Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

From that heck of an ending in Catching Fire I knew that the last installment in the series was going to be very different and it didn't disappoint. More than ever I could see the behind-the-scenes network of rebels, the grownup world where Katniss was a kid who was not treated like one and where, as valuable an asset as she was, she was simply a pawn in the games of people easily twice her age. In Mockingjay she finally saw her life for what it has become and desperately tried to find a way out all the while having no choice but to continue playing her part.
To me Mockingjay is the book where Katniss truly becomes a strong heroine. Some might argue that in this book she is rescued, supported and kept safe more than ever before, and while that is true I have said it before and will say it again, to me not needing anyone to have your back isn't necessarily a sign of strength. Knowing your weaknesses and taking them into account while moving forward is. Questioning what people tell you and making up your own mind is. Seeing the true nature of things that aren't as straightforward as a knife or an arrow and acting according to this knowledge is.
I've always seen Katniss as been capable of the same kind of cruelty and manipulativeness as President Snow for example, but her goals have never been selfish or cruel. She may have only ever loved two people, her father and her sister, but everybody else has never been just collateral for her and this always made her capable of doing what needed to be done without losing her humanity or her sense of self. I don't think that Katniss is a particularly sympathetic character, what with her tendency to fall back on the old faithful adage of "offense is the best defense" unfairly hurting people in the process, and her curiosity about how her displays of affection affect the two rivals for her heart, but I do like her for the good in her.
Fandoms tend to compare books and series, and trash some while showering others with praise. I tried really hard to enjoy this series on its own merit but there were scenes that awakened a very strong sense of deja vu in me. I couldn't help noticing similarities in character dynamics and entire scenes and wondered on more than one occasion whether haters trash that other series just because, without even bothering to read the books, or they truly don't notice these things. If there was anything that spoiled the Mockingjay experience for me this was it.
I keep trying to decide what was my favorite thing, section, element about this book and inevitably I come back to how well it shows that life isn't black or white, bad things can have goodness in them and good things can have darkness hiding deep inside. Another thing I liked, although not in the straightforward sense, was that at the end of the day the choice everybody's been waiting for Katniss to make was ultimately made for her, whether she or we the readers like it or not. Oh the irony.
Mockingjay was the most complex, nuanced and mature book of this series. Because of that, and despite the deja vu moments, it will always be my favorite Hunger Games book.

1 comment:

  1. I got a big sense of deja vu from this book, but I don't think it was from the same parts. District 13 was what was giving that to me, but it sounds like the love triangle was what was giving it to you. Was I reading you right?