When The Hunger Games first debuted in 2008, I began to read it and I was stunned by the books excellent pacing, amusing characters and the amusing situation of throwing several people into an arena to see who comes out alive. It was, for the most part, a rather simple book. One that was dark, violent and mysterious but it never glorified the act of violence, nor were the more violent moments hard to swallow. For all intents and purposes, The Hunger Games was a fantastic book.
This review contains spoilers to the first two books, I suggest reading the first two books before diving into this review. It does NOT contain spoilers for the third installment.
The second book, Catching Fire is slower and spends a bit of time trying to recap everything but it also spends a lot of time setting things up for the third book. You could say that Catching Fire is a "bridge" book for the first and third books. As a result some might not see it as being nearly as important. In essence, however you could say that the whole trilogy is all one book that was just split into three parts. The second is, for the most part like most "bridging" second parts in a trilogy. It's either the most important (because it's where there's usually a big turning point) or it's the least important. Catching Fire falls into the latter.
The real deal is the third book. Mockingjay. The first two books didn't exactly leave us with a lot of lingering questions. The second book left off on a cliff hanger with District 12 being destroyed and Katniss being taken to District 13. The book takes off immediately from where the second left off. It wastes no time and it already sets the tone. Mockingjay is the darkest of the trilogy by far. With District 13 getting ready to wage war on the capital, Katniss has to stand there and be their symbol. Their Mockingjay. Not only that, but Katniss also has to deal with the fact that Peeta is still in the hands of the capital. And worse yet, Katniss needs to find a way to save him, in spite of the rebels seeing him as a traitor. As Katniss begins to cooperate with the rebels she soon learns that the rebels may not be the best either. What Katniss is fighting for is freedom, sure... but for who? Is she fighting for Panem? Or for herself?
The novel is quite enticing and written with the simplicity that makes the first two accessible to everyone. What really drives the story are the cast of characters. There's Katniss, of course but the real treat is Gale, who finally becomes a three-dimensional character. He was hardly featured in the first two books, but he's front and center here as he plays a much bigger role. Is he an interesting character? Yes. But the story also includes a small love triangle of sorts between Katniss, Gale and Peeta as Katniss tries to reconcile her feelings for both of them. This isn't like a Twilight love triangle, however; it's not a one-sided rivalry (was anyone really surprised that Bella chose Edward? If you were it must've been the first book you ever read). You're actually divided on who Katniss wants to be with. Even when you're presented with moments that make her choice fairly obvious you might still second guess yourself... because Katniss is always second guessing herself. Suzanne Collins is certainly not afraid to make Katniss act like a teenager.
There are quite a few twists and turns thrown into the mix at least. Mockingjay is actually a pretty unpredictable book. Just when you're sure that the story will go in one direction it changes and takes you in another.
All those twists and turns come with a catch. After the books biggest twist near the end, the rest of it actually feels rushed. Everything which comes before is golden. The book is violent, dark, and characters you've grown attached to will die. After all the bloodshed is said and done, it adds in that final twists and then takes things into a hurried direction with a resolution that is less than stellar. The epilogue in particular feels extremely rushed. It's not the kind of anti-climax that makes you want to hurl the book against the wall. It's the kind that makes you feel as though Suzanne Collins was writing and then said, "It's getting to be too long so I better find a way to wrap things up!"
At the very least there are actually some thought provoking moments scattered throughout. Or at least it asks questions. Young Adult literature has a knack for being simple but able to pose questions to even it's young audience. If anything Mockingjay asks questions such as will war destroy us all? What does it mean to love? Is manipulation right for the sake of freedom? And can we trust those we're fighting for? And yes, some of this has already caused controversy with people bashing the book all over. Not because it dares to dream but because it offers few answers outside of Katniss's own thoughts and she's just as confused because she is, after all, just a puppet for the rebellion. It's not exactly deep with all this stuff, but it doesn't just take a cursory glance at it either.
This would all be nothing if Katniss and some of the supporting cast wasn't interesting enough. The book also doesn't spend nearly as much time recapping the events of the previous two. It hits the ground running. In terms of pacing, Mockingjay is the best of the lot. If anything the only thing that brings Mockingjay down really is it's rushed ending.
