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Friday, September 03, 2010

Hunger Games Finale Leaves Me As Mute As An Avox (For A Little While, Anyway)

Like the rest of the world, I waited with bated breath for August 24, the day Mockingjay would finally make its public debut. Even though Scholastic regularly sends me books to review, I was a tad skeptical on this one. I mean, it was the most anticipated book of the year. Even if they did send it to me, I figured it would be weeks until it arrived. Imagine my surprise when I got home from a frustrating morning of crossing the city in search of a government agency that would actually accept a social security application (Note to self: Just because a building says Social Security on it or a website claims a certain office will process applications, does not mean that it will.) to find a package on my doorstep. This, of course, is not unusual. In fact, every time the doorbell rings, my husband says, "It's your boyfriend again." The UPS guy would probably be horrified to know that's how we refer to him, but seriously the guy's always around and he always comes bearing gifts. Hee hee. Anyway, this particular package had a very distinctive sticker on it. When I saw it, I seriously squealed out loud. In the immortal words of Howie Mandell, "I might have even peed myself a little." That's how excited I was to get Mockingjay. For free. On its release date. Especially when none of my friends who pre-ordered theirs got them on time because of shortages at all the major book retailers.

Of course, I had to dive into the book immediately. To my dismay, I soon realized I had pretty much forgotten the who's who and what's what of Panem, necessitating a re-reading of both Hunger Games and Catching Fire. It was actually disturbing to realize how much I'd forgotten (early-onset Ahlzheimer's?). It was fun, though, to revisit Katniss' world. Okay, maybe fun isn't the right adjective for the Capitol-controlled Panem, but you know what I mean.

After Catching Fire, I could not wait to tear into Mockingjay. It took me two days to read it and I'm still processing the finale to this incredible series. The book ended pretty much the way I thought it would, although not not necessarily how I wanted it to. Of the three books, I've decided Mockingjay is my least favorite. It's still intense, still riveting, just not quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

Regardless, this is a phenomenal series, one that should absolutely not be missed.

(P.S. The pictures above are of me and my almost 2-year-old, who was happy despite the fact that her daddy and I had just dragged her all over kingdom come to get her the social security number she should have had months ago. I swear, her birth state is the most backward in the nation! Anyway, she was happy to ham it up for the camera. Good thing, too, because her mama's looking a little scary. Sitting in a drab, windowless government building can do that to a person. All's well that ends well, though, right? And that particular adventure ended with Mockingjay!)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Mockingjay, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from Hunger Games and Catching Fire. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"How ridiculous, how perverse I would feel presenting that painted Capitol mask to these people. The damage, the fatigue, the imperfections. That's how they recognize me, why I belong" (90).

After her dramatic rescue from the horrors of the Quarter Quell, 17-year-old Katniss Everdeen finds herself in an even more precarious position: her rescuers expect her to embrace the role of Mockingjay, becoming the face of the districts' rebellion from the sadistic President Snow and his glittering Capitol. Still scarred from the loss of Peeta, she can hardly place one foot in front of the other, let alone lead people to war. She may have ignited a flame with her defiance, may have stoked it with her determination, but she can't man the blaze any longer. She's seen too much, lost too much. Hiding away in the catacombs of District 13 is the only way she can deal.

Until a broadcast from the Capitol shows her the only thing that could convince her to fight - Peeta. Bruised, battered, but still alive. Seeing him gives her new hope. If filming promos and rallying fighters can bring Peeta back, then she'll do it. Even if Gale disapproves. Even if it means she's still a puppet. She'll do anything to rescue him, even - especially - killing President Snow herself. If only she can find some way to shove her pain behind her, find the fire that once burned so fiercely inside her, and rally the courage to risk her life, once again, in the bloody battle against tyranny.

In the midst of it all, Katniss must examine her fickle heart. Does she love Peeta, even though the Capitol's turned him into someone she no longer recognizes? Or does her allegiance belong to Gale, her lifelong friend whose passion for the cause is endangering them all? Or is it better for everyone if she remains, always, alone? In this strange new world where everyone's got an agenda - including herself - Katniss must play the most important game of her life. And win. With everything on the line, the fiercest competitor Panem's ever known will step into the arena for the last time ...

