Todd’s Review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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The more I learn about the Hunger Games trilogy and the more I experience the fandom that surrounds the series (thanks Hunger Games Fireside Chat!), I keep hearing that many people think that Mockingjay is their least favorite book.  I agree that the novel has a ton of plot lines and feelings to wrap up, and that it has to bring to an end a story that is near and dear to the hearts of many readers.  I can see how this ending would be received with mixed feelings, and I respect the views of my fellow readers.  As for myself, I feel completely different.  I think it is the greatest book in the series, and with my reasoning explained below, I hope many people will begin to see it in a different light.

 
Mockingjay begins with Katniss in the custody of the rebels, having been rescued from her second forced stint in the Hunger Games.  A last-ditch attempt by Katniss, Peeta, and a few remaining tributes to save their lives from traps that the gamemakers placed in the arena blows up the protective force field that surrounds the arena. This allows the rebels to enter and pluck her out, while the Capitol appears and takes Peeta away right before their eyes.  Now safely in the hands of the rebels, Katniss eventually relents to be the figurehead of the rebellion, known to all as the “mockingjay”.  Unfortunately, the Capitol wages their own propaganda war against the rebels, physically and mentally torturing Peeta with tracker jacker venom to think that Katniss is his mortal enemy.  Already precarious in her mental state, this new revelation makes Katniss even more confused and angry.
 
In a daring raid, the rebels rescue Peeta from the Capitol, but upon his return his mental state is so deteriorated that he attempts to kill Katniss when they are reunited.  Meanwhile, the last of the outlying districts are taken by the rebels, and they begin planning to take the Capitol itself.  In a previous agreement, Katniss and President Coin (the president of District 13) agree to let Katniss kill President Snow personally.  Although she has made this promise, Snow declines to let Katniss anywhere near the center of the Capitol.  However, after a freak accident, Katniss and a small contingent of rebels find themselves close to the center of the city and therefore President Snow himself.  Will Katniss be able to kill the man who has brought so much pain to her life?  Will she ever be able to gain back Peeta’s trust and memory?  Will the rebels be able to take back control of Panem?
 
As I said previously, this is definitely my favorite book of the series.  I feel that Collins builds so many layers of conflict and emotion throughout the course of the previous two novels that are finally released in this work.  Along with the incredible action of the first two novels, there is also a great deal of inner conflict that Collins introduces through Katniss.  In this novel, I feel that all of this conflict comes to a head, and thus Katniss must deal with it instead of continuing to mentally battle with her emotions.  This made the novel move quickly for me, and along with the breakneck action that permeates the rest of the novel I found myself racing from page to page.  The last few chapters flew by as I felt like I was right next to Katniss and her rebel group as they infiltrated deep into the Capitol itself.  Additionally, along with all the attention that is paid to Katniss (and rightfully so as she is the main character), I was pleasantly surprised by how much page time was given to additional characters.  I really became invested in the well-being of Katniss’ fellow rebels, and Collins did an excellent job in making the revolution a living, breathing, entity that all of Panem could get behind.  Because at the end of the day, this series is about the overthrow of oppression, the power of individual freedom, and the notion that the rights of a privileged few should never matter over the rights of the masses.  Collins definitely drives these points home, and for that I heartily recommend not only this book but this entire series.
 
5 out of 5 stars
 
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc (2010)
Hardcover 390 pages
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Check This Out – The Hunger Games Fireside Chat

Tonight is the seventeenth episode of The Hunger Games Fireside chat, hosted over on the Picktainment website by friends of the blog Adam S and Savanna!  Todd and I were both asked to join in on this special edition where they’ll be discussing the differences and similarities between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale.  For those of you unfamiliar with Battle Royale it’s a similar book/movie in which teenagers are forced to battle to the death in an arena.

For the full list of tonight’s participants and a more specific breakdown of discussion points, check out the promo here.  You can follow along the discussion on Twitter as well.  Participants and their twitter names are below:

Adam Spunberg (Host): @AdamSpunberg
Savanna New (Co-Host/Producer): @MlleNouveau
Down with the Capitol: @HungerGamesDWTC
The Hob: @TheHobOrg
Crystal: @pikko/@mockingjaynet/@FictionalFood
Natalie: @nataliezutter/@crushabledotcom
Kim and Todd: @lifeand100books and @ttotheodd
Rebekah: @Rebekahdg
Jon Rosenthal: @tgtsnbn
Ariel: @Madam_Pince

Todd and I are super pumped to be joining all of these great participants tonight.  We hope you listen in!

