Tag Archives: Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay - Suzanne CollinsMockingjay – Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2010

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I seem to be the exception to the rule for this series. Instead of loving The Hunger Games and finding myself steadily more disappointed by the second and third book, I had my doubts about the first book in the series. Admittedly, I did not think Catching Fire was perfect either, but at least the first half of the book addressed those questions that I felt were missing in the first book. Now, I was prepared to be disappointed by the third book, as most people were. But, in a funny way, I think Mockingjay might have strengthened my enjoyment of the series as a whole. Certainly, it had its weaknesses, but at the same time, I may have liked the third book best. At the very least, reading this was what I needed to appreciate The Hunger Games more.

[spoilers for the series as a whole, including Mockingjay]

In Mockingjay revolution comes to Panem. Hiding in District 13, Katniss needs to decide if she will accept the role of the Mockingjay, to rally the resistance to fight against the Capitol. With every act of defiance, she might endanger the life of Peeta, who has been captured by the Capitol during the end of the 75th Hunger Games. Trying to navigate life in a district that is not her own, carrying a huge responsibility, and also trying to keep everyone she loves, her family, Gale, Peeta, safe, Katniss grows up in Mockingjay. Not necessarily in a good way, as growing up in violence leaves scars. But if anything, Mockingjay comes closest to tackling questions about totalitarianism, resistance, personal and political allegiances, gender politics, and class inequalities, in a realistic and unsettling manner.

If I was not all that sure if a comparison between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Chaos Walking books was fair before, I realised while reading Mockingjay that it finally lives up to the more complex questions tackled in Patrick Ness’ trilogy. Much of what I loved about The Ask and the Answer in particular can be found in this final book of Collins’ trilogy. I personally still prefer Chaos Walking, and always will. I am afraid that this will be a debate with no end if it is ever started.. What I meant to say is that I can see how The Hunger Games trilogy might mean to some what Ness’ books do to me.

I am still not sure if it is really Katniss growing up as a character, or Collins realising the full potential of her world building in this book. But does it really matter? I simply love that the second and third book slowly make up for what I felt was missing in the first. And I am happy to report that this includes the somewhat strange relationship dynamic of Peeta-Katniss-Gale. The manipulation, the expectation of feelings and interactions with boys are addressed through Katniss confusion.

And this is where we come to why the triangle did not bother me in Mockingjay. Perhaps it was because I was prepared to dislike it. But really, as I have discussed with Amy after finishing the third book and seeing the movie, it did not bother me because the triangle can be read along thematic lines. Gale as Katniss’ initial home, but also as someone who is very much like her in many aspects. But Gale gets so caught up in the unfairness of the treatment of the districts, that Katniss loses touch with him, since he seems to gallop into a more black and white world where violence is legitimate without question. Something that Katniss, through the games, has come to question from the very beginning. Peeta, on the other hand, is manipulative and initially Katniss does not feel “at home” with him, because he is less straightforward than her, and she feels he had a more privileged life. But then, as the books progress, you see he is busier navigating the pitfalls and subtle sidelines of a world in which an ideology is being fought by another one that is not perfect per se. Katniss comes to this conclusion independently (yay!) but she also comes to the realisation that with that personal growth her and Gale’s worldview no longer mesh well, while she and Peeta, and their believe in love and sacrifice, seem to fit better. Of course, mixed into this is the question of what is real and what is not, what is true and what is not. And with that, I think the triangle might add that extra layer of wanting to put love as the better force opposed to violence. [I apologize if this makes little sense to anyone, I can imagine that it doesn’t].

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was that it has no clean aftermath. There are consequences to almost every decision made by the characters in the book. And there is emotional damage that is portrayed as never going away.

One thing I did find less convincing in the novel was the episode when Katniss and co fight their way through the Capitol. In a way, by setting the city up as another arena, sure, the books come full circle. But did it make it more convincing? I am not sure. There is something easier about suspending believe when it comes to mutts and traps when it is an isolated liminal arena, not so much when it is an actual city. Perhaps that was the very thing Collins was trying to get across: desperate times call for desperate measures, violent regimes retain their power through more violence, etcetera, but something felt a little off during parts of these sequences.