It's also worth noting that like the first book (more so than the second) Suzanne Collins handles the violence quite well. And make no mistake Mockingjay is REALLY violent It is easily the most violent of the three. But it's handled in a manner that it isn't just splatter. For the most part death is handled off camera this time. When it is front and center, however, Collins describes it in a way that you know it's terrible, but that leaves much more to the imagination. She's not too grisly and graphic, but the images you begin to formulate based on what she doesn't tell you might really make it come alive. The violence isn't handled lightly but the most violent and trying moments are also not too in-your-face either.
Is Mockingjay the best of the three? Probably not. The best one is perhaps the first book of the series. There are lots of twists and lots of questions that arise, but taking the ride for an anti-climax that Mockingjay leaves is a little worse than "who cut the film strip?" like cliffhangers of the first two books. That's not to say it isn't worth taking the ride. It very much IS worth taking because for those who read the second book... it would suck not to know the outcome of the entire situation, especially considering the explosive ending of the second book.
It's worth reading Mockingjay. If you loved the first two books in the series you owe it to yourself to check this one out. The story is captivating enough to be interesting on an emotional level. It handles much of its themes and characterization with maturity, even in some of its darkest moments. It may not be as challenging as some would like, but at least it's entertaining and moves at a nice pace. If you're a fan of The Hunger Games the third book is most certainly worth your time.
Warning! Don't read if you plan to read book 2 and haven't yet. There's a few spoilers for those who've not read book 3 yet but not many. You've been warned, read at own risk. Otherwise, enjoy. The Hunger Games Series has been a wonderful ride. Suzanne Collins has created a wonderful world of the ashes of the USA and North America. Panem is the country where you meet Katniss Everdeen from District 12 and are introduced. Then readers learn fully about … more
I was fully prepared to rave about 'Mockingjay,' the last book of the Hunger Games series. I was ready to love it as much as I did the first two, and to channel that love into words of high praise. So imagine my surprise when I finished the book and was left with an unexpected feeling: disappointment. I got a sense while reading the book that Suzanne Collins was making an attempt to create a big finish ending, which is another strange thing, because I felt like 'Mockingjay' … more
It's all back! The drama, the great characters, the relentless pacing and the delicious politics. It's all back with Suzanne Collin's "Mockingjay" -- the 3rd and finally installment in the "Hunger Games" trilogy. And for those of you who didn't get a chance to re-read the series, don't worry, Collins does a great job in the beginning chapters of firing things up again. She ignited my own sense of loss … more
Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, the spark that started a revolution, once again finds her life in chaos. Rescued from the Quarter Quell and whisked to District 13 and the seat of the rebel cause, Katniss is expected to take up her role as the figurehead of the rebellion; as the Mockingjay so ready and willing to fight the Capitol. Peeta is captured. Probably dead–it would be best if he were dead. District 12 is gone. And Katniss finds she can no longer hide from the war she never meant … more
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins comes to a bloody end with Mockingjay, the series' final volumes. (I reviewed the first two volumes here and here.) The story takes place in North America, sometime in the future. A civil war between the Capitol and its thirteen districts resulted in the annihilation of District 13 and the imposition of the Hunger Games on the remaining twelve. For seventy-five years, each district has sent one girl and one boy between the … more
Never has a series touched me like The Hunger Games series. Every moment, every heart ache, every bit of dialogue is real. The characters reactions, moments of clarity, moments of insanity, pain, loss, love, hate, anger, hurt, even their drug induced stupors are real, real real. Parajunkee loved this book? Real. REVIEW: The culmination of Katniss' adventure comes to an end in the 3rd installment of The Hunger Games, Mockingjay. She has been pulled from … more
Katniss Everdeen has once again just barely escaped death in the arena, but this time her rescue is due to the rebels in District 13. Katniss should be happy that she has powerful allies that are willing to fight the Capitol, but it doesn't take long for her to realize that like the Capitol, District 13 is only interested in using her and making her the face of the rebellion, the Mockingjay. Katniss is sick of being someone's pawn, but the rebellion can't be won without her participation. The only … more
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Praise for the Hunger Games series: "Whereas Katniss kills with finesse, Collins writes with raw power." -Time Magazine "Collins has joined J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer as a writer of children's books that adults are eager to read." -Bloomberg.com "Perfect pacing and electrifying world building." -Booklist, starred review "A humdinger of a cliffhanger will leave readers clamoring for volume three." -Kirkus reviews, starred review "Forget Edward or Jacob... readers will be picking sides- Peeta or Gale?" -Publishers Weekly, starred review "Leaves enough questions tantalizingly unanswered for readers to be desperate for the next installment." -School Library Journal, starred review