Reading challenge book eight: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Book eight in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy.
Like the two before it – The Hunger Games and Catching FireMockingjay is told from Katniss’s point of view. Although the first person narrative still works, this time I felt like I really needed to hear from other characters to get a full understanding of what was happening.

This is mostly because for a large part of the book Katniss is in District 13, recovering from her ordeal during the last Hunger Games she took part in, or from other injuries sustained during forays into the districts currently rebelling against President Snow and Panem.

It’s good to hear from Katniss, and since characters including Gale and Haymitch are with her, we get to see what’s going on with them as well. However, since Peeta is stuck in the capital, we don’t have a full understanding of what’s happening with him, and what’s happening with him is pretty bad.

Even when Peeta is rescued from the Capitol and brought to District 13, he’s still only seen through the eyes of Katniss. And to Katniss he’s now a threat, having been programmed by the Capitol to want to kill Katniss on sight. Katniss is, understandably, focused on the killing part, but in doing so misses the fact that mostly Peeta is still the sweet, strong Peeta we saw in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

I definitely feel seeing things from Peeta’s point of view would have been beneficial, particularly considering he spent the first half of the book in the Capitol, where the effects of much of the action in the districts is being most keenly felt.

There are other characters too, that I really wanted to get to know more, but couldn’t because Katniss has limited interactions with them. Primarily, I wanted to spend more time with Finnick and Johanna. Although Katniss befriends them both, it’s difficult to understand just how much pain they’re in when it’s only Katniss describing it, rather than us seeing it directly.

Mockingjay is not as action packed as the previous two books in The Hunger Games trilogy. For a start, because Katniss is in District 13 there is no direct hunt as there was in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire for a large chunk of the book. It’s only when she goes to the Capitol with her band of followers (who sadly get killed off one by one), that we see Katniss back in an arena of sorts, and the action hots up.

Watching Katniss’s group fight for her is inspiring, but also difficult, since most of them are doomed. Seeing some of my favourite characters perish was really tough, and I had to go back and read the scenes where they died over and over again to make sure they really had gone. And seeing how relationships broke down because of everything that happened was also pretty hard.

Still, tough as that was, it was much tougher to read the last few chapters of the book. Although the rebels triumph over President Snow and the Capitol, the book hardly has a happy ending. Scene after scene brings more heartache, and even though Katniss and Peeta both survive and grow to love one another, there’s a bittersweet taste to everything.

I can’t say I was surprised at the lack of a completely happy ending though. After all, The Hunger Games trilogy is based around the story of children being forced to kill each other, and how can a story like that have a happy ending without completely ignoring everything that came before. Collins does well to make sure that right up until the last page we’re still aware of the horrific circumstances Katniss and Peeta, and numerous others, found themselves in.

While Mockingjay may initially seem like a weaker book than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire because of its slow burn and lack of action throughout, it’s actually the one that’s stayed with me the most. Having reread the ending a few times, while there is hope it’s still pretty bleak, and even just thinking about the end brings back that twisty knot in my stomach from when I first read the last few chapters. That’s a sign of a good book.

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