4.0 out of 5 stars
Will Mockingjay stay with you for always? Absolutely., April 12 2012
This review has spoilers! Read at your own discretion.
I finished reading Mockingjay within 5 days after reading the first two books in the previous two weeks. Personally, I thought it was a difficult book to read but not because it was poorly written or because it was uninteresting. On the contrary, I was completely hooked as I was with the first two novels. No, the reason this book was difficult to read was largely because of what the book's characters, specifically, Katniss and Peeta, had to go through during the story. Now, I'll admit that I was greatly impressed by The Hunger Games in the sense that it was a literal page-turner with thrilling action and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Furthermore, the events of the first Hunger Games provided the perfect setting for the developing relationship between Katniss and Peeta. In fact, I'll admit right now that my favourite part of the entire series was their relationship and how it grew from it being only Peeta who was genuinely in love while Katniss was at first distrustful and then playing the Capitol's role of star-crossed lovers, to her discovering in Catching Fire how important Peeta was to her and how she truly did care for him. Sadly, this relationship is completely shattered in Mockingjay and it is only through sheer determination that Katniss and Peeta are able to slowly and delicately rebuild the love and trust that they had steadily built throughout the first two books.
There is no denying that Katniss is a heroic figure in the first two novels and unfortunately, as many have already noted, the Katniss in Mockingjay is much more passive with her faults being on greater display. However, this is understandable to an extent as throughout the first half of the book, Katniss is reacting to Peeta's capture and is clearly struggling to carry out her responsibilities as the Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion that is now sweeping across Panem. Now people may feel that Mockingjay was weaker from a quality perspective but in my opinion, there were many passages in this book that were incredibly touching and well-written such as when Katniss completely breaks down after seeing a frail and injured Peeta being interviewed by Caesar and can only be comforted by Haymitch as he is the only person who can understand the pain that Katniss feels from letting Peeta fall into the Capitol's grasp. Shortly thereafter, Peeta is rescued but unfortunately, his hijacking has seemingly destroyed all traces of the Peeta that the reader had come to love and most shocking of all, he has lost his unconditional love for Katniss, a quality that defined Peeta in the previous books. Now, many have argued that Katniss displays great weakness and insensitivity during this part of the novel with respect to how she avoids Peeta and doesn't attempt to bring him back to his former self. Although I did find myself angry with Katniss at times, overall, I felt this was realistic as Katniss was never as emotionally strong as Peeta was and at this point, she is still struggling with her feelings for Peeta and Gale. Luckily however, with insight from Haymitch, Katniss does begin to take a more proactive role in helping Peeta through his recovery after Haymitch makes Katniss realize that if the situations were reversed Peeta would be doing everything in his power to bring Katniss back regardless of how difficult it may be.
Now with respect to other events in the novel, the final Capitol mission was both riveting and horrific and my only disappointment was to see beloved characters such as Finnick and Prim meet such quick and tragic ends. Personally, these two characters were far more developed than Gale ever was who I was never able to view as a fully-fledged character given his large absence in the first two books. Personally, the only reason I believe Katniss did not become aware of her feelings for Peeta sooner was because the Capitol was forcing them together and subconsciously Katniss did not wish to be forced into a relationship, especially marriage, as she wished to retain her freewill which she believed Gale represented. Overall, I did find the book to have a compelling story although I will admit it wasn't as enjoyable to read in comparison to the other two books, largely given Katniss's anguish and the loss of Peeta's dynamic personality. There were however a few light moments such as Katniss and Johanna's training regime and the scene with Finnick and Boggs (it involved underwear.) I will agree that towards the end, it did feel like the author was trying to wrap things up a bit too quickly although I did enjoy the twist with President Coin and the vote for a final Hunger Games where Katniss demonstrated her resolve to make a courageous choice that would ultimately benefit all of Panem. I do feel however, that it was a mistake to have Katniss sit out her trial as this would have given her the opportunity to explain her convictions and prove to the reader that she had returned to her heroic self. In fact, I was greatly disappointed with the epilogue as it implied that despite having two children, Katniss was never able to recover and spent the remainder of her days in the remnants of District 12, forever damaged beyond repair. On a much more satisfying note, as there was never any doubt in my mind that Katniss and Peeta would end up together, I was deeply touched by the novel's final lines before the epilogue where Katniss finally admits her love to Peeta through a touching exchange where Peeta asks "You love me. Real or not real?" and Katniss replies "Real." As was mentioned by Gale, Katniss would choose the boy she could not survive without and without a shadow of a doubt, that was always going to be Peeta given the characters' complimenting personalities and experiences in the games. In fact, I feel this would have been a better conclusion to the series as it provided hope that better days awaited the two lovers despite all the hardships and horrific nightmares that would forever burden them. As many have noted, Suzanne Collins succeeds in conveying her message that war is a terrible thing and that there can never be any victors but only survivors as demonstrated by the nonsensical and heart-breaking death of Prim.
Coming to the novel's end, I was saddened that this would be my last time reading about Katniss and Peeta whose friendship and devotion to one another allowed them to overcome the trials that were cruelly thrust upon them. Furthermore, I was greatly pleased to see that despite his unspeakable trauma, Peeta did in the end succeed in keeping his wish to remain unchanged as he had expressed in the first novel and although largely absent, Peeta is given the opportunity to demonstrate his inner strength towards the novel's end with his willingness to kill himself after realizing the danger he presents to Katniss and by ensuring that Katniss does not kill herself after shooting Coin. Now, if you asked me if Mockingjay was how I envisioned the final novel, my answer would be no. The thrill and excitement I had while reading the first two novels was largely replaced with grief and sorrow as Katniss was faced with one more crushing horror after the other and every passing page seemed to guarantee the loss of Peeta forever until the last 100 pages. As I said at the beginning of this review, I did not find this to be a bad book as it did succeed in telling a gripping story with characters who experienced very real emotions. I do feel however, that some things could have been improved upon such as the final confrontation and death of President Snow and the fates of certain characters such as Cinna, Haymitch and Gale. Now, although I can't say this book had a completely satisfying conclusion it did succeed in my opinion with respect to Katniss and Peeta's relationship although I do wish we could have seen more of the characters we had come to love in the first two novels. On the other hand, the events of Mockingjay do remind the reader of how special Katniss and Peeta's relationship is which was integral to my satisfaction from reading this book. Therefore, despite the pain I felt while reading this book, I am truly glad that I got around to reading this series and despite any reservations I may have against Mockingjay, this series did leave a strong impression on me and in the end, that is what made these books real to me.