Happy listening!

Check This Out – Hunger Games Fireside Chat

About a month ago I got an email from Adam Spunberg, a co-creator of the Jane Austen Twitter Project, thanking me for the kind blog piece I wrote about the project.  The two of us began emailing back and forth talking about author events in our area and also about books that we loved.  Adam mentioned that he thought I would like the Hunger Games trilogy.   He told me about how awesome they were and about a podcast he was starting to discuss the books and the film that was going to begin production.  I went out that weekend and got all three books in the series, finished them, and proceeded to email Adam to tell him how much I loved them!  He was kind enough to offer me a guest spot TONIGHT on The Hunger Games Fireside Chat podcast.

For a brief rundown of what is going to be discussed tonight, along with the other guests, and a link for the podcast click here.

For my reviews of the books in The Hunger Game trilogy click below:

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

Mockingjay

I have to thank Adam Spunberg and Savanna New for the awesome opportunity to be on the podcast! The podcast begins tonight at 10pm eastern time.  I hope you decide to tune in!

Until then, happy reading!

#27 A Review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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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

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc (2010)
Hardcover 390 pages

My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here is the second half of my top ten books that will become (I hope) modern classics!

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5.) A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Published in 1959)

While on the surface this story seems like just a coming of age tale, it’s actually much  more.  A Separate Peace is credited with helping further the naturalism literary movement, which basically stated that one’s environment, family, and social conditions all come into play in shaping who you are and what you do.  The main character of the novel, Gene, treads down an enormous introspective path of trying to figure out who he is and why he’s led the life he has.  The story is told via flashback as he dwells on events from his teen years at Devon, a prep school.   The story seems to be solely a journey of self discovery, yet deep within the writing are thoughts on war and youth.

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4.) The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (Published in 2008-2010)

I’ve only recently read these books (literally I just read them over the course of 24hrs this past weekend) but I’m still reeling from their amazing-ness.  The three books in the series are PACKED with heavy themes that while directed at teens, sure do hit at home.  The ideas of governmental control, survival of the fittest, independence, unrequited love, power, sacrifice, interdependence, etc are all present here.  It’s stunning how much is jam-packed into these three novels without seeming overwhelming.  The plot is incredibly gripping, due in large part to the hauntingly realistic and relatable characters.  As we watch our own country fight multiple wars and deal with political infighting, this series hits close to home.

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 3.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Published in 2006)

It seems like the most simplistic plot: a man and his son walking down a road in a post-apocalyptic world.  However, it’s much deeper than that.  The Road is truly a character driven novel, with little detail and no tangents to get in the way.  It is a story about relationships: with family, with emotion, with strangers, with our environment, and with ourselves.  McCarthy creates a frightening land where cannibalism is commonplace and hope is scarce, yet the man and his son persevere.  The themes of survivorship and family shine throughout, and the reader is given new hope for a better tomorrow despite the despair of the present.

2.) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (Published in 1996)Cover Image 

Frank McCourt’s autobiographical memoir is a rough read in terms of subject matter, but is written so beautifully and elegantly that you look past all the depressing pieces and just see hope.  Telling the story of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, McCourt sadly but humorously covers every detail of the poor streets of Limerick, from the row of dilapidated houses that he and his siblings were forced to live in, to the various odd jobs he took to earn money for his mother.  This book will always be relevent because even though McCourt and his family faced hardship after hardship, he never lost sight of his hopes and dreams, making this a must-read for adolescents of today and in the future.

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1.) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Published in 1958)

This novel easily makes it into the top five books I’ve ever read.  Set in Africa during times of colonization and religious missionary influence, a local village leader named Okonkwo experiences a fall from power as he refuses to accept any of the influence of the colonials.  An important lesson I learned from this novel is one of perspective.  Just because one thinks what he/she is doing is correct doesn’t always correlate to what is correct for the other party.  This also plays into the theme of the power of change.  Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, and change for the sake of one set of ideals to match your own is often narrow-minded and intractable.  There is a reason why the world is full of individuals with different ideas, personalities, and beliefs.  It is when we begin changing this to make everyone the same that we become some form of a real life dystopian society.

Well readers, what are your thoughts?  What books do you think I’ve missed??  Let me know in the comments below!  Until next time…happy reading!