Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins



I really wanted to like this book, but page after page, I found myself lowering my mental rating.

I started out the series wary about the violent premise, but I was pleasantly surprised by how little actual violence there was in The Hunger Games. I wasn't happy with the way that first book skirted the psychological questions of whether or not Katniss was capable of murder (those questions are actually answered in great detail in this book), but I had to admit that the way The Hunger Games unfolded (with Katniss playing defense and all her killings fully justifiable) was more age-appropriate for its target audience.

I think Mockingjay, however, really crossed the line of what is appropriate for middle-schoolers. This book is action-packed, and Katniss goes from war zone to war zone; at each stop, we are treated to a LOT of graphic descriptions of gruesome and macabre deaths that were brought about in horrible, twisted ways. The rebellion basically trains child soldiers, starting at age 14, and Katniss - who is still only 17 years old - is armed to the teeth. Finally, while alcohol was portrayed as an evil throughout the series (you see Haymitch's pathetic life ruined by drink, and the one time Katniss tried it, she didn't like the way it felt), apparently the only harm of the addictive drug morphling is that you might end up a flower-loving hippie.

I didn't like how quickly the rebels labeled Peeta a traitor - wasn't it obvious that he was being tortured and was saying things under duress?!

I did think Coin's questionable leadership of the rebellion made for good reading. District 13 was run almost as much like a dictatorship as Panem, and her sense of humanity was not much better. This uneasiness I felt about her leadership provided for a good bit of suspense, and I liked the way the whole issue was resolved in the end.

It was interesting to see a bit of role reversal with Peeta and Gale. This time, Gale is the sidekick, and Peeta is out of sight. I'm really not a fan of romance creeping into action stories, so I liked that Katniss's dilemma of who to choose was not front and center. As in previous books, she makes a brief mention of it from time to time, but mostly she has bigger fish to fry.

I guess The Hunger Games isn't quite as big as Twilight, because no one talks about Team Gale versus Team Peeta. I have to admit, I could understand how Katniss felt, because I had a hard time choosing who to root for. The juxtaposition of Gale and Katniss's perspectives on what is acceptable behavior during wartime, and Katniss's uncompassionate behavior towards a "hijacked" Peeta, made me think that Peeta would make Katniss a better person, while Katniss would make Gale a better person. Still, Katniss and Gale knew each other better than any two people in the world, so I think I found myself leaning towards Gale, even though I knew I could be happy with either ending, as long as the other person was somehow okay with the final choice, too. Once again, though, the resolution comes with a cop-out: Katniss never actually does any choosing. The series of events forces the choice upon her - it's a happy coincidence that the man she ends up with happens to be the one she realizes was best for her anyway - and frankly, one of the most disappointing parts of the book for me is how Katniss and Gale's relationship is irrevocably severed. That was really hard to swallow, given their past together.

I also really didn't like how depressing Katniss's situation was after the war. She, the Mockingjay, left to wallow in depression with no one to look after her but Greasy Sae and Haymitch?! She was basically abandoned by both her mother and Gale, which I just thought was really not cool.

Sure, the book technically had a happy ending, but even the epilogue left me unsatisfied. What was Gale doing, twenty years on? Did he ever get married? Did he ever think of Katniss, or did Katniss ever think of him? What happened to Panem? My first order of business would be to rename the country and all the districts. How is Annie doing, and where does she live? We know that she was dependent on Finnick for her sanity, so who takes care of her now? What about Johanna? Does she ever put her life together, find love again? Does Haymitch ever get sober? I can't imagine that even after Katniss and Peeta find happiness together, they would just sit by and watch him drink himself to death. And what about all the Capitol citizens? How did they get along with their new reality, and whatever became of Katniss's prep team?

Overall, I had high hopes for this book, but was disappointed in the end.