Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins

Warning: As always, I try to stay relatively spoiler free. But it doesn’t hurt to proceed with caution. (Also, if you haven’t read THE HUNGER GAMES or CATCHING FIRE yet, you’re welcome to skip this, as it will pretty much give both endings away.)
Rating:  Five Stars—ajklsdflk (when words fail to describe how wonderful a book is) 

I’ll admit, the first time I read Suzanne Collins’s MOCKINGJAY, right after it came out, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the way Katniss is broken and her country is fractured and nothing is as it should be. But I think, deep down, I didn’t like it because it struck so close to home, because it told the truth about Katniss’s psychological state and her world when I wanted it to present a rose-tinted version for my sake.

So, when I finally worked up the courage to reread it a while ago, I realized just how much my view point has changed. This time through, I crazy loved MOCKINGJAY. It’s one of those few novels capable of wringing a few (measly) tears from my cold, Vulcan eyes. And I’m sure—at least, I’m pretty sure—that this one might be my favorite book out of the trilogy. At least it’s the most powerful.

That said, let’s talk about why I loved it.  

District 13. Without giving too much away, I love that District 13 doesn’t turn out to be a perfect save haven—it isn’t some utopian otherworld, set apart from the shambles of the rest of Panem. (I mean, otherwise, the story would have such an anticlimactic end.) In many ways, District 13 is even more broken, because at least the people in the other districts know they are oppressed—at least the government of Panem doesn’t hide its cruelty. Elsewhere, the ideologies that trap the people are obvious and undeniable—not so in District 13.

The Capitol. We get to see more of the Capitol and its citizens, and I might have accidently fallen in love with the poor, messed-up darlings. All the civilians are so shallow and pampered—I doubt they’ve ever had a true taste of life. And while Panem is all one country, the Capitol has its own culture entirely, built on the shoulders of the districts and yet somehow separate.

Plutarch and the Rebels. I’m still not sure what to think of Plutarch. On the one hand, I want to like him, since he is technically on Katniss’s side. But he also is on his own side, and that’s why I love, if not him specifically, at least his presence in the novel. Unlike so many others, he doesn’t worry as much about reform and freedom—before all this, he already had a certain measure of liberty and wealth (if you ignore the fact that no one is really free, no matter how rich, when they live under a tyrant). Despite the fact that he classifies as one of the good guys, you could argue Plutarch is only in this because he sees it as just another arena and just another Games. His cold mind doesn’t care about the body count so long as the action is amusing and flashy and television-worthy.

Johanna. I hands-down love her. She’s snarky and slightly mental and very difficult to like. She’s lost everything she’s ever cared about, but she survived. And despite her fragility, she’s still so strong, even though she no longer has the capacity, at least for the moment, to taken an interest in others. Actually, though, that is what I love the most about her, because it’s believable. Once you’ve lost almost everyone you ever loved, you reach a point where you no longer care because it isn’t worth it, because it hurts too much—and if you’re going to survive, you have to cut out that part of you that feels, at least for the time being.

The Way Suzanne Collins Breaks Peeta. I love Peeta. He has always been one of my favorite characters in the series because he loves Katniss’s unconditionally, because he bears with her so patiently, and just because. And I don’t think I ever appreciated him as much as I did in this book, since (like Katniss) I only realized how special he is when Collins breaks him and forces him to remake himself.

Prim. Just, Prim. Read the book, and you’ll understand.

Cressida and the Rest of the Propaganda Team. Cressida is basically a rock star. She might be just a director for propaganda clips, but I’m pretty sure she’d win her own Games if she ever found herself as a tribute in the Arena. And even though she’s a citizen of the Capitol, that doesn’t make her a product of their values and their ideals.

Along with Cressida, we have the rest of the propo team, and while none of them become hugely fleshed out, they all form a single entity—a valuable presence in the novel. I’m pretty sure, whether she recognizes this or not, Katniss would be a hopeless wreck without them.

The Propaganda. Because why fight a war with weapons and bloodshed when you can strike the first blow with propaganda? Seriously, though, never underestimate this tactic.

