8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: Dystopian, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: August 2010
Hardcover: 390 Pages

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Stand alone or series: Book 3 in the Hunger Games series

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher

Why did I read this book: This final novel in the Hunger Games series is THE most buzzed about YA book of 2010 – of COURSE I was going to read it. I enjoyed The Hunger Games (though felt it was an American, toned-down version of Battle Royale) and was more impressed with the original direction of Catching Fire, so I was hoping for big things from Mockingjay


**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE HUNGER GAMES AND CATCHING FIRE. If you have not read the first two books in this trilogy and want to remain unspoiled, I highly suggest you look away. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.**

After the dramatic breakout from the Arena during the Quarter Quell, Katniss and a few other victor tributes were able to escape from the Capitol’s grasp, and have taken refuge in District 13. At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss, injured during the daring escape from the Arena, awakens to discover that District 12 is a smoldering ruin, that her friends, mentors and allies have been in on a larger rebellion scheme all along – and worst of all, she awakens to learn that Peeta has been captured by the Capitol, suffering a horrific fate Katniss cannot even begin to fathom. Taken to the subversive and very-much-alive District 13, Katniss gradually regains her strength and health and decides to make one of the most important decisions of her life. She agrees to become the Mockingjay; the face of the rebellion against the Capitol. But she soon discovers that being the Mockingjay is more treacherous than she could have imagined, as she’s used as a pawn in an incredibly dangerous, high-stakes power game between President Coin (of District 13) and President Snow. Though she believes in the rebellion and fighting back the capitol, Katniss begins to question Coin’s tactics – freedom, but at what cost?

Mockingjay is beyond doubt one of the most talked about, most highly anticipated YA releases of 2010 – and with that buzz comes incredibly high reader expectations. With high expectations comes, inevitably, some disappointment. For me, though? Mockingjay was everything I thought was missing from The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. It wasn’t a perfect book (especially given its tendency towards heavy-handed message-hammering), however, it was a meaningful and resonant one. I don’t think the Hunger Games trilogy could have ended any other way, heartbreaking and cruel though this book may be. I loved it.

First, I do want to take an aside to address something I’ve been seeing in reviews across the blogosphere – that is, the issue of reader expectation versus reality. I cannot grade this book according to what I expected or wished it could have been; I can only analyze what actually has been written. And, as it stands Mockingjay IS a hugely different book than its two predecessors – it is a paradigm shift of the Hunger Games trilogy. For some readers, this shift will be disappointing, but for me, it answered my single biggest problem with the series to date: that is, how The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, while enthralling and action-packed, felt sanitized of true violence, terror or tough decisions. There is “danger” in the arena in these earlier books, but there’s never any question that Katniss or Peeta will make it out of the Arena. Similarly, there was no moral quandary, no meaty ethical questioning that takes place in these two prior books – Katniss and Peeta are time and time again bailed out of actually killing friends or anyone in cold blood (imagine, for example how The Hunger Games would have turned out had Katniss been forced to make a decision to kill Rue or Peeta?). In Mockingjay, Ms. Collins discards this simplistic, lite version of violent dystopian horror and inflicts the most dramatic, traumatizing, heartbreaking stuff she could have possibly done to her characters.

People die (I’m talking MAJOR characters).

People are forced to make hard decisions (A preemptive strike? Inhumane weapons? To punish the Capitol’s children just as those of the Districts have been punished for seventy-five years?).

And I personally have to give kudos to Ms. Collins for this shattering of the picture pretty dystopia-lite facade. In books 1 & 2, Katniss has time to worry about which boy she likes. In Mockingjay? All that has to be pushed aside in order to survive a war in which both sides are equally bloodthirsty and driven to insane, destructive lengths to win. If you were looking for drawn out romantic resolution, Mockingjay will certainly not live up to that expectation. I will say that while I loved this shock of ruthless, cold reality – in which main characters are not protected by some magical author bubble that promises that they will be safe, beautiful and sane forever – I do think that the book will undoubtedly lose some fans that have come to expect the lighter incarnations of THG series (again, this is where reader expectation kicks in).

