Mockingjay

“I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings.”

Suzanne Collins

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote down what I thought would happen in Mockingjay, the third and last (sad face) novel in the Hunger Games series, because various members of the University Gang were busy discussing how annoying/emotional/morally ambiguous/insert-adjective-here it was, which inevitably got me guessing.

Anyway, here is what I wrote:

Mockingjay predictions:

Peeta or Gale will die/get turned into an Avox/go over to the Dark Side/insert catastrophe here.

I’m going with Gale – he’s more likely to get himself killed.

Which means Peeta will have to be rescued.

Or Katniss will return to the Capitol.

Rebels will bomb Capitol (nuclearly) + cause many deaths. Cinna, Effie, make-up people. Pres. Snow?

Capitol will win eventually + everyone dies, apart from K + P who will be Avoxed/punished in some horrible psychological way for the Rest of Eternity.

The End.

Actually, reading that back was quite amusing. I’m particularly impressed by all that pessimism, which is entirely the Scot’s fault for going on about “a fate worse than death”.

I don’t think I was that far off, although I was wrong about the nuclear weapons and the Capitol’s victory. Peeta going over to the Dark Side? Tick (well, sort of, anyway). Peeta getting rescued? Tick. Katniss going to the Capitol? Tick. Rebels bombing the Capitol? Tick. Cinna dying? Tick. (Poor Cinna.) Horrible psychological punishment (for Peeta, anyway, and possibly for Katniss)? Tick. Not too shabby, for a piece of precognition.

I’d better start actually reviewing now.

Mockingjay sees the survivors of the fire-bombing of District 12 adapting to life in the shadowy District 13, a militarised rebel district where everyone lives underground, out of sight of the other inhabitants of Panem. Katniss is under pressure to act as the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion – but does she really want to associate herself with the power-hungry President Coin of 13 and her team of what are essentially spin doctors?

The immediately obvious thing about Mockingjay is, as with Catching Fire, its emotional intensity, especially in the first few chapters, when you’re not quite used to it yet. The revelations just pile up and you’re still busy trying to take in one when another one appears. This is why it is a spectacularly bad idea to start reading Mockingjay as a break from work, as I did, because it soon happens that, in fact, work becomes a break from Mockingjay. It’s just impossible to stop reading.

Having said that, I’m not convinced that Mockingjay is really that well written. The plot often seems jerky – the jumps between locations are sudden and unexpected, especially compared to the long train journeys of the first two books – and there’s a general feeling that certain storylines haven’t been wrapped up properly; what did happen to Peeta in the Capitol that made him call for a ceasefire? The deaths of main characters (Boggs, Finnick) are sudden and not really dwelt on for very long, and, by the way, whatever happened to Gale? He just disappears from the story, and we never really get closure on him.

But I do think all of those faults are made up for by the moral ambiguities of Collins’ world. The rebels are often just as bad as the Capitol, and even Katniss makes bad decisions (I was really quite cross when she voted to restage the Hunger Games). The lack of absolutes is the best thing about this trilogy, because it means that the characters actually have hard decisions to make, ones where the difference between wrong and right is not always clear.

My favourite of this series will remain Catching Fire, for all the times it made me smile and for moments like the mockingjay dress and the victors holding hands. But Mockingjay, for all its flaws, is a good novel, and one that’s just as thought-provoking as its predecessor.

PS. I still think Katniss should have ended up with Gale.

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