Katniss (Again). Suzanne Collins has it in for Katniss, I think. Maybe someone should take away her writing privileges until she can be nicer to her characters.

Moving on.

As I’ve said before, Katniss’s emotional/psychological state is quite believable. Having seen the start of a war (twice), and losing my home, my possessions, my friends, and my country (twice), I think watching Katniss work through some of the same things was a little too hard for me at first. I wanted her to be okay, because I needed to be okay. Now, with a few more years and a little more distance under my belt, I’m glad that Collins was honest and believable, that she didn’t just reach down with her magical authorial hand and fix everything for her.

That Epilogue. It’s the perfect bittersweet ending to a traumatic series. It balances the long-lasting scars with the promise of renewal, and it doesn’t leave its readers with the lie that life will turn to cotton candy when the battle is over. Instead, it leaves us with the reality that life is rough but we can survive.


Okay, enough with the inspirational stuff. Now I’d love to know if you’ve read the series, what you thought of it, and which book was your favorite. Also, what was your opinion on the love triangle, and are you happy with how Collins resolved it? Have you read any Hunger Games-like books you felt were better/worse?


  1. OMG THIS BOOK. #dies So, so action-packed, emotional and thrilling. I completely agree with everything you've said here Liz. Suzanne manages to make Katniss so real by really embracing the psychology of what the Games has done to her, and that's what makes her so easy to connect with. And aww...Peeta and Prim. *cries*

    Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

    1. I know, right? This time through, I loved how real Katniss was--and I'm so glad I could finally appreciate the psychology of it all. But Prim, no.... *wails* I still can't even...

      You're welcome, and thank you! :)


    I read this book several years ago, but at the time, I didn't really like it. Or, more accurately, I didn't like how it ended. I felt like it was a bit too brutal--which is saying something for the Hunger Games--and I like endings better when they /are/ more sweet than bitter. Whereas, with Mockingjay, there was /so much/ bitter, that it was hard for me to enjoy even the good parts.

    That's just me, though. And it's also how I felt two or three years ago when I first read it. :)


    1. PEETA. PRIM. *wails* Collins is so mean to her characters. Grr.

      Yeah, I totally understand where you're coming from, because, like I said, I didn't like the ending either when I read it the first time. Collins definitely added more brutality and more deaths that really hurt--most of the body count in the previous novels were people we weren't really attached to, but Collins wasn't as merciful this time around. And I can see where the more bitter ending wouldn't taste as good, especially if you prefer sweeter endings.

      I think, for me, as my personal tastes have changed, I've come to appreciate a depressing ending much more than I used to, especially if the depressing ending feels more natural to me than a happier conclusion. But I don't blame you for wanting a less painful ending--part of me still wished Katniss could have come away with fewer physical and emotional scars, even though I really, really enjoyed the story the way it was.

      Thanks for commenting! I love to hear other people's opinions on books. :)

