Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I had hopes for this series. Hunger Games' premise was fascinating, the writing and characterizations superb, and the theme--Katniss learning to accept and offer love--compelling. Catching Fire stalled a bit for me, with almost no character development, but still I turned every page eagerly.

But with Mockingjay I had to keep forcing myself forward, just to see how it ends. When I got to the end, it wasn't really worth it. I’ve been trying to pin down why. My friend, Angela Hallstrom, nailed it in her Goodreads review. I think, ultimately, the novel’s failures all come down to Collins being more driven by her message than by her characters or story.

Angela writes that "Katniss is acted upon instead of acting of her own free will during much of the narrative." For me, Katniss in the first two books
wasn't always likable, but she was always compelling and always a free agent. In fact, her independence was her defining trait. I wanted her to grow into her role as Mockingjay, to finally become the strong leader the previous stories seemed to be cultivating.

Instead, I think Collins' message forced her to make Katniss a helpless pawn. No doubt her message--that war is hell and no one wins and both sides can be equally evil--is important. But people read novels for character and story, and Collins, unfortunately, puts her agenda first, leaving her main character limping on the sidelines.

Allowing the agenda to drive the novel also probably explains the final problem Angela identifies: the sense that we’re slogging through irredeemable violence. Collins primarily wants to show that war isn’t worth it. So we slog. And then her attempt to wrap up, heal, and redeem feels hasty and tacked on.

Perhaps worst of all, Collins resolves the three-books-long love triangle so quickly and
dismissively that it's an insult to both character and reader. It shows disregard for Katniss' deep, enduring friendships and disrespect for the complex individuals involved, reducing them all to allegory.

I give the book two stars because it offers some interesting things to think about--the parallels between the Capitol and District 13, the various manifestations of power-lust, the way both sides use Peeta and how he recovers.

Overall, though, I was sorry I'd bought the book and got rid of it as soon as possible. Still, the first book was great and might make it worth reading the series. From the library.


Blogger Debbi said...

I had just started reading this series when I saw you post about it and I have to say I agree with you on all points. I read the first book in 2 days, a feat I haven't accomplished since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was so easy to read through, interesting and compelling enough that you don't want to put it down and simple enough to follow that you don't have to. As for the other two books, well I felt exactly the same as you. After reading The Hunger Games I was interested to see where the author would take the characters and how it would end but the journey was as you said, sluggish and disappointing. Despite that, I had some hope that it would redeem itself and kept going, being an easy read certainly helped. After all is said and done though, I have yet to finish the last book. I started it a couple weeks ago and it doesn't hold the same interest for me. Loving the character development of the first, I am so disappointed by what the author has done to them. Like you said, I wanted Katniss to become the great hero the author seemed to be building her up to be. Instead she remains quiet and is resigned to being used as propaganda. Peeta was also my favorite character because he was so good, caring and intelligent so I absolutely hate what she turned him into. But I will finish it anyway if only because I still have the possibly naive hope that things will turn out well.

Blogger Cheri said...

Yeah, poor Peeta. He's probably worth hanging in for. Like you, I had to make myself finish this one though.

Blogger Danlee said...

I agree but strangely none of these things bothered me as much as you ladies. I was occasionally frustrated with Katniss and in the second book thought it a kind of easy, "duh" plot development that they returned to the games. But I didn't find Mockingjay as sluggish as you, it kept me interested, although I agree that the ending could've been better or at least drawn out a little more. I was happy that she ended up with Peeta but the way it happened was not very satisfying and also very dismissive of Gale. Anyway, I thought it was worth the read, especially since they are so fast and easy reads!


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