Sunday, April 8, 2012

On War: A Review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

There, I have read the outrageously popular YA series that everyone and their kitten has already read. I can be at peace.

In essence, this is a war book. It picks up where Catching Fire left us, with Katniss having been rescued to District Thirteen. They've amassed a rebel army and are intent on taking back Panem from the Capitol. They want to use Katniss as their symbol, their Mockingjay, to appear in propaganda videos and inspire the citizens of Panem to join in the fight. Meanwhile, Peeta is in the hands of the Capitol and is being tortured to insanity.

You know, for kids!

Positive Comments

I like the wartime atmosphere the book creates. It's horrible. Well, it isn't that gory, because this is still a YA. But I like that it doesn't shy away from showing that war sucks, and innocent people die. And sometimes politics are more complicated and corrupt than they appear on the surface. Sometimes war becomes more about winning war than about making lives better. Katniss sees all of this from the unique perspective as a symbol, a pseudo soldier, and a survivor.

I enjoyed all of the secondary character arcs. I saw Gale's transformation from poor coal miner to soldier to death trap constructor to be both natural and fascinating, in its dark way. Seeing Peeta driven to the darker areas of his own mind, and watching his struggle to come out of that, was heart wrenching. I liked Finnick and Annie. I liked Johanna, surprisingly. I like that Prim actually grew a backbone. And, (not to spoil here), I got bummed out for every single character that died, however minor. Except the baddies.

Katniss. She's strong, she's willful, she kicks ass. She becomes this awesome symbol that spurs a nation to war. She's not perfect by any means. She doesn't know how to be a soldier, and she's not great at following orders. She's in love but has no idea what to do about it. I love how Collins developed her, and I like the person she becomes by the end.

Critical Comments

Katniss.  I think she's PTSD and chronic depression just waiting to happen, and while the author succeeded in showing her trauma, I'm not sure she showed her recovery. Looking at the whole trilogy, there's this on going cycle that Katniss is trapped in. Terrible thing happens--> Katniss has minor psychological meltdown--> Other things demand her attention-->Katniss pulls out of meltdown long enough to perform some action-->Terrible thing happens. In the end, the cycle finally breaks when Katniss has her meltdown but she's no longer needed, so there's nothing to pull her out of it. We're told she recovers, but I honestly don't get how. She has no epiphanies. No breakthroughs. No new understanding of herself or the world. She just wakes up and says "Okay, I'll get on with life now." Which felt uncomplicated and unrealistic.

I still do not buy the romance. It still doesn't feel real to me. I believe that these people are in love, because that's what I'm told, but I don't get why. It makes for a nice clean ending, but does not by any means satisfy my romantic leanings.


As YA series go, I do like this one. It's smart, entertaining, and a little gritty. I can see why this is enjoyed both teen and adult audiences, and I do recommend it. 4 stars.

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