  3. I really need to reread this.
    I don't know about Plutarch. Like you, I wanted to like him, because he was for the good "cause." But he wasn't. . . doing it right? He didn't actually care about people. He had that superficial Capitol vibe about him that didn't see the value of human life. That really disgusted me. Unlike other Capitol people, Plutarch seemed to know better, but he still chose to be uncaring.
    Yes, Johanna! I love her. She's aggressive yet so broken. She is very realistic. Sometimes I wondered if her uncaring was almost a way of actually caring. Everyone she cares about gets killed or hurt (I think about how Johanna "used to be." I could see her being incredibly protective, aggressively caring; she would be loud about her love). Acting like she doesn't care or love anyone is a way of protecting them from getting hurt because she does cares for them. I'm not sure that makes sense. . .
    What I adore about this book is that here is when I went from rooting for Gale to rooting for Peeta. Don't get me wrong, I liked Peeta. He's kind, charismatic, and understanding. Even when he's the sick one, he's still the strong one. He's the one who sees the bigger picture and wants to keep his identity in this twisted world (also why how the Capitol broke him is so ironic and heartrending; they tried to take his identity from him literally). But I didn't like him for Katniss. Because he didn't know her. He never spoke to her. He never tried to encounter her, except that one time. How can you have unconditional love for someone you don't even know? A crush, yes. But that kind of love? The degree of his love didn't make sense to me. He also never seemed to recognize her flaws. He was always just, "Oooh Katinss!" I liked Gale because he and Katniss knew each other. They didn't even need to speak sometimes. It was like they could read each other’s mind. They worked really well as a team. But in Mockingjay, Gale proved himself to be an ultimate jerk (in retrospect, I could've seen it coming, but I was holding out hope, okay?). Forget Gale; he's an idiot. What I really, really loved: even though the Capitol's skewed his thinking, Peeta seems to come to his senses. He thinks more rationally. He actually sees Katniss for who she is. The good and the bad. He gets to know her. She's not a very nice person. But guess what? He CHOOSES TO LOVE her anyways. That is real love! Whatever he had before, that was nothing compared to what he has now. I just- I love it. :)
    The ending, just. . . I loved the ending. When Haymitch and Katniss nod to each other and I'm like, "Something is going down here! Why can't I figure it out?!" And then- then! Wow. Just. It was perfect. (Also, I love how Haymitch and Katniss think alike and they just "get" each other even though everybody else thinks they're out of their minds.)
    Also, that epilogue. It was so real. The bittersweet. I love how the author wrote Katniss and the way she deals with everything she goes through. I think it's realistic and very believable. The author actually put a lot of thought into, "How does all of this effect the character?" I appreciate that.

    1. You should!

      You're totally right about Plutarch. I guess what I really liked was that Collins didn't just have good people and bad people, she had bad people doing good things and good people doing bad things along with good people doing good and bad doing bad--it just felt more realistic. It seems like there's always got to be someone looking out for their own interests like that. But as a character, yeah, I can understand why you didn't like Plutarch. I think I liked him more in Catching Fire because he was a bit enigmatic and weird.

      I think I know what you mean about Johanna, because I could totally see her as outgoing in showing her love and stuff. And I did feel that some of her hating on Katniss was her way of expressing affection in the only way she had left. I mean, they did team up a bunch and help each other out, which I totally loved. I loved the little relationship they had going, because they both needed that badly.

      Come to think of it, the first time reading through the trilogy, I think this book was when I really stopping shipping Gale and Katniss. I mean, I was pretty wishy-washy before and I really liked them both and I just wanted her to choose one. But I agree, the best bit about Peeta is that, with all his unconditional love, when he finally sees Katniss for who she truly is--with her faults and everything--he still decides in the end that he really does love her. Before, his love was more idealistic--it was sweet but it was untested. After what he went through, it was definitely far more precious. I really did like Gale before the last book (although I was starting to get a little annoyed with him in Catching Fire). I did feel he and Katniss had something going for each other, but the Games really came between them. He wasn't really willing to understand her, and Peeta was. Gale wanted to push her into being the old Katniss, and he couldn't seem to accept that she was a different person, that there's really no going back to what she was before. And I think the fighting brought out the darker streaks in him that had previously hidden under his rebellious nature.

      Ohmahgersh, I love Katniss and Haymitch--they really do make the perfect team, even though they act like they hate each other 68% of the time. But it's so telling when Katniss is crying and the only person she wants to comfort her is Haymitch. He's like her snarky, alcoholic father, and he's especially important for her because he's basically what she would be if she'd gone on to mentor for years and years after the games. Like, poor Haymitch. Poor Katniss. I wish I could wrap them up in blankets and feed them chocolate and just shield them from Collins's cruel authorial hand.

      I loved how realistic and believable the ending was. Everything traumatic, little seeming or big, leaves a scar, and I love how even the little things are big. I don't know--maybe that doesn't make any sense. But yes, that epilogue, in my opinion, was perfection. And especially considering that I'm 99% Vulcan, it's super incredible if it can make me cry--which it did (shh, don't tell).

      Thanks for commenting! (And also, bonus points for such a long comment. You are now my favorite person of the day because I stinkin' love long comments. :P)