As for the characters, they go through the grinder in Mockingjay, and understandably, not a one of them comes out unscathed. Katniss, our heroine, is injured so often both physically and emotionally tested, that it’s no surprise that she breaks down in this final book. That doesn’t mean Katniss is weak or a shell of her former self – she is defiant and calculating as ever, but she also is forced to grow into a different person in Mockingjay. Finally, she sees the whole picture and understands her role as a pawn in a larger game – Katniss is a tool, a figurehead to be brandished and thrown away when she gets too dangerous, just as Peeta has been. As this shroud of cluelessness falls from Katniss’s eyes, she finally is able to take control of her life and make her own decisions, right or wrong. This transformation in Mockingjay is a dramatic and painful thing, but one I think Ms. Collins handles perfectly, solidifying Katniss’s place as one of my favorite heroines of current YA. Gale, too, blossoms into a different person, hungry for payback and destruction. But, besides Katniss’s arc, it is Peeta’s that is the most shocking and poignant of the bunch (at least, it is in my opinion). I won’t spoil what exactly happens to these characters, except to say that Peeta finally sees Katniss in a different way, forever altering their relationship. It’s an enormous shift, and one that is unexpected but welcome.

While I did love the gloves coming off, so to speak, and the sharp characterizations, I do think that Mockingjay stumbles in the writing department. Mockingjay is undeniably heavy-handed with it’s very clear Messages – the political metaphor (it’s not even a metaphor; the heinous evilness of war is hammered home into readers’ heads with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), the reality television critique, how absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc. The writing, too, felt repetitive and needlessly explicit. For example, I loved Katniss’s haunting “Hanging Tree” song, but I hated that Ms. Collins felt the need to explain the song – in Katniss’s voice of course – stanza by stanza. Subtlety. Mockingjay could have used some.

That criticism aside, I think Mockingjay was a fitting, beautifully tragic end to a poignant series. Mockingjay isn’t a book about some girl prancing about amidst a thin veneer of danger – this is a book about brutal, murderous war, and how a girl tries to survive, living with the decisions she has made and the blood on her hands. It is powerful, dark, soul-searching stuff, that though incongruous with the first two books, ultimately is all the more admirable because of its grit and pain. I absolutely recommend Mockingjay – but be aware that this is not a book for the weak of heart. Mockingjay is resonant, powerful, and emotionally exhausting – and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter One:

I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house. How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?

Almost nothing remains of District 12. A month ago, the Capitol’s firebombs obliterated the poor coal miners’ houses in the Seam, the shops in the town, even the Justice Building. The only area that escaped incineration was the Victor’s Village. I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps so anyone forced to come here on Capitol business would have somewhere decent to stay. The odd reporter. A committee assessing the condition of the coal mines. A squad of Peacekeepers checking for returning refugees.

But no one is returning except me. And that’s only for a brief visit. The authorities in District 13 were against my coming back. They viewed it as a costly and pointless venture, given that at least a dozen invisible hovercraft are circling overhead for my protection and there’s no intelligence to be gained. I had to see it, though. So much so that I made it a condition of my cooperating with any of their plans.

Finally, Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker who had organized the rebels in the Capitol, threw up his hands. “Let her go. Better to waste a day than another month. Maybe a little tour of Twelve is just what she needs to convince her we’re on the same side.”

The same side. A pain stabs my left temple and I press my hand against it. Right on the spot where Johanna Mason hit me with the coil of wire. The memories swirl as I try to sort out what is true and what is false. What series of events led me to be standing in the ruins of my city? This is hard because the effects of the concussion she gave me haven’t completely subsided and my thoughts still have a tendency to jumble together. Also, the drugs they use to control my pain and mood sometimes make me see things. I guess. I’m still not entirely convinced that I was hallucinating the night the floor of my hospital room transformed into a carpet of writhing snakes.

I use a technique one of the doctors suggested. I start with the simplest things I know to be true and work toward the more complicated. The list begins to roll in my head. . . .

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is thought to be dead. Most likely he is dead. It is probably best if he is dead. . . .

You can read the full chapter online HERE. Also, you can check out author Suzanne Collins reading chapter one aloud below:

(Is anyone a little weirded out that Katniss has a southern accent in Ms. Collins’ reading? Just me? Nevermind.)

Additional Thoughts: Our current Mockingjay 13 District Blog Tour and Giveaway is still up and running – and is ending tonight at 11:59pm (PST).

If you haven’t yet entered for your chance to win a sweet Mockingjay-embossed iSkin, hurry up before it’s too late!

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Reading Next: Dust by Joan Frances Turner

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  • Amy @ My Friend Amy
    September 1, 2010 at 1:27 am

    I am so happy you liked this. I was really nervous to know your take! I loved it.

    I actually appreciated the explanation of The Hanging Tree song, because I was totally clueless. Also I think it did serve a larger somewhat more subtle purpose (as a rebel song) than its direct explicit meaning.