Although Mockingjay has all the intensity and suspense of the first two books, certain parts of the story started to wear a little thin for me. The love triangle, especially, grated on my nerves. I've been a Gale girl from the beginning, but by the end of Mockingjay, I wasn't that fond of either boys. They both come off as wimpy and interchangeable, always needing to be rescued by Katniss. It's pretty clear she doesn't really need either of them. By the time the book ended, I don't think I really cared which one she ended up with. Likewise, I knew where the story was heading and was only really surprised by an unexpected death. As I mentioned before, it ended pretty much how I thought it would, which disappointed me a little. I wanted a sweeping, stunning conclusion, and Mockingjay didn't really provide it. In fact, it left me as mute as an Avox. My first reaction was, "Hmmmm ..."

Don't get me wrong - Mockingjay is still a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thriller, it just wasn't quite as powerful as I wanted it to be. Oh well. Maybe it was all the hype that built it up so impossibly. Maybe it's just me. Who knows? Who cares? Like I said already, this is a phenomenal series. If there's anyone on the planet who hasn't read it yet (Tobin, this means you), do it now.

What did everyone else think? Did the series end the way you thought it would? Were you satisfied with the ending? Agree with me or disagree with me? Gale or Peeta? C'mon now, dish!

(Readalikes: Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for violence/gore and sexual innuendo, including references to prostitution

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Mockingjay from the very generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


  1. Not reading the Mockingjay parts- haven't started the series yet, but I'll get to it one day- but SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, your daughter is absolutely adorable!!!!

  2. I read your blog all the time, but never post. I had to post today though, because you're probably the only person that I know of who didn't love Mockingjay. My feelings are very similar to yours. It was a let down. I didn't care who Katniss ended up with, and I didn't feel very hopeful for her at the end. It was quite irritating actually. I kept expecting something amazing to happen in the story, it just didn't.

    I'm not saying it wasn't gripping, because it was. But you're right, it didn't live up to the hype of the first two.

    I had a good discussion on my blog about it. If you want to visit, feel free.

  3. You look so excited in the picture to get your copy! I am still waiting for it from the library but look forward to reading it. I hope I am not disappointed in it, but from what you wrote, I bet I will be.

  4. Stephanie - She really is, isn't she? Her smile is totally contagious :) And, how are you still resisting the Hunger Games? Get on that!

    Susan - I agree with a lot of what you said in your review. I really wanted something amazing to happen to. I kept waiting for it and ... nope. The big finale kind of fizzled for me.

    I love all the discussion on your blog post and couldn't help joining in :)

    K & G - I was SO excited. I really did not think I would get the book on its release date, so I was shocked to see the book on my doorstep.

    Hopefully, your wait at the library won't be too long. I have a whole line of people who want to borrow my copy!

  5. I canceled my request at the library. That should help someone get their hands on a copy!

    Thanks for sharing the book for childcare (which was really fun childplay instead :)

    I'm 2/3 through the book and I get what your are saying. It's almost "dread" to read instead of "can't stop" reading. The first two kept me up at night. Not so with this one.

  6. I didn't love Mockingjay either, but for different reasons. I thought it was a great book, but it was way too emotionally exhausting to truly enjoy it. And hooray for Gale fans! although you're right, by the end of the book I didn't really mind her getting together with Peeta.

  7. Got it from the library the day it came out (how cool is that?!?!) read it, and returned it that same day. It was intense, thought provoking and superbly written- that being said,..I wish I would have stopped at Catching Fire. Hunger games was epic. Catching Fire phenomenal. Mockingjay,.. not so much. While it went the way I figured it might, it left me void of hope. I wasn't team Gale or Peeta by MJ, because I was no longer team Katniss. She was completely void of humanity or morals of any kind by the last book and I thought anyone who ended up with her would be morally bankrupt. She was broken beyond repair. I didn't think Gale and her friendship could possibly end the way it did. I did like that Peeta pointed out how much he didn't like her when he met her again. It's true. She was no longer the girl he fell in love with. Don't even start me on Prim. I think Buttercup ended up being my favorite character in the series!!!!!!

  8. I didn't love it but I liked it a lot. Too much violence. It just left me feeling raw. I think it became very apparent that Gale wasn't right for her by the end. Not because of what happened but because she was just too broken and she didn't need his fire. She needed Peeta's gentle side to help her heal. That's my take. I didn't say that in my review because I didn't want to put in too many spoilers (even though I already did put in some with warnings.)

  9. I finished it a few hours ago and I'm reeling. Though I understand the criticisms about the anticlimax and the inevitable antipathy about her love live, this is a book about children reacting to war. How is that supposed to end well? In these sorts of books I have a love-hate relationship with realism, but I think it would have cheapened what Collins was trying to do if Katniss had emerged truly triumphant.

    Like Plutarch says, humanity will always wage war with each other, interspersed with short, blissful periods where we swear never to do it again. There is no ending Collins could have written that could have erased that truth. Until humanity itself is different, war will continue.

