta, and so a mission is put together to go to the Capitol and rescue him. After a successful mission, Peeta is brought back to district 12, where at their first meeting he tries to strangle Katniss. It is through this event that we find out that Peeta’s memories have been hijacked, and that he’s been trained to think of Katniss as his enemy. Will anything be able to be done to restore Peeta to his former self, and will Katniss ever get over her guilt and help lead a successful rebellion? Who will win, and what kind of world will be left when the dust settles?
Knowing how much I enjoyed the first two novels in the series, I went into Mockingjay with high expectations. I wound up seriously disappointed. While there are things to praise about the novel, such as its deeper meanings and themes and its truthfulness about the effects of war on people, I found more disappointment than enjoyment in the novel. For those of you that read my review yesterday on Catching Fire, you know that I greatly praised Collins for her multi-layered characters. In Mockingjay, those layers become incredibly confusing. When Katniss is rescued out of the arena, she is greatly outraged at first to find that she has not been told the truth about the wide scope of the rebellion’s influence. She quickly learns that they were unable to get Peeta out of the arena and that he is with the Capital armies. When she finds this out she is completely distraught about Peeta’s fate: whether he is alive, how he is being treated, or even if he is being tortured. She becomes a bit of a mental patient to be honest, which is not surprising knowing everything that she’s been through. However, when Peeta is brought back into her life, a tortured, shriveled shell of himself, she begins to despise him and consume herself with hatred for him. It’s this layer of conflict that is so confusing because Katniss knows that he has been tortured and can’t be responsible for his current state of mind. So in essence, in my point of view, I felt that this conflict was unnecessary and not at all characteristic of Katniss, especially in reflecting on her previous feelings towards the “captured Peeta”.
My biggest overall complaint with the whole novel was the ending. Not only is this the ending of a book, but it is the ending of a trilogy that is filled with characters that you have invested your time and energy into getting to know and care about. All of the characters seem to have accepted their fate and settled with what they have been dealt. The conclusion of the relationship between Peeta and Katniss is strange, to be honest. The epilogue seemed hastily thrown together and was truly disappointing. My biggest grievance is for Haymitch. He has struggled with sobriety for three books now, and you learn how he won his Hunger Games and also why he started drinking. After learning more of his back story, you want to see something happy happen to him. What we’re given is just a big amount of the same old same old. It is disappointing that characters who have struggled and done a lot for others don’t get positive karma.
One of the things I have to commend the novel on is its unwillingness to glamorize the effects of war. War is filled with unfortunate death and destruction, both of which are evident in Mockingjay: a major character’s death, destruction of district twelve, Peeta’s torture (mental and physical), and Katniss’ inner turmoil. None of the main characters are safe from injury or violent skirmishes, everyone is in this rebellion together. Collins does not sugarcoat the after-effects of war either, when the war is over there is not much left of Peeta and Katniss’ personalities from the previous two books: they’ve been used as pawns in a game and as such have a hard time with trust, love, and emotion in general. All in all, it’s rough seeing characters you care about go through such dramatic and life-altering changes, but it makes the deeper meaning of Collins’ writing ever more understandable and approachable.
3 out of 5 stars