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.