Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

It seems to me that ‘these days’ we can’t leave a good thing alone. Suddenly a Snickers has almonds it, pizza’s gone tandoori, TV shows need a film release, films need a sequel—and now a prequel, and successful young adult books must be trilogised.

The fact is that  Suzanne Collins’ first book in the Hunger Games series, The Hunger Games, could stand by itself. There was nothing about it that required sequels to be written, except that it was successful. In saying this, I really liked books two and three, but I think this is a good opportunity to highlight the integrity of book one, and that if it had been a ‘one-off’ story the novel would still have been a great success and still been a book you would recommend to others. Actually, not just recommended to others, but waved about and tried to foist on them.

But here we are with book three, Mockingjay, after a perfectly enjoyable book two and, to be honest, I was darn excited to be reading it. Who needs to work or organise moving overseas when they can be reading an adventure tale? Or, as it was more realistically in my case, who needs to be sleeping at all?

I know some people, loyal readers of this blog included, were left a little disappointed with books two and three in this series. As one so wonderfully stated her case: ‘My view is that it’s like The Matrix—you’d prefer that movies two and three had never blighted the face of the earth. I’m not quite as harsh about this, but book one was such perfection that anything was going to be a letdown…’. I suppose I haven’t felt as let down by the sequels as some have, although in retrospect book two is definitely the weakest of the three. But hell, it was still good, and there was clearly a lot I liked about it or I wouldn’t have been so positive. Sure the ‘let’s have an ultimate Hunger Games’ plot could have indicated a little panic on the author’s part, but if that’s what it was initially she certainly turned things around by using book two to set up book three and conclude the series in splendid fashion. Because sure, book three is not book one (if a more obvious and redundant statement has ever been made please let me know), but you know what? I thought it was pretty darn good. (Oh, this may be where, for the sake of a review-gauge, I point out that I also liked the second and third Matrix movies. Okay, the third not so much.)

Mockingjay leaves the Hunger Games’ arenas behind as we follow our heroine Katniss in her new not-so-rosy life in District 13 and her involvement in the rebellion’s plot to overthrow the Capitol once and for all. But who is seeking to destroy who? And for what? And in exactly what way is Katniss their secret weapon? And during all this empire building, where is Peeta?

The final novel in the Hunger Games series takes us into the streets of the Capitol as the rebellion assault begins, and we travel with Katniss and her team as they navigate the twists and turns of the booby-trapped city. Collins doesn’t hold back as the realities and randomness of war affect the characters in ways we’d rather not deal with. And then there is Peeta, dear Peeta, who is fighting a war within himself, against his enemies, against his friends, against Katniss.

There were easier ways to complete a Hunger Games trilogy. We could have seen an arena battle three times over and merely had some of the faces change, we could have focused on the love story between Katniss and Peeta and watched everyone live happily ever after, some kind of vampire could have been involved. I don’t think Suzanne Collins took the easy way out. When faced with turning her first wonderful novel into a trilogy she looked at the world she had created and expanded the tale she would tell. In the end, the whole of Panem was an arena—filled with dangers and people with personal vendettas, with people who would kill you as soon as look at you, with power struggles and turncoats and a foreboding sense that at any moment you were probably going to die. But it also contained people you could trust, people who would sacrifice themselves for others, who would help you reach your goals; it was an arena where there was hope and redemption and not just for the ultimate winner.

The Hunger Games is most certainly Suzanne Collins piece de resistance, but the whole series is more than worth your reading time, and Mockingjay is a very fine way to end it all. If you like young adult adventure tales set in a ruthless dystopic future-world, you will like the Hunger Games trilogy. In fact, you will love it. And the books will also appeal to you if you just want to read a set of addictive, well-written stories that keep you on the edge of your seat and manage to remain reasonably devoid of cliche in both character and prose. Whether you will like them based on your opinion of The Matrix film series, I just cannot say.

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6 thoughts on “Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

  1. Interesting. I loved, loved, loved the first book, and like you thought the next two weren’t as good but still enjoyable. Do you know if it was originally conceived as
    a trilogy, or if the second two were the result of cashing in on the success of the first? What REALLY annoys me even more than doing that with books is the latest trend of splitting a movie adaptation in two. I don’t mind it with HP7, but didn’t like hearing the rumor they’re making four Hunger Games movies instead of three.

    • Ok – the ‘written as a standalone’ is the gossip I had heard when I read the first book, and I repeated it on the basis that she signed a 3-book contract with Scholastic after Hunger Games took off. Yup – journalism 101. Not being so ‘up’ with movies I had to do some (totally thorough) net research about the four-movie thing, and it looks like the movie series will be a set of 4. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I know it’s not a positive feeling. Surely the skill of movie-making is to tell a story in one film? Three stories, ergo three films. And what on earth will they call the last movie? Mind you, now that I have finally checked out some details about the movies, I’m super-excited about it. The casting looks great!

  2. I really enjoyed Hunger Games. I was a YA librarian at the time so it was great being able to spread the word to so many new and willing readers. 2 and 3 weren’t as good but were satisfying. I’ve just finished a new one that I think measures up to Hunger Games. Enclave by Ann Aguirre. It has a satisfying ending but is definitely open for a sequel…or beyond.

  3. I have to confess that I’m not really a fan of the Hunger Games. I sped through the first one, but Catniss left me rather horrified in the concluding scene and stubbornly refused to turn into an interesting character after that. Then Collins shocked me in the second book by basically repeating the plot of the first… so I didn’t really feel the need to finish up the trilogy. Maybe it was a case of the wrong book at the wrong time, though, so perhaps in a few years I’ll revisit it.

  4. I found Katniss interesting, but I think because she wasn’t interesting, if you know what I mean. Sometimes I did wonder how she was the heroine of the books. And why everyone was in love with her! But, at the same time I had a lot of respect for her, I think. And I definitely became attached.

    The second book is most certainly the weakest. And the more I think about it in retrospect, the more I see it’s failings. But when I read my review of book 2, it seems at the time I enjoyed it quite a lot. Perhaps I was still on a high from book 1… perhaps sometimes it is just a mood thing.

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