Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins book cover
Mockingjay (2010) is the final book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Having escaped her second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is cared for, with her family, in district 13; stronghold of the rebels. As she recovers her strength Katniss is persuaded to be the symbol of the rebel’s revolution, providing a focal point for supporters as the rebels make one final push to overthrow the Capitol and its leader, President Snow. As Katniss grows into her role as the ‘Mockingjay’, the line between good and evil is blurred, as the rebel’s leader, Coin, employs many of the tactics used by the capitol, both in propaganda and the instruments of war. With Peeta in the hands of Snow, Katniss relies on Gale increasingly and, when they finally recover Peeta, he is a hollow shell of his former self, following the torture he has suffered at the Capitol’s hands. The novel builds towards a final show down between the Capitol and the rebels, with Katniss struggling to balance her affection for both Peeta and Gale, with her role as the Mockingjay, and her need to rebel against authority in its many forms.

The politics of the novel are relayed by Katniss who, caring little for the political landscape that surrounds her, does a less than compelling job. Even through Katniss’s eyes however, the politics are insultingly simplistic and the themes are written without any subtlety. Potentially interesting ideas of media manipulation, inherited guilt, and abject poverty, all lack development and fall flat. With the manipulative Coin introduced, and Haymitch becoming significantly nastier, Collins opts to contrive a situation for Katniss to rebel against, rather than let the story takes its natural course and develop into a really interesting social commentary. There is teenage angst, but the ideas, what should be the meat of the novel, are so scatter-gun, and illogically forced into the plot that the overall effect is a real mess. Added to this, the rebellion is so easily and neatly achieved as to be wholly unrealistic, and the climax is jumbled, confused, and bares little relation to real life war.

Collins’s writing has always been fairly pedestrian, even for YA level but, as the pacing and the plot deteriorate, the inadequacies of the writing become increasingly glaring. The characters are wildly inconsistent both within Mockingjay, and across the context of the previous books. Collins doesn’t write complex and psychologically coherent characters, she simply forces plot-developing dialogue into the mouth of whichever character she has to hand; one minute Katniss is generous and compassionate, another she is spiteful; in one moment she’s gormless, in another she is more perceptive than even the most intelligent and experienced characters around her. This inconsistency runs through all the characters, and renders them hollow shells, in no way autonomous. Though Collins’s writing is consistently poor, perhaps the most notable problem is that, in contrast to the gripping style of The Hunger Games, here Collins commits the almost inexcusable sin of being dull throughout. So many of the ideas are rehashed from the previous books, and as the series moves towards its conclusion Collins seems increasingly incapable of writing powerful dramatic scenes to resolve the tensions she has built through the trilogy.

In fact, one of the biggest problems is the ending, which is rushed, illogical, unsatisfying, and an abysmal way to conclude a series that so many readers have invested in. The love triangle that has always been an unwelcome element is resolved in the most half-hearted, nonsensical, and dramatically unsatisfying way possible. That Collins chose to tie it up in this manner only makes its presence all the more aggravating. There is little to be said for the rest of the garbled final chapters; there are elements that leave one incredulous, and others that are a cursory nod to what might have been a satisfying ending.

It has been reported that Collins originally wrote The Hunger Games as a standalone novel, and was asked by her publishers to extend it to a trilogy. The upcoming film adaptations of the trilogy will, it is rumoured, be stretched over four films. These two points sum up the series: a half-decent idea, stretched so thin as to accentuate all its flaws, in pursuit of profit ahead of art. This is a great shame as Katniss had the potential to be a strong and positive female protagonist, in an involving and intelligent commentary on teenage life and society in the modern day. Instead, Collins’s good work at the start of the series is quickly undone; leaving readers with a host of inconsistent and poorly drawn characters, and a jumbled and poorly-realised plot.

A really poor end to the series. Almost mystifyingly bad, and a really unsatisfactory way to draw the trilogy to a close. In the light of this, the whole series loses something and, knowing where the series is going, I really wouldn't recommend picking up the first book.

Useful Links
Reviews of Mockingjay on Amazon (UK)
Reviews of Mockingjay on Amazon (US)

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