    And also I think Katniss is from Appalachia so she’d have a southern accent of sorts, right? Her voice just isn’t written in dialect.

  • Michelle
    September 1, 2010 at 3:23 am

    I have to say I didn’t love this one. I thought it was great but not LOVE! from within the depths of my soul. I thought the pacing was off….we got endless chapters of preparation for the revolt but then the revolt and aftermath was shoved into 2.5 chapters in the end. I wanted more from the aftermath than a quick and (in some ways) extremely convenient ending.

    But again, it was a great series that I enjoyed tremendously and would recommend vigorously to others.

  • katiebabs
    September 1, 2010 at 5:26 am

    I keep hearing about the epilogue. Did you feel it was a good one?

    I still need to read this book.

  • LadyJ
    September 1, 2010 at 7:22 am

    I’m glad you liked the book. I did as well, though it seems like most people have mixed feelings. The point you mentioned about reader expectation verses reality hits the nail on the head. In so many of these types of stories the character of Katniss would have been the person to lead the rebellion and make all the crucial decisions. Instead this book is more about the war itself and how much loss and heartache it brings.
    That being said I think that the characters were very much true to themselves. They had to decide for themselves the boundaries they could live with between justice and revenge. I felt it was reasonable that Katniss and Gale would have different sets of views on what crosses the line. For Gale watching the games at home would bring a totally different perspective than for Katniss who was actually in them. Having felt like he was incapable of helping Katniss in all those situations it makes sense that he has such a strong urge to want the rebellion to succeed at almost any cost.
    Even Peeta, dealing with all the confusion, consistently made choices reflective of his former self. Katniss, though fierce in her own way, was never trying to be a leader. Her focus was always on protecting those she loves and in this book she never stopped doing that. She has known very little of happiness in her life so to expect an epilogue portraying that would be out of character. I think she ends up as happy as she is capable, even if it isn’t enough for some readers.

  • Beth F
    September 1, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Very interesting review. Despite the fun on Twitter and so on, I didn’t really care about the Gale/Peeta romance all that much and so I was not expecting a romantic book. I like grittiness, and the violence didn’t bother me. I outlined what bothered me in my own post, but I’ll say just a couple things here:

    I felt too much occurred off the pages because Katniss was sedated so much. I felt that the characters did not change in a realistic manner; I hardly recognized them. I did not like the end and the message I saw there.

    My high expectations were for excellent writing and great storytelling not for some particular plot line or ultimate conclusion. I was disappointed on both accounts.

  • Jamie
    September 1, 2010 at 8:10 am

    I really loved this one. I thought it was a fitting ending to the series and it even offered a very slight ray of hope at the end. More than that would have seemed disingenuous to me. I agree that Peeta’s role in Mockingjay was entirely unexpected. And one death in particular shocked me terribly. About her accent in the video clip, I am from Appalachia and I had to turn it off. Collins is a great writer, but her version of Katniss irritated me. Yes, some people do speak that way there (mostly it’s the few people who fit the WV stereotype), but most have the slightest but of a Southern accent with a few local colloquialisms thrown in every now and then. Collin’s version just didn’t fit my image of Katniss at all. But, then again… her book, her character. lol

  • Barb in Minn.
    September 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Overall, I liked Mockingjay, but felt that ending needed about 20 more pages. Too much of Katniss wandering aimlessly/cluelessly, but then rushed the final battle and outcomes.
    I expected lots of deaths – but not that one. WTF? And to have it practically skimmed over. As was the rundown of who survived and what happened to them. I wanted more than a sentence each when telling us what happened to the other major characters.
    Still deciding what I think about the epilogue – Unlike end of Harry Potter (which I liked), this warm-fuzzy ending felt tacked-on to me.

    I’m well past being a teenager – am wondering what they saying about the book.

  • Thea
    September 1, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Wow, great discussion going on here, guys!

    Amy – Oh yes, I truly liked it. Loved it, even. I’m so glad you did too. Re: The Hanging Song – it’s just a personal preference, I guess. At first glance the song just seems to be a sad lover’s lament, but I think had Ms. Collins left out the explanation and kept the allusions through to the song, readers would have been able to figure out what the song’s true meaning was. It’s a problem I have with a lot of fiction, YA or adult, in general, this need to explain everything. I love the feeling of uncertainty and “discovering” a hidden meaning in the text of a book. The Hanging Tree Song would have been a perfect example of this…

    But again, personal tastes and opinion!

