Dear readers, the end has arrived. That is, the end of this series of reviews has arrived. I dove back into the Hunger Games trilogy at the beginning of this calendar year, and I shared that journey with you all in my reviews of The Hunger Games and of Catching Fire. Moving at a speed matched only by my devouring Bumped and every Harry Potter book, I tackled Mockingjay and emerged, well, a little disappointed.
I said it before the last review, but I’ll say it again: this review will contain spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
HERE BE SPOILERS.
Mockingjay picks up shortly after Catching Fire ended. It turns out that Bonnie and Twill were right: District 13 does still exist, and the citizens have been preparing to overthrow the Capitol. They’ve prepared so carefully, in fact, that Katniss didn’t even realize she’d been a key part of their rebellion. As Katniss adjusts to life in District 13—a life underground, a life of rules she continues to subvert, a life with mere shreds of the one she had before surviving the arena twice—she continues to see the world with maturing eyes. Her trust is gained and lost. The power of propaganda reigns. And when the rebellion begins in force, we are left wondering what will remain of the Girl Who Was on Fire when the ashes settle.
The themes in Mockingjay continue the earlier path of being less about YA and more about author Suzanne Collins’s goal of depicting coming-of-age against war and violence. Katniss shares conversations with many comrades about what is fair and unfair in times of war. As a Catholic reader, I couldn’t help but think of just war doctrine and the full extent of being pro-life. Katniss’s relationship drama remains, though, and she finally has to choose between Gale and Peeta. I can’t say I’m fully satisfied with her choice, but I’m not fully satisfied with Katniss in general.
In this installment, Collins’s storytelling takes a sharp detour. The fast pace that made pages of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire race by is subdued. I know Katniss has been through the unthinkable—twice!—by the time she becomes the Mockingjay, but that’s no excuse for her uncharacteristic catatonic drifting through much of the book. I wanted her fire back. Her spunk surfaces at times, but I guess I wanted her to recover like Harry Potter after his moodiness in Order of the Phoenix. I read this book the slowest, and when I picked it up to finish it, I distinctly remember thinking, “Let’s just get this over with.” To an extent, I felt a similar resignation coming from Collins. A certain moment with a certain handsome fisherman actually made me cry, but I am left feeling so-so about the book as a whole. The first two remain among the most thrilling books I’ve ever read, but the series definitely suffers from a weak final installment.
So, as I declared earlier, The Hunger Games will not replace Harry Potter: ever and just for me. They will hold a special place, though, for making me reset my standards for “action-packed.” Now we just need to see whether this will be the best or worst book-to-movie translation ever. Aside from the dead kid body count, that is.
Up next: a return to distinctly Catholic books with Frank Sheed’s Theology for Beginners