The Hunger Games, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Finished this novel a few days ago but events at home have prevented me from posting the review until tonight.

Panem is at war.

The districts are in revolt. The Capitol is fighting to regain control  and has Peeta Mellark prisoner, using him for their own means. District 13 is trying to turn Katniss Everdeen, survivor of two Hunger Games, into the Mockingjay. Katniss is reeling from the revelations that she has been a pawn in plans laid down by everyone around her and finds herself questioning who to trust.

Kept busy initially with doing propaganda work for the rebels, she eventually manages to persuade the rebel leaders to give her the chance to actually fight in the revolution and takes it with both hands.

Katniss’s goal? To bring down the oppressive rule of Panem and kill President Snow.

The third book in the series brings the curtain down on the story brilliant, tying up loose ends and keeping the reader glued from start to finish. It shows not just the war but the things that happen behind the scenes: the war councils, the tactical discussions and the creation of propaganda. The book also shows the effects of war on  civilian people in their civilian life in their civilian homes. This happens in District 13 but is especially emphasised I think in the Capitol, with people becoming refugees, having been displaced from their homes, and others being forced to take those people in. I couldn’t help thinking it almost mirrored the billeting of evacuees in the Second World War. Think Goodnight Mr Tom and you get an idea of what I am talking about.

This book does seem more bloody than the others, especially considering the level of violence in all three books. This feeling is accentuated by certain major events, again, near the end of the book. Certainly, this is not bad thing I don’t think as it actually makes sure the book, story and the series makes a lasting impact on the reader and forces them to think.

For the most part, the limited first person narration is perfect for the story however, near the end, there were some events that I feel could have benefited from being in third person so being elaborated on. I think those events would actually make for a great short story and/or spin-off novella. I am not going to say what as I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

There were parts which seemed rushed or just skipped over which could also have been elaborated on and it felt like that Collins decided to use the hospital almost as a way of setting things back to default. Rowling used this as well near the end of the Harry Potter novels but it made Mockingjay feel very episodic by bringing it constantly back to the hospital. I feel it was unneeded and better plotting of the novel could easily have avoided this.

Mockingjay is brilliant book to finish the series, despite it’s issues, showing sensibility, tact and raising issues about the effects of war on people. It makes the reader think about what they are reading and consider the earlier books in light of events in this book, something that rarely seems to happen in modern day novels.  Whilst it perhaps could not be read as a stand alone, it has an excellent story that breaks away from the almost formulaic plotting of the previous two books and keeps the reader’s attention from start to finish.

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Book Review: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Carrying on the story from Hunger Games, Katniss is back in District 12 and back hunting. Not that she needs to now she has money and good home for her and her family to live in since she won the Games. However, things are getting harsher in the district and there are rumours of rebellion in the other districts.

Things seem to get worse on the Victory Tour as Katniss and Peeta find themselves struggling to contain the rebellion they may have inadvertently started. When the Quarter Quell is announced, they face going back into the arena and this time, they may not get out.

This book seems a lot more violent than the previous one though slower. The book is split into three again but the titles of the parts do not give away any plot points which the first one did (see my review of Hunger Games to find out what I mean by this). The characters are developed well as are all the new characters introduced in this book. I found myself actually liking Katniss more in this and feel the relationship and Katniss’s feelings for Peeta were growing organically, something that seems to rarely happen in books. The story is well plotted and holds the reader’s attention. The development of the revolution is well written.

Collins seemed to go for shocks in this book, whether it was what happened in the square in District 11 or what Peeta and Katniss do in their individual training sessions. (I am not going to say any more as I don’t want to give away any spoilers).

It is not all positive with this book. Despite being plotted and written well, the pacing seems slow and a lot of exposition was placed in the book as an info dump, especially at the end when it could have been offered in a more active way. Whilst it is readily said in the books that the Games take the same format ever year, I couldn’t help feeling that Collins missed a trick by not switching things up. It felt repetitive and compounded the issues with pacing in the book.

I also got a little confused about what was happening in the arena, trying to keep track of the plan they put in place, why things were happening and even after rereading those sections, it still wasn’t altogether clear.