    The "unexpected death" was the least surprising thing about the book to me. As in the French Revolution, where the people rose up to meet brutality with savagery, and then had to purge the purgers before they could have real peace, there was (at least) one rebel savage who had to die for hope to have a chance. It frankly makes me a bit nervous that Gale has such an important job in District 2.

    These books are powerful, and I'm still not sure what to take from them, but I can't separate them out into favorites. They're all about the horrors of war and the enduring (though imperfect) resiliance of one girl who had to wade through the blood.

    I'll be happier when I can get it out of my head.

  10. So, I'm with you on a lot. I was happy with who Katniss ended up with because of what she said about why she needed him.

    I liked the book & the ending & felt they were accurate portrayals of war & it's effects (not that I really know). The 1st book is far & away the best, but any book with this subject manner is going to be heavy & a bit disappointing or depressing.

  11. I felt exactly the same way when it ended, I really had no words to describe how I felt about it. Both my teenage children read it first, and they felt the same way. Now that I've had a few days to process my reaction and think about it, I don't see any other way it could have ended. At first I was a Gale fan, but as we got to know him better in the 3rd book, I just didn't see them ending up together. Spoiler alert - I was happy Gale was smart enough to walk away. And I loved that Peeta could see through his earlier blind love for Katniss in the 3rd book. Their relationship in the 3rd book was better and more realistic to me than in the first two. Finnick's death rocked me harder than Prim's. That's the only time I cried in this book, which tells me that I really kept an emotional disconnect all the way through. I liked the book, and I'm glad I read it, but I didn't love it. And I will say I felt let down by it too. Geez, I just can't make up my mind about it!

  12. I wish I did like you did and re-read the entire series, since I've seem to have forgotten a lot too! Have a little over a hundred pages left and enjoying it. Plan to one day read the series again.

  13. I think you hit it right on. It really wasn't the best of the series, but it wasn't bad. I liked it - I saw it as sort of a "wrap up" book. I really didn't care who she ended up with in the end. I have friends who are really struggling to get through this one, though. It's a bit of a snore-fest compared to the other two.

  14. Laurel - I agree, there's a lot more downtime in MJ than there is in the other books. And, of course, it's bleak. Very bleak.

    Lizzy - Emotionally exhausting is a good way to put it. The ending, especially, made me feel that way since it was so hopeless.

    Brendajean - LOL. Buttercup is a great character :) I agree with your assessments of HG and CF as well, though not so much of Katniss - she's a victim acting like a victim. I wish she had a little more hope in the end, but I understand why she didn't. I still liked her character when we got to the finale, just not as much.

    Kim - Good point on the Gale v. Peeta. I didn't think of it that way, but you're right about needing Peeta's gentle kindness.

    Robin - Agreed. The characters are victims, whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the brutality of their surroundings. Different personality types will always react differently to such circumstances. I think the ending Collins chose was inevitable, if not satisfying.

    Tara - My thoughts exactly. I always want dystopian novels to end with the world returning to a happy, hunky dory state, but it never does :(

    Christy - You sound like me :) I'm glad the boys finally saw Katniss for what she really was. I think my favorite part about MJ was the conversation between Gale and Peeta about how much they wanted Katniss, but she couldn't decide if and how much she needed either one of them. It made me laugh.

    Stephanie - I'm glad I re-read it. I was shocked by how much I'd forgotten. Better start taking my gingko biloba :)

    Katie - It definitely moves more slowly than the other two books. Like you, I didn't love it, but I'm glad I read MJ.

  15. I loved the book and I love Katniss, still.

    I'm sorry you were disappointed, though! That's never a fun feeling over a much anticipated book.

  16. I just finished this morning and the word to describe the book for me is...Bleak. I guess thats what war is about. Death and the aftermath are not pretty. About the romance, like you, by the end I could care less who she ended up with. But agree with Kim that Katniss needed Peeta's gentleness.
    I listened to the audio version of the book and cant get that dang Hanging Tree song out of my head.

  17. So like Tobin, I hadn't read them. I am finishing up Hunger Games today. I read reviews for Catching Fire and they weren't great. I only read a couple reviews but...I am going to try it for myself. Since Ben is watching a U of O game today I might as well!

  18. I agree with your thoughts for the most part. I think I was just so horrified by some parts, loved other parts, and felt other parts were just "meh". I was a bit unsatisfied with it, but I still enjoyed it... I guess it would have been hard for it to meet my expectations, but I somehow thought it would because I loved the first two so much.


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