 There is one thing I am trying to forget. One thing that I wish Katniss had not done. The go ahead on the last Hunger Games. Why make children pay for the crimes of their parents or their regime? I thought the whole point of the horror of the Hunger Games was that out of everyone the Capitol punished, it were children. This is where I felt Katniss should have stood up to Coin. Of course, I am reading the aftermath, the killing of Coin, as Katniss final rebellion and want to believe that with that, there will be no final Hunger Games.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I had problems with parts of it, mostly at the beginning. I also did not love the prose at all times. But Mockingjay, despite having weaknesses of its own, made me appreciate the trilogy as a whole more. And I feel more confident now, on having read Mockingjay, that I will reread The Hunger Games, and perhaps, enjoy it all the more for knowing what is to come.

Other opinions: I am a little lazy today knowing that there is an endless supply of posts on this book. Instead, I will direct you to Fyrefly‘s book blog search engine. The results for posts on Mockingjay can be found here.

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Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire - Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire – Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2009
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository * 

When I posted about The Hunger Games, some of you said I would like the second and third book in the series less. Others suggested I may enjoy them more, because they address some of the questions that I had missed being raised in the first book. I know this may sound weird, but both groups were right in their way: I found the plot to be weaker, but I was relieved to find themes and questions addressed, instead of the book clinically describing what was happening.

[spoilers]

To me, the first half of the book read like an epilogue to The Hunger Games. And I actually appreciated this, very much. It explored the cruelties of the Capitol, it explored mechanisms of oppression and resistance, it explored the emotional fall-out of murder, even if forced by a regime. It made me feel all the emotions I was missing in the first book, and I think it might make me appreciate The Hunger Games more, if I revisit it.

I cannot seem to decide whether the fact that Katniss and Peeta are forced to enter another Hunger Games helps to underline and reinforce the cruelty of the regime, or if it felt a little silly and unoriginal. I did appreciate how it explored the dynamics of people forming an alliance in the games more and I liked that we learned more about the other contestants, and yet..

There is something about Collins’ prose that I find a little awkward, but I cannot seem to put my finger on what it is that I find less than perfect. I do know that the last third of the book felt a little rushed, and I kept backing up a few pages to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I felt that the whole games and the eventual escape could have been written about more in-depth.

And then there’s the love triangle. Am I allowed a small ARGH? This book really works up this angle, having Katniss pretend to be in love with Peeta, but secretly (perhaps?) liking Gale more. Towards the end of the book she says that Gale feels like home, but see, I cannot see why. Why do I need to care about this triangle? The whole triangle feels forced, both boys receive little to no character development, especially Gale. It almost feels, while reading the book, that Katniss thinks about who she cares for more because she feels she has to. Nothing of her love for Peeta or Gale feels natural, both are forced by circumstances and their love for her. I may prefer Peeta over Gale at this point, but I think that is only because we have seen more of him than we have seen of Gale.

[/spoilers]

Catching Fire was in part more enjoyable to me, because it allowed for more emotions about the whole circumstances in which Katniss and her friends and family live. On the other hand, I felt the plot in itself was weaker at some points, and Collins’ style still feels awkward to me at times.

As for book three, I hope to read it soon. My sister gave me her copies of the first two books on loan (hence, the different covers for book 1 and book 2), but she does not own the third one. I’m now hoping to read it by borrowing it from a friend of hers, but I’m not sure when/if that will happen.

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games - Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2009
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository * 

I finished reading The Hunger Games yesterday and given my recent habit to avoid writing posts about books right away, and then ending up being at a loss what exactly I wanted to say, I am trying to change that around from now on. But I have to admit, I am nervous about writing this post. Why? Well, I did not love this like so many others. Going through the list of GoodReads friends who have read The Hunger Games, and trust me there are a lot, there are remarkably little below 5-star ratings. While, um, my own is around 3-3,5.

Do I need to tell you the plot of this novel? I doubt anyone does not have a general idea. A dystopian society: the nation of Panem built from what used to be North America. There are 12 districts, in which products are produced for the ruling body located at the “centre”, the Capitol. The districts once rebelled against the Capitol, the Capitol won, obliterated district 13 and sort-of “enslaved” the other 12. Now, every year, each district has to provide one girl and one boy between 12 and 18, “the tributes”, to fight in the Hunger Games. What are the Hunger Games, you may ask? Well, these 24 children fight each other to the death, the last one standing wins, with a lifetime of money to provide for themselves and their family. Katniss Everdeen, the main character of The Hunger Games is the tribute for district 12, together with Peeta.

