So. This wasn't a review that was originally going to exist, but I'm sick of seeing negative reviews for this book and not having my thoughts together enough to debate with them. So here it is: my review of Mockingjay. And I apologize in advance if this seems more like a debate against negative reviews than a review in itself; I'm not too sure if I can avoid it.
This was the best book of the trilogy, and among four or five of my all-time favorites. I couldn't imagine a better conclusion to the series, a better ending to Katniss's story. With this book, Collins proves that not only does she have a great handle on plotting and character interactions, but also a great handle of the effects that war has on a person, and the things that people do in a war like this.
Namely, they go insane. Well, not all of them, but Katniss very obviously had PTSD. And how could she not? How could she go through multiple hunger games, see all that she's seen, and not get some sort of mental problem? I wouldn't buy it. So no, Katniss is not going to step up to the plate as everyone expects her to and shoot her enemies like a superhero. She was a real person before now; why would Colins sacrifice that for the sake of action? The Hunger Games was, in spite of its premise, never a true action story, and I wouldn't want it to be. The theme of the story up until now is how wrong it is to watch violence as entertainment, so by expecting Katniss to go through everything without getting PTSD, expecting her to be the Mockingjay when District 13 needs her, you're completely missing the theme of the trilogy. You're expecting Katniss to do what an action hero would do. Yes, Katniss had PTSD and probably other mental problems; the accuracy in how it's portrayed is astounding. Katniss always felt like a real person to me, but in this novel, I found myself psychoanalyzing her, seeing how different experiences led her to feel different ways. And it worked; no matter how hopeless and fucked up her emotions and thoughts were, Katniss and her PTSD were very real in this story.
As you might expect, this creates a lot of intensity. Like, a lot of intensity. As with book 1, the plot moves at a brisk pace, but here, Katniss's mental state keeps everything feeling even tighter than before, so that even when there was no action, the stakes felt high. I don't think I've ever read anything this intense, anything that makes me want to turn the page and find out what happens next more. And towards the end, I was even a little scared. I do want to emphasize; despite what I've said, exciting isn't really the right word for this book. It's intense, sure, but it's not exhilarating, because Katniss's mental state is a constant reminder that it <i>shouldn't</i> be. She makes me feel guilty for talking about how good the plotting was, because I should be horrified that this happens to real people, that people have to go through this. And I was. But the pacing was still fast, the story still tight and intense, to the point where even as I felt guilty, I knew that I needed to know what came next.
(Not to mention seeing [spoiler]Peeta's hijacking.[/spoiler] Seriously, that made everything so much more interesting and intense.)
And all this led up to a theme. Stated simply, "This is what happens in wars. People die, people get mental diseases, people lose loved ones. How can you put people through that if it's not necessary?" And it as beyond effective. Seeing what happens to Katniss and Peeta and [spoiler]Prim[/spoiler], it did something to me that books rarely can. It reminds me of Animorphs, where Applegrant made me care about the characters, and then put them through hell in the final arc, making me feel like I lost a loved one when Rachel died. This did something similar, except it's so much more intense. I know that some people had a problem with the way [spoiler]Finnick's[/spoiler] death was handled, the way it happened and everyone moved on. I honestly think that by doing this, Collins twisted the knife even further than if everyone mourned him like crazy, because they didn't care anymore. One of their close friends had died, and they'd been through so much that they just couldn't give a shit anymore. For me, it was less that Collins forgot to have the characters mourn and more that she decided it wouldn't be realistic for her characters to put attention to just that one death after so many others.
And all this convinced me: we can't put people through this unless we have to. It's just not worth it. Seeing what these characters go through is genuinely moving in exactly the way Collins wanted it to be. I now feel like I've seen a war, gone through the horrors of it, because everything is so realistic. It's not an experience that I want to recreate, and it's not an experience I want others to go through.
It's that kind of book, in other words, the kind that blends a psychological thriller with a classic action story, much like the works of Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant. In this manner, Mockingjay was one of the most effective books I've ever read. It was emotionally effecting on an extreme level, the way almost nothing else is. Collins kept me turning pages with her plot, and she kept me crying with her character interactions, which as I explained, were expertly handled. I suppose I can see why some people don't like this, because it is really scary. I think that people don't want to feel like this, not to feel like things like this go on in real life, and that makes them hate it. That's not to say that there aren't other legitimate reasons for disliking the book, but I think that's a big one for a lot of people. But I love it; I need it. I need a reminder that there are other experiences than my own and the typical YA one. And this book reminds me of that in a way that so few books have, except that by making Katniss and Peeta and Gale such realistic people, it feels like my experience again. Not to mention the way I felt when [spoiler]Prim died.[/spoiler] It feels like I went crazy with them, which may explain the incoherency of this review.
But yes, this isn't the typical YA experience. The love triangle set up in the first two books doesn't get a whole lot of attention. And really, why the hell would people going through a war, who might die at any minute, worry about who they're going to end up with? There's too much going on for more than a little attention to the love triangle to feel right, making this one of the best love triangles I've ever seen; it was handled realistically. What little attention it did get felt like real people interacting in this way (particularly when Gale talked about it... oh, now I made myself sad). That's all I need; I wouldn't want Collins to put too much attention to it.
There was the occasional problem. The biggest one was that Collins occasionally stopped the story to explain things that would've been better left a mystery, the biggest example being the page dedicated to the meaning of the Hanging Tree song. But that's the only real flaw I can find. Other than that, Collin's writing is still amazingly crafted. She really knows how to write, and it shows.
This is one of the best books I've ever read, so good that I can barely write a coherent review of it (hence the above). I'm unlikely to convince anyone to read it that hasn't read it already, but if you're having second thoughts, don't. This book is really, really good, and it deserves to be read.