The Story: Mockingjay, the final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, picks up where Catching Fire left off, with Katniss having to contend with the consequences of her actions to rebel against President Snow’s tyrannical regime. But the people of Panem desire to strike back and a new leader wants to use Katniss as a living symbol for the revolution. Katniss isn’t sure about her new role as the Mockingjay as she feels she has already lost so much and is doomed to lose what little she has now. In the end, Katniss agrees to help lead the rebellion, but it is not without great personal cost.
My Take: I sense this final book in The Hunger Games trilogy is the one that throws most readers a proverbial curve-ball. While the first two installments possessed the same structure (i.e. Katniss before the Games, Katniss in the Games, and Katniss after the Games), Mockingjay picks up where Catching Fire essentially ended with Katniss coming to terms with what her actions in the arena have done and the choice she has to make now, which is to become the Mockingjay, the rebels’ symbol of freedom and resilience. But it’s not without a personal price for Katniss that impacts those who care about her.
Essentially, Mockingjay is an extended look into Katniss’ psyche as she’s forced to make difficult decisions involving her role in the revolution. It’s a daunting task and Katniss shows that while she certainly has the brains, she’s still deeply scarred by the Games and exhibits a deep-seated distrust towards nearly everyone. Not to mention that she is still being used as a pawn. Thus, plot-wise, Mockingjay is a war novel that doesn’t shy away from the brutal, necessary evil that war can be.
Because this novel’s story is more introspective for Katniss, the plot can be at a stand-still at times, especially when she comes to an impasse between her interests and the powers that be that keep her on a short leash. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Katniss as you sense she wants to lead this revolution her way, not just be a decorative piece in a political power play. This is the longest book in the trilogy, and while I understand why this sort of character development was done and needed, it could have been abbreviated. There are action sequences that help pick up the pace but, for the most part, this is more of an expository work rather than an action-driven novel like the ones before it. That isn’t necessarily a negative, but it makes for a slower change of pace that some readers might not enjoy.
Probably the one aspect of Mockingjay most readers tend to dislike is the death of one character (for the sake of not releasing spoilers, I’ll call this person Character A) whom another character (Character B) fought to protect throughout the whole trilogy. It raises the question as to what was Character A’s purpose at all and it doesn’t provide a good payoff for Character B. In a way, all of Character B’s actions on behalf of Character A feel wasted. Granted, I grasp the shock value associated with Character A’s death as well as it emphasizing the point that war chooses no favorites, but I felt it was unnecessary just to prove a point that the rest of the novel’s themes already drove home.
In the end, while Mockingjay wraps up Katniss’ thrilling story arc in a way that’s fitting for her character, there are some slow expository moments, as well as character sign-offs, that some readers might not like. For myself, I thought this was a very good novel but not great like its predecessors.
Language – Nearly non-existent with only a possible handful of PG-level profanities.
Violence – Violence and warfare take center stage, which is to be expected. When characters are not engaged in combat, they contend with emotionally brutal memories. The effects of PTSD are never candy-coated, and though Collins avoids getting too graphic and gritty, this is easily the darkest book of the trilogy and only appropriate for, and probably best understood by, readers ages 12/13 and up, to whom it is marketed.
Sexual Content – None. Finnick tells Katniss how he was used as a high-profile prostitute in the Capitol after his victory in a past Hunger Games but avoids discussing any specifics.
All less-than-stellar moments aside, Mockingjay does make for a strong character study of Katniss and culminates by giving her a pay off appropriate for her character and everything she has endured. While it isn’t perfect and suffers from inflated exposition, extended internal monologues at times, and a rather hurried ending, this novel does serve as a fitting (but occasionally slow-paced) conclusion to a dynamic dystopian trilogy.