Mockingjay – more like MockingLAME

17 Sep

After succumbing to countdown clocks and completely unrealistic expectations, I finally received my copy of Mockingjay, the third (and final?) instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I didn’t like it, and I’m crushed. I was so utterly convinced of the addictive power of the other two books that I hadn’t even imagined that this one wouldn’t be just as thrilling. That addiction I was hankering for never kicked in, and I’m left jonesing for something to take its place.

So how is it possible that I was such an easy mark for the original Hunger Games books, while this one fell flat for me? As I admitted even back then (oh, those innocent Christmas days, when I was so swept away by the lure of teenage violence!), there were always some plot holes and iffy writing and other pesky problems that I couldn’t quite ignore. But these issues were easily forgiven for the sheer adrenaline rush that came with the breakneck pace of the plot.

The appeal of The Hunger Games lies entire in its Battle Royale/Reality TV show premise. Kids killing kids with hilariously improbable weapons! Never gets old, or so you would think. When you have a formula that good, you’re  bound to disappoint fans by veering off it. I don’t blame Suzanne Collins for trying (after all, she was probably already stretching it a bit with Catching Fire, in which she basically rehashed the plot of the first book), but she probably should have resisted the urge to go serial in the first place.

In Mockingjay, the ever-gutsy heroine Katniss is still juggling two boys (so now you know what’s up if you ever hear teeny-boppers – NOT ME – talk about “team Peeta” or “team Gale”), and still fighting the man, aka The Capitol and President Snow. In a very modern move, the revolutionary forces prop her up as more of a figurehead of the movement than as an actual leader, and she ends up feeling like just as much of a pawn as she did when she was forced to kill off her peers for prime time TV.

Thank God Collins still threw in a few trademark sewer-prowling mutts and invisible capsules that turn into killer bees and tar-like tidal waves (although these make almost no sense at all outside the concept of the old game arena set-up), because otherwise I would have been entirely bored by Collins’ attempt to portray an actual revolution. As it turned out, even her impressive ability to invent new ways for people to die wasn’t enough to save this overly long and unsatisfying story. The “shocking” twist at the end that’s clearly meant to be a tearjerker left me unmoved (and that’s really saying something – I still cry at this). Even Katniss settling down and choosing one of her suitors feels a bit anticlimactic by the time she finally makes up her damn mind.

What I’m trying to say (while also trying to scrounge up the tiniest bit of bookish dignity) is that this book did not feature a pre-teen getting impaled by a spear, there was not a Survivor-style alliance in sight, there was very little double crossing intrigue, and no “last-man standing” excitement. Maybe I should just read the first one again to console myself and then go read some grown-up books.

5 Responses to “Mockingjay – more like MockingLAME”

  1. Claire (Paperback Reader) September 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    I also found it … lacking. I would like to reread the trilogy before ultimately consigning it to failure but the more I think about it the more dissatisfied and frustrated I feel. I have serious issues with the epilogue that I can’t move past; the unsatisfying move to the Capitol-as-arena that you touch upon; the frequent “telling” rather than “showing” (Katniss’ repeated black-outs and memory lapses). Sigh.

    • Megan September 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

      I too definitely have issues with the epilogue. I have decided that 90% of the time they shouldn’t exist because they impose a finality that doesn’t let your mind wander.

      The trilogy for me also was a failure. I felt like The Hunger Games was so fresh and written almost to perfection. But I guess that was just a fluke because the rest of the series underwhelmed me and the love triangle stuff was just too much.

      I appreciate not having to stand alone on this mater, though I am not as brave and took a passive aggressive approach and only quasi reviewed the book.

      I am happy I read it. I do not consider it a waste of time, but it just downgraded to such stupidity and bad storytelling. I think it is my love for the Hunger Games that made Mockingjay even remotely enjoyable.

      I think, for me, the flaws in Mockingjay really stem from Catching Fire. I think the choices made for that book really put Mockingjay in a corner.

    • Lija September 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

      Hah, I forgot about that epilogue! I think by then I was just skimming in disgust, looking for a hint of a decent ending. Katniss was never a happily ever after kinda girl, and I didn’t need things to be tied up for her like that.

      Megan, you might be right about the fluke thing. I felt the same about the City of Ember series, after I read beyond the first two books. If an author just stumbles onto a really catchy idea, it may turn out that they don’t have the writing chops to back it up after the initial idea runs out.

  2. Jackie (Farm Lane Books) October 19, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    I tried to read this last night and gave up. I skim read the entire book in about 40 minutes, skipping entire chunks because I was so bored with it. I loved The Hunger Games, so I can’t really understand why I couldn’t even read this one, let alone enjoy it.

    • Lija October 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

      Yeah, it’s really too bad. I still maintain that the first one was amazing, though! And will make one hell of a movie.

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