Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Mockingjay (*minor spoilers*)

Unlike my hiatus between reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I wasted no time in starting the final piece of Suzanne Collins' post-apocalyptic trilogy, Mockingjay. 

To be quite frank, there's very little of the story I can divulge here without spoiling significant plot points in the book. Let me just say, this installment has an entirely different feel from the previous two. The series' landscape series changes drastically and the series' protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, must decide what part she will play in the shaping of Panem. 

The story continues right where Catching Fire left off and it takes plenty of twists and turns throughout. We are introduced to new characters (more on that later), new locales, and new obstacles for Katniss. Parts of the story are somewhat slow-paced, but it makes sense with what's occurring. Once the core conflict begins, it builds rapidly and we're left with an incredibly intense climax ending in one the series' best twists.

One writing style variation I noticed with Mockingjay is how choppy sections of the story came across on paper. This could be because I plowed through this volume rather rapidly; however, my gut tells me otherwise. Rather, I think it more likely this was a specific stylistic choice by the author. Again, without giving too much away, Katniss suffers from a series of post-war effects resulting from the violence, loss, and the sheer emotional roller coaster that takes place throughout the series. 

Continuing with the series' tradition, Katniss conveys the events in first person throughout Mockingjay. She's broken,confused, and at times, completely detached from reality. This all but confirms the theory that the somewhat choppy writing is intentional. Of course Katniss is going to have trouble recollecting the events that take place throughout this war-torn world of Panem. 

My biggest gripe is in the sheer magnitude of new, flat characters. Finnick, Johanna, and Betee all return; however, other newcomers are glazed over and we barely get a chance to know them. Near the middle portion of the book, I found myself constantly asking "who?" as I attempted to recall the character's origin and relationship to Katniss. There were several points in the book when I truly had no recollection of certain characters. 

Yet again, I'm hesitant to judge too harshly for this perceived flaw. I remind myself of the 1st person narrative and how this is Katniss' story. Perhaps the characters are coming and going just as fast for her as they are for the reader. She's been continuously manipulated so I'm inclined to believe she's simply struggling to trust those around her. Because of her mental state, she can ill-afford to spend time making friends with her new companions. Regardless of Collins' intent, I found the choppiness more tolerable than the "faceless" characters parading around with Katniss during the series' climax.

Collins' anti-war theme rings like a trumpet throughout Mockingjay. Characters we've come to know and love suffer from severe post-traumatic stress. Some disappear altogether leaving us empty because of their absence. Beloved characters die. Others barely want to live. War.

I enjoyed the ending yet it's far from a "feel good" ending. In fact, the brief epilogue is a minor attempt to assuage the pain that takes place in series' final moments. Even the epilogue leaves a hollow sensation in your stomach because the reader truly comes to understand the magnitude of the barbaric Hunger Games.

Finishing the series has given me a greater appreciation for the first installment and although my qualms still stand, I can certainly see why this series has garnered such a following. Count me among that number. I'll be one of the first in line when The Hunger Games hits the big screen this March.

4.5 out of 5.


logankstewart said...

Great review, Jonathan. My feelings were the same. After finishing, I felt hollowed and down. Mockingjay offered little hope to counter the barbarism of Panem, and the casualties of war were heartbreaking. My biggest problem was the absence of certain characters, but you're right, that's war. This book was definitely the saddest of the three, and probably the most powerful, too. I can see no other appropriate ending for the series, though. Glad you liked it.

One of these days I want to try her Gregor the Underland series.

Jonboy said...

Thanks Logan! I really enjoyed the series overall.

I just started Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I'm having a hard time getting into it. I'm still pretty early, but I've heard so many good things about it. I'll try to plow through.

logankstewart said...

Oh, yes! JS&MN is one of my all-time favorite books. It was slow starting, but the writing & footnotes were flat out brilliant. The entire story is amazingly rich and very British (which was probably one of the reasons I loved it so much). Take your time and savor it. I really liked it, enough to make Keisha and my mom read it. Keisha read it and really liked it, too. Mom didn't finish.

Good luck, and enjoy!

logankstewart said...

Oh, and one other thing. Don't ignore the footnotes. While some of them may seem pointless, they're essential for providing a certain feeling and an inkling of information for something deeper.

Also, not sure if you're lugging the hardback tome, but the Kindle version is only $2.99. I'm not sure the quality of the ebook, but it's definitely more portable than the physical books, though you lose the ability to stop a bullet with a book...

Jonboy said...
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Jonboy said...

Really glad you mentioned the footnotes. I actually did buy the $2.99 kindle version but I'd been ignoring the footnotes so far. Will definitely make a point to read them from here on out.

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