    Michelle and Barb – I do agree with you in regards to the pacing of the book (probably something I should have put in the review, in retrospect. D’oh). It DID all seem rather…lopsided, didn’t it? Not just for Mockingjay either, but in terms of the series at large. The first two books are completely different creatures than this final volume – focused on one story and then switching gears completely at the end.

    I do think the explanation Katniss gives at the end felt a bit rushed and even a little anticlimactic – but the ultimate choices that she has made and the actual resolution itself felt right to me.

    Barb – with regards to the rushed/glossed over deaths, I actually disagree! I thought that was an interesting and effective choice from Ms. Collins. After all, death is completely indifferent as to whom it takes – be they major or minor characters. To me, these deaths were more effective at sending the message that war is carelessly cruel, much more so than Ms. Collins using Katniss’s narrative as a soapbox.

    And I find it interesting that you felt the end was warm-fuzzy! I thought it was quite the opposite – after so much pain and heartbreak, Katniss gains a teeny, tiny measure of peace. But even at that, she’s still clearly haunted and traumatized by all she’s seen. I felt the ending was fitting and decidedly un-fuzzy….but again, that’s the awesome thing about literature. It’s all purely subjective and up to reader interpretation.

    LadyJ – Thanks, and I COMPLETELY agree with you regarding the characters in this final book and their path of development. It all felt very genuine and in keeping with the arcs started in earlier books. And:

    I think she ends up as happy as she is capable, even if it isn’t enough for some readers.

    Yes. YES. I completely agree.

    Jamie – Only one death shocked you completely? 😉 I was near tears with two particular losses. Shocking…but effective.

    And as for the accent, thank you for giving that perspective! I guess I just never really thought of Katniss as having a heavy accent…but hey, in the author’s mind she did! In my mind, I’m keeping her with the slightest of accents 🙂

  • Lara
    September 1, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Two days after finishing it, I finally decided I liked Mockingjay. There are things that still disturbe me, but there are also the ones I loved. For example in the epilog, I loved that the song is mentioned Katniss sang for Rue in the first book, but it seemed strange for Katniss and Peter to have kids. I think I would have liked it better without the epilog …but maybe not …
    I cried twice while reading, actually that’s a lot for me … 😀
    But still, there was something missing sometimes … everything was so cruel and hard and even Katniss’ breakdown was somehow too much …
    I still don’t know what to think exactly …
    but I’m sure that this book is unique and probably the best ending the HGT could have had ..

  • Angie
    September 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Yes! *highfive* I just completely agree with you, Thea. Loved it. She managed to change the way I viewed the characters. And I just really admired the way she handled the whole wrapping it up. It was the only course that made sense for Katniss.

  • Jo
    September 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    LOVED loved loved this book. Yours is the first blog review I’ve read of it (I had avoided all of the others I came across for fear of spoilers, since my copy arrived last Saturday, not Tuesday). And then, after gulping down the book and finishing it by Saturday night, I just wasn’t in the mood to read any more about it….. but I knew I’d find something good to read here at the The Book Smugglers!

    Very well-written review, as always!

  • danielle
    September 2, 2010 at 12:11 am

    It made me cry like a baby :'(

  • Jamie
    September 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Yeah, the one in the middle was the shocking one for me. The other one, not so much. I had a feeling that character would, at the very least, not emerge unscathed from the wreckage of Panem, but I admit I still cried a little, even though I sort of expected it. The one in the middle though… that just blew me out of the water, so to speak.

  • Lizzy
    September 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I thought this was a great book, but it was so emotionally exhausting I didn’t enjoy it…if that makes sense.

    Also, Suzanne Collins might be reading in a southern-like accent because Katniss is from what was originally Appalachia, and people there have similar accents. Collins has probably been imagining Katniss with an accent all this time, something I have never considered before.

  • Hope
    October 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Hunger Games=Amazing
    Catching Fire=Awesome

    I hated the ending,it felt so rushed.It also was missing closure.And most of the book was ok,but predictable. Loved the series and all,but Mockingjay just didn’t live up to its expectation )’:

  • AquaGirl
    December 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I loved the whole trilogy! BUT Katniss Everdeen should have most defenitly been with Gale Hawthorne. Peeta (Bread) is sooo helpless AND ANNOYING!!!!!!!!!!!!:(

  • AquaGirl
    December 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Why does Suzanne Collins read wih a southern accent!? I totally doubt Katniss would have any sort of accent.:(

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglers’ Stash & News
    February 27, 2011 at 4:09 am