Catching Fire is written and plotted well and is an excellent sequel to the Hunger Games. It has its issues but the story is well executed and keeps the story going from the earlier book. The characters are developed well and I like Katniss more than in the previous book. Her relationship with Peeta has grown organically and very much believable. If you love the first book, you love this one too.

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Okay, I know I am about a year behind with this but it’s only really caught my attention within the last couple of months.

Set in the future, America has become Panem  and been split into 13 districts and a central Government City, the Capitol. The 13th District was destroyed after a failed uprising years before the book begins and the remaining districts are annually reminded they are at the Capitol’s mercy through The Hunger Games. Every year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, called Tributes, are taken at random in a public lottery from each district to the Capitol, where they are trained then forced to fight each other to the death in an arena at the  Capitol’s control. The whole country is forced to watch the slaughter.

At the Reaping in District 12 for the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers for her sister and finds herself up against not just Tributes from other districts, some of whom have trained their whole lives for the honour to volunteer for the Games, but against the boy who helped her and her family many years ago. If she wants to win and return home, she will have to kill him and the other 22 Tributes but can she?

This book is well written in limited first person, allowing the Collins to get the reader’s attention and to draw the reader into the brutal world of Panem. The fact that the book is in first person also lets Collins give the reader the large amount of exposition required and has cleverly spaced out the information in the exposition of the story without the need of a large info dump right at the start of the book.

Most media outlets focus on the romance element of the narrative and whilst that does form an important part of the main plot, the survival part of the story is of more importance I feel. Katniss is forced to do what she has to, to survive. Collins focuses on this and shows what I feel is a cold and harsh character acting, manipulating and lying to get what she needs for herself and Peeta. She shouldn’t be a likeable character but the circumstances in which the character is placed in makes the reader want to root for her and Peeta, for them to survive the Games. The author’s choice to write in present limited first person also helps the reader to identify and sympathise with Katniss, overcoming the fact that the character is not particularly likeable.

The book is also well researched, from the use of weapons, survival techniques and the effects of conditions like dehydration can have on the body. It adds to the believability of the story and helps draw the reader into the world of Panem.

Whilst reading it, I couldn’t help getting the feeling that certain parts of this book are allegories for our own world.

The fact that the media in the book are so focused on the love story between Peeta and Katniss almost ironic as that seems to be all that the media is interested in here in the real world. The excessiveness of the Capitol and the extreme body modifications in the name of beauty is considered normal in the book and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the same ideas are becoming prevalent in reality as well. To have some cosmetic surgery here and some there is becoming frighteningly normal in the media and it is all in the name of being beautiful.

The contrast between rich and poor is a big part of the book I feel and whilst the same extremes can be seen in our world, it isn’t as extensive. In the current economic climate, starvation, lack of everyday essential things and not being able to buy them is something that older readers can definitely relate to.

The brutality of the games and it being televised as entertainment can conceivably also be found in our own world as well. For entertainment, the video game industry releases games like Call of Duty, Medal of Honour and other similar games are played for entertainment. Whilst there is difference between killing people in a game and forcing people to kill each other in real life, it is uncomfortable to think about.

Whilst these are allegories I have noticed and may not have been intentionally put in by Collins, it does make the book very appealing and almost a warning to people against the extremes that human actions can lead to.

Whilst the book is enjoyable, despite the character, I did find myself getting bored with the streams of thought and limited action in places. Whilst it is understandable why this is in places, it did get boring and pulled me out of the book as I scanned ahead hoping for more interesting things to happen. I also can’t understand why the book was split into three parts. It made no sense the name of the third part gave away the ending, especially if a reader started reading the book, unaware it is the first book in the trilogy.

This book is a survival story that is unexpectedly dark for a teen book but at the same time, the darkness makes the book appealing to older readers. The character is likeable but only because of the world she is placed in. Whilst I would re-read this, I am not sure it is one I would come back to again and again. I would recommend this book but only tentatively as whilst I wouldn’t sing Collins’s praises for it, it is a readable and, dare I say it, enjoyable book.