Book Review: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

Rating: Center Centaur
Rating: Center Centaur

I finally got to reading Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. If you’re looking for the fast version of my take on it: I’d say it’s pretty good. It’s not awesome like the first one was, but it’s still a good story. The ending is actually really cool, and the ending is why I am giving it a Center Centaur rating rather than a Grumbling Gargoyle. So, that’s the quick assessment. Here’s why and where I am coming from on it:

The upside of this book, as I just mentioned, is the ending. By “ending” I mean the last twenty-five percent of it. It really takes off and, while not deep or anything profound, it is definitely entertaining to a delightful degree. The action is great, and I think Suzanne Collins is on her game most when she is writing stuff that is actually happening. For me, when she’s putting people in motion—actual physical motion—and creating tension, political gamesmanship and fight scenes, she’s definitely in her sweet spot for story-telling—at least as it concerns this particular series; I can’t speak for anything else she’s written as I haven’t read them. It’s what I liked about book one, and it’s what I liked about book two.

I think what I struggled with most for this installment of the overall great series was two main things: deus ex machina and a sort of eventless first three-quarters of the book. For the first one, deus ex machina, there was too much, which was frustrating given how very cool the actual finish was. I don’t think Collins had to go with some of the easy-answer stuff. The book is pretty short, she could have carved out a little room to at least make some of the miracle accident stuff at least have some roots in something. It was so glaring in a couple of places it made me stop a few times and go, “Aww, really? Just like that, that happens, so, now it’s all good again and we’re still going?” There were two or three of those, which knocked me right out of otherwise sweet engagement with the conclusion, but, because I was this far into the story (three books) I mostly let that go.

But the other thing I that tempered my otherwise joy with this book is that for the first three quarters of the story, I mean, well, like nothing happens. It’s all just moving people around, lots of talking, lots of thinking … basically, way more reading is happening than action in the story. And where stuff could have happened, as in “in scene” with actual parts where we, as readers, get to watch and be part of the action … we don’t get it. We just get told that this huge and essential thing happened somewhere “off stage,” and then this other huge and story-moving thing happened too, also off stage. Which, I mean, I get it, you have to do that to move a story along. But it’s like, that stuff was being “told” to us, but we weren’t getting to be part of any of it hardly at all. We get like one district raid (which was very cool), and a couple of photo shoots. Then it’s sort of bland stuff that doesn’t move the plot much at all, all this medical stuff and stuff with the cat. I think that stuff would have worked had there been some real action in between. Maybe that’s just because I am a dude or something, but I felt like the interesting stuff was being passed over and the mundane stuff was getting put in. (I’m sure it’s because I am a guy, so, I can live with that, and anyone reading this should take that totally to heart as they consider what little value my opinion has anyway.)

I know that sounds like I didn’t like it. But I did. It’s fine. It was entertaining, but, again, not until the last quarter. It’s pretty fun by then, and, given that if you have read the first two, you really want to find out what happens. You want to know who, if anyone, Katniss picks out of Peeta and Gale, which of them actually live to the end (assuming they do), and how all that plays out. Now, I admit, I’m a guy, in the “traditional” sense—if there is any such thing—so I kind of yawn a lot at romantic stuff, but, while I really hated the romance stuff in book one, by this point, since I’ve had to endure it all, I did want to know how it came out. So, in that, you (me) get an answer, even if it’s not particularly deep, touching or satisfying. I mean, it’s fine, and it is interesting … but much of that interest is momentum left over from book one, and to a lesser degree, book two

Bottom line, if you read the first two, you should read this one. It really is interesting, and it’s a light read. You get resolution, which, since the first one was so amazing and the second one so … perfectly fine, you definitely will appreciate the closure. You will for sure enjoy the ending, even if you roll your eyes as some of the great luck that falls upon them in places here and there before you get there. Like I said, it’s not unsatisfying as a read, it’s just not spellbinding, OMFG turn the page what is happening right now like it was in book one.

It’s the end of a very cool trilogy, and I can’t say enough positive about how fun the first book was, especially since I’m not into romantic stuff at all, and even with that, the Hunger Games is a freaking rocking good story. So, rock-on to Suzanne Collins, I hope she’s made more money than God off of this (I’m pretty sure she totally has), and I’ll certainly have a look at whatever she comes up with next. Odds are, if it’s something new, it will have the soul that the first book had, rather than a bit of that “well, that went well, now how do I write two more” sort of feeling I get from it. And, I’m sure she had the whole thing planned out, but, being honest, I get the same sort of comments from at least a few people, about my first books, so, it is what it is. There is definitely something about launching a story idea, in which the opening book is like the early romance, the hormone-filled innocence of new love … and anything that follows it sort of has to do battle with the first experience … It’s kind of like how nobody’s spaghetti ever tastes as good as your mom’s. It’s not that your mom makes the best spaghetti, it’s just that hers was the first, so everything after has to compete with where the warm memories were made.

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