Book Review: Mockingjay (Hunger Games)

MockingjayMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mockingjay is the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I started reading this trilogy back in September 2011 and have had this final part sitting on my kindle for nearly eight months. Its not that I didn’t want to read it right away. I wanted to draw out the anticipation for a while and dig in when I really needed a good read. As it is, I wasn’t disappointed.
Katniss Everdeen has finally made it out of the Hunger Games arena, but her world seems to have been destroyed and turned upside down, because the Hunger Games and President Snow seem to have followed her out into the real world too. Inside the arena, the rules were clear and she generally knew who her rivals and allies were. Out in the real world, everybody seems to be trying to protect her by lying to her, former allies start to act like enemies, former enemies behave like friends, and the legacy of the ‘girl who caught fire’ hasn’t finished with her. A rebellion has begun in all the districts and the rebel leaders look to Katniss to become the face of the rebellion . . . to become the Mockingjay, a reality tv celebrity paraded out into the war zone to defy the Capitol, her past simply material to be used for propaganda. Despite her misgivings, Katniss agrees to all this on two conditions, the first is to continue doing what she has been doing from her first Hunger Games, to protect Peeta; and her second condition, to be the one to kill President Snow.
When I read the first book, I wondered how Collins would follow up with a sequel without the gimmick of the Hunger Games. But in the second book, using a clever twist on the rules of the Hunger Games. Then at the end of the second novel, Collins gave some clues to what to expect in the finale, but again I was dubious of how it would work out in practice. Making the whole land of Panem into a veritable Hunger Games arena and creating mistrust between the key characters however resolved that problem nicely. There were several times where I thought to myself that I would have taken this in a different direction or felt that Collins missed out an opportunity to milk a moment or take advantage of a setting, but that is a positive too as it became difficult to predict what would happen next or where the story was going, which is a rare thing for me. One of the things that was a little amusing is that Katniss gets turned into Hawkeyes, complete with black superhero costume, power-assist bow and multi-function arrows.

Propaganda has been a big part of a war effort since the turn of the 20th century, including leaflets being dropped from the air, newspaper reporting and cinema. Even now, the way news coverage is reported by the media is all part of winning over hearts and minds of the normal people who have become trapped between two warring nations. The Mockingjay propos is a masterful move by Collins to continue the voyeuristic appeal of the Hunger Games into the wider world, a sense captured cleverly in a bit of dialogue when Katniss notes that the world is good at sitting and watching what happens rather than asserting their own agency to affect change.

Collins ties up all the loose-ends in the relationship arcs, i.e. the Katniss, Gale and Peeta love triangle, Prim’s prophecy from the first book, Haymitch and Katniss’s love/hate relationship and the weird connection between Katniss and President Snow. One thing Collins does really well is force Katniss and the other characters to be introspective and underline their own flaws and shortcomings. As a result, the characters become more self-aware and the reader is given a rare insight as well as a hint of what awaits the characters in the future.
Mockingjay is an excellent final chapter in the trilogy, but at times the callous handling of the characters by Collins and by extension Katniss’s callous attitude towards her own relationships, leaves a sensation of something being slightly awry. Nevertheless, the Hunger Games trilogy will no doubt be remembered (rightly so) as one of the great trilogies of the early 21st century.

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