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  • Derek
    April 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I agree with several people here. I absolutely loved this trilogy, but good gravy. WHY on earth did Collins rush through the ending? I don’t understand.
    I’m not disappointed in the general way it ended, I’m mostly just disappointed in her lack of explanation for many things.
    1. Why did a certain person die? Was she the one running in to help those kids when the second bomb went off?
    2. Did Gale just simply decide that she would never get over the whole ‘he created the bomb’ thing and leave because of that?
    3. What’s the deal with the whole ‘trial’? Why didn’t anyone explain to Katniss what was happening? Why wasn’t she able to be at the trial?
    4. Why on earth did they decide to do the ‘final hunger games’ thing at the end? Peeta makes a great point by saying ‘it will create a terrible precedent’, etc.
    5. Ugh, so many things really irritate me. WHY couldn’t she just explain things? I don’t feel a sense of closure. It makes me sad.

  • Don
    October 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I’m a male teacher in his 40’s and I really enjoyed the series. I really enjoyed how the author wrote in a style in this last book that was designed to leave the reader feeling much the same way Katniss did – exasperated, confused, and not feeling much in the way of a good resolution. It was a bit quick at the end, however that perhaps helped a bit with the author’s intent (she wants the reader to be uncomfortable).
    Another reviewer asked why there was going to be another Hunger Games as some sort of revenge……please reread that section closely and you will clearly see that Katniss never intended for their to be another games – she wasn’t voting “yes” at all – just a way for her to stay close to Coin in order stop her.

  • Natalia
    February 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I just finished the book yesterday. It took time finding out about the series here in Mexico, then finding the books in English. I loved them all. They were cruel, yet wonderful at the same time. I do feel different about the rushed ending in this one, though. I believe wars must feel like that, with everything happening so fast you barely register it, and we are living it through Katniss’s eyes, so it made sense to me.
    In the end, I do believe this is a great series. It left me a little bit shocked and sad at the end of every book, but I’m happy I took the time to read them.

  • Katie Jareau
    April 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I love every review in this site. <3

    I had never once thought that I might like The Hunger Games books, but Oh My God, I was so happy to be wrong.

    I agree with what you wrote. Mockingjay was so different from the first two books and the change was very welcomed by me as well.

    I loved every part where Peeta went berserk. I had been waiting for it ever since the second book. I had wanted him to be furious, unforgiving and completely opposite of the blonde baker's son that I was getting tired of. But I wished it were more gradual and natural rather than having been provoked by being Hijacked (I didn't like this term).

    Gale's rage was also…how do I put it? So delicious and it scared me, too. But it also made him more desirable. Of course, if I were Katniss, I’d choose Peeta without question, but as just plain ol’ Katie, I’d choose Gale. I was also suspicious of some kind of psychological battle within himself but poo poo, that wasn’t quite clear. I was happy how everyone was angry. I really love anger in black and white text without any of it being in Caps Lock. Humans. How I love and hate our kind.

    ‘Keep away and trust no one’, I would always tell myself when there comes a dramatic change in my life. Or even a little change, actually. I don’t think I would survive in the world Suzanne collins created. In the Hunger Games, I could have died in the Bloodbath. In the Capitol, I most definitely could have lived fully. In District One, I could have thrived just as much. Even in District Twelve, I think I could have lived well…but only as a Merchant.

    The one thing I was most disappointed about was that Madge wasn’t mentioned nor shown a lot of praise. After all, she did give Katniss the Mockingjay pin that Katniss eventually became, the symbol of rebellion. I was fine with Madge dying, but not much grief on Katniss’ part, so I wasn’t too happy about that.

    I did, too, had a problem with the repetitiveness of the writing and the “The Hanging Tree” explanation. Also, a lot of things didn’t sit well with me. The way Suzanne Collins rushed the ending made me go “AAAawwaihasiudhiusah NOOO!”. I didn’t like it…I might even hate it if it weren’t for a lovely quote. “My children, who don’t know they play on a graveyard.” THAT made me accept the ending a bit rather than completely being disappointed.

    Overall, Mockingjay is my second favorite of the three books.

  • Matthew (Bibliofreak.net)
    April 13, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Thanks – a really full review.

    I have to admit, I got more hung-up on the writing than you did. I really don’t like have points hammered home to that extent. I also felt the characterisation went out the window in a lot of cases.

    I’d agree this is a much more brutal book in many ways, and it’s good to see some of the more central characters having to make difficult decisions, and some not making it to the end.

    Overall though I thought this was a bit jumbled and not a great way to end the series. A shame, because it had been built up nicely.

    My review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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