While I found the first 50 pages awkward to read at times (there was a lot of repeating of events or explanations, lots of insinuated stuff that later on apparently had to be explained word for word to make sure the reader had understood the previous hints), there was a truly addictive quality to this book. I finished it in less than a day. As a reader, you also start to care deeply for Katniss. There is something about her (despite my having some problems with her characterisation, see Renay’s fabulous post) that makes you want to protect her from life, at times, that makes you want to make sure she’ll be okay, she’ll survive.

What didn’t I love? I think it comes down to this: there is so much potential in this story, potential to have the reader reflect on a few issues: The obvious theme of growing up in violence, the intertwinement of politics and economy, violence and the question of when murder becomes murder, the tendency of Katniss and the Capitol to judge districts on names/status, the whole issue of conditioning Katniss to love/kiss Peeta for support.. There is SO MUCH Collins could have done with this story, but to me it fell flat exactly because she never invites the reader “in”. Something about the story was too straightforward to my taste, there is a retelling of events, and that’s it. It is almost as if the issues that could have been raised are just skipped over, which makes the whole portrayal a bit problematic for me, especially the Katniss/Peeta/Haymitch dynamic. There is a hint of reflection on Haymitch’s drunkenness as a coping mechanism for the violence he went through, but this is the only time there’s any sort of reflection in the novel. Do not get me wrong, I do not want an author to shove a message in your face, a dum-dum-dum SEE, here’s my MESSAGE, here’s THE THEME. Actually, I dislike those type of stories. I do not think Collins needs to have a message, even. But, to me, there was something missing in that the story never becomes more than a retelling of events (albeit with having the reader feel sympathy for Katniss). Apart from feeling sympathy, I was never asked to engage with the story.

There is also a question of the world-building in general. I know many have praised Collins for it, but there were moments where I was not convinced.. A little more detail would not have gone amiss, I think. Collins teases that things will become more complex in the future, with the plastic surgery in the Capitol, with the traces of rebellion from Katniss & district 11, with the tension between the meaning of the games for Capitol residents and district residents.. I just hope these things will be explored.

Perhaps it were my high expectations going into this book, but I had just expected something more..  somehow.

[minor spoilers]

Will I read the sequels? Yes, I will. I care enough about Katniss and Prim to want to know what Collins comes up with. I also hope the world-building and discussion of it will improve. There were some strong hints in this novel that district 13 was not destroyed (hello, repeating that it was destroyed 4 times in a row). Supposedly there is a love-triangle in this story. I have seen the whole “team Peeta” and “team Gale” going around online.. I personally felt that it was a bit contrived, and certainly not at the centre of the story. At this point, I don’t think I really care who Katniss ends up with. Actually, I rather enjoyed her “I won’t marry and have children” stance, that’s quite refreshing in a YA heroine, except I’m afraid it is a foreshadowing that she will.

Other Opinions: Lady business, The Parchment Girl, The Wertzone, Books Distilled, Caribousmom, Dear Author, The Reading Zone, Realms of Speculative Fiction, Puss Reboots, Booklover Book Reviews, Opinions of a Wolf, Rebecca Reads, Hey Lady, Watcha Readin’?, Bookshelves of Doom, Eclectic/Eccentric, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, The Reading Life, Rhapsody in Books, Lesa’s Book Critiques, Literate Housewife, Hope is the Word, The Literary Omnivore, Care’s Online Book Club, A Working Title, There’s a Book, Only the Best Scifi, Bookworm’s Dinner, Child Lit Book Club, Books 4 Breakfast, Books and Movies, Semincolon, Reading Through Life, Reader Rabbit, Gimme More Books, Book-Blog.com, Take Me Away Reading, SciFiGuy, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Chatter, Book Addiction,  I’m Booking It, Devourer of Books, Teacher Girl’s Book Blog, Bibliofreak Blog, Literary Feline, Confessions of a Bibliovore, YA Reads, Nomad Reader, Fyrefly’s Book Blog, One Literature Nut, Sophisticated Dorkiness, And Another Book Read, Vulpes Libris, Classic Vasilly, Book Confessions, Maw Books Blog, Jenny’s Books.
Wow, there are a lot of posts about this one! Did I miss yours? Let me know and I will add your review to the list. 

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