Scholastic Press, 2010
Mockingjay is the final volume of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, you can see my thoughts on both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire here. When reviewing a final volume in a series it isn’t worth noting that I can’t really avoid spoilers from either of the first two book and if you’re surprised they’re here I’d have to wonder as to why you’re reading a review of a book which is the end of a story you haven’t even started yet. That being said at the end of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen was “rescued” by the rebels of District 13 while Peeta was left behind in the capital. Mockinjay picks up shortly after the end of Catching Fire with Katniss recovering from the physical and psychological damage from her participation in the Quarter Quell Hunger Games. She has been offered the opportunity to become the Mockinjay, the symbol of the rebellion but is loathe to accept the responsibility or be drawn into what she knows is only an extension of the games she has escaped.
While the previous volumes in the Hunger Games were by no means a sunny walk in the park Mockingjay is perhaps the darkest entry yet. Katniss, tossed about by forces much larger than herself, is at her most low. Beaten down she wants nothing to do with the rebellion, wracked by guilt over the violence her actions has incited as well as the unknown fate of her companion Peeta, Katniss is in a desperate and desolate place. Yet it is still in that very place that Katniss display’s a keen insight and notable backbone in recognizing that while District 13 might be furthering a noble cause it isn’t necessarily the cause itself that they are interested in. Even Katniss herself isn’t so much interested in the rebel cause as she is in protecting her friends and family and it is this sort of world-weariness and somewhat myopic need to protect those around her that causes her to undersell her own virtues and underestimate the effect she has on those around her.
Katniss’ insular focus on friends and family and keen insight on the path the rebellion is taking once she finally begins to take part. It is the seeming contradictions in her characterization: her self-doubt, her obvious capabilities in martial abilities, her intelligence, and her charisma that make her a believable character. I have seen some reviews critique those same contradictions but I think that Katniss without the self-doubt, without the confusion over her own feelings would be far less interesting story and would pull the story further away from a realistic portrayal of an actual person; instead replacing it with some sort of bland archetype. What Katniss is, is messy. She is a creature created by the society which, in many aspects, utterly failed to raise her; or to put it mildly the society she grew up in spite of.
While there are no literal Hunger Games in the novel the final third of the novel stands in their place. The final assault on The Capital being full to bursting with the types of tricks and traps that readers have come to know and expect in the games. There is a certain familiarity here as a result, a sense that we’ve been here before, that contradicts the exploration of new districts and the intricacies of the rebellion yet seems necessary in order to bring the novel towards its conclusion. Indeed that final push towards the President’s mansion is some absolutely harrowing stuff that reveals the depths to which people will sink to maintain power. I don’t want to ruin the conclusion to that final assault. Needless to say it isn’t quite what you thought when you started the novel but one that is hinted at over the course of the novel, lending the actions an air of inevitability. I was less enamored with the denouement which felt a bit too much like “and they all lived happily ever after” (if, you know, horribly scarred both physically and psychologically). Anyway Mockinjay is a fitting end to what is my eyes an undeniably classic series that I hope goes on to inspire future generations of readers. If you’ve yet to give this series a try do yourself a favor and do so!