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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mockingjay

Well, well, well. Here we are, at the end of the road. And it's not at all what I hoped for. I placed my pre-order for Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay the minute I finished reading Catching Fire, hoping for a great conclusion, a story that ends with a major bang. Instead, I got a confused and somewhat muddled mess.

District 12 is no more. The Capitol has firebombed it into oblivion. Katniss Everdeen, the Girl Who Was On Fire, and what few refugees are left, have sought refuge in District 13, the home of a colossal war machine that is bent on overthrowing the vicious President Snow and his cruel government. But what role will Katniss play in the upcoming rebellion? Well, it's obvious that the rebel leadership wants her to be the Mockingjay, the symbol of defiance, a rallying point to bring the other Districts in line. But can Katniss truly find herself in this role? And what will happen when she's finally reunited with Peeta, her partner from the Hunger Games?

To be fair, there was a lot riding on this last book. The first two were so excellent and so gripping, Collins set a very high bar for herself. Sadly, she didn't reach it. The plot and character development meander quite a bit through the story as Katniss finds her place and her voice in the rebellion. There are parts that sparkle and I was left wondering what was going to happen with the whole Katniss-Gale-Peeta love triangle. But sadly, when I finished the book, I was left feeling . . . well, a bit empty. Not at all satisfied.

Now granted, I only finished reading the book about twelve hours ago, so I haven't had a lot of time to analyze what I've read and why I'm feeling so disappointed. But I have some preliminary thoughts I'd like to share.

First of all, there's what the book lacked: another Game. That's what truly made the first two books so special, the idea of the Districts sending their children into the Hunger Games. I was riveted through what happened to Katniss in the first book. When I read the second, I wondered how Collins would incorporate this unique concept again, hence why I was fascinated by the Quarter Quell, how similar and yet different it was from Katniss's first trip into the arena.

Collins doesn't send anyone into the Games this time. She does try to paint the on-going rebellion as a "Games-in-real-life" kind of thing by having Katniss followed around by a camera crew, but it's not the same. It's not even close. So there's the first problem: one of the things that made Collins's book so unique was missing.

Second, there's the focus. Collins seemed more interested in what was going on around Katniss than in Katniss and her emotional journey. When Peeta and Katniss were reunited, I was at first thrilled and then crushed (no spoilers here, I hope) but then Peeta faded into the background, barely registering. The same thing happens to Gale throughout the book. He's little more than an aggressive, war-mongering sidekick with no real emotional entanglement. Part of the zing of the first two books was the whole "love triangle" with Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. And even though the question is resolved in the end, it was done in such a haphazard way it didn't really feel like a resolution. Katniss didn't earn a resolution or even marginally participate in one. Instead, Collins just told us what the resolution was with very little build up or logic to it, especially given what happened to all the characters in the book.

Third, there's the sprinting. It almost feels as though Collins had a wordcount limit she couldn't exceed. She meandered through the rest of the book and, once the war was resolved, she realized she didn't nearly have enough space to finish the disparate story threads and do justice to them. But rather than go back and do some cutting, she simply sprinted through to the ending, skimming over major developments that, in my not-so-humble opinion, deserved deeper treatment. Once again, the resolution to the love triangle. Given how central that was to the first two books, it deserved to be featured a lot more and have at least a couple of chapters dedicated to its eventual resolution so we understand why Katniss does what she does and how she comes to her final conclusions.

All in all, it was an okay book. I really wish it could have been better, because I think Katniss deserved better given all that she's been through.

1 comment:

Jamison said...

Thanks for the review. I'm on chapter 4 of the first book, and now need to decide from your review if I want to keep going... I probably will, but at least this way I won't be set up for a disappointment.