Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

This week shall conclude my tour through the Hunger Games series with the final novel, Mockingjay. When I had begun this endeavor I had contemplated taking an extra week to talk about this series overall and dedicate the entire month of April to this. Unfortunately, dear and gentle readers, I found myself greatly dissatisfied with how the series ended and its failure to address important issues with a distracting romance plot, as well as frustrations with Katniss, the main character. For whatever reason this series gets less interesting the more it continues and I'm left thinking perhaps you're better off reading just the first book instead of the entire series.

Once again, dear and gentle readers, I must mention spoilers to adequately address this novel. As such you have been advised and utilize your own judgement.

 Mockingjay follows the second war between the Districts and the Capitol from its very early stages to its ultimate conclusion, although I find myself asking why such a revolution takes so long in the first place. The reason I say this is because District 11 is the district which focuses on agriculture and is a source of much of Panem's food supply. Granted, District 10 provides meat and District 4 seafood to the bottomless stomachs of the Capitol, but much of the other sustenance seems to come entirely from District 11, one of the first Districts to end up in rebel control. Even with stockpiling and hoarding, the Capitol simply cannot feed itself and would not be able to survive a protracted siege, which by my estimate would make it fall in a matter of weeks, months at the most. Yet, for some reason, the war drags out and the rebels are determined to take the Capitol block by block with a heavy toll in both military and civilian casualties.

This leads into my second point, the fact that you're constantly questioning whether the rebels are really that much better than the people in the Capitol. I feel like this certainly was the point of the author in many respects, showing how both sides in the war aren't all that different, but it left me feeling rather hopeless about the eventual outcome. There was simply no place for free will or individualism in the structured organization of District 13, and if they're left in charge it seems likely they may enforce their lifestyle on everyone else as well. It left me wondering what was the point of this struggle if the new regime is just as bad as the old one? Was it really worth all the bloodshed and sacrifice?

My frustrations with Katniss stem from the fact the book focuses almost entirely on her emotional turmoil, much of which is brought about by the love triangle that ultimately swallows the end of the book. I understand that she's seventeen years old and thrown into this revolution which she's the face of and all this other really emotional stuff, but a lot of it seems to boil down to her debating, "Do I want Gale or Peeta?" There are more important things at stake here! Like the fate of a continent! Plus Katniss realizes she doesn't really believe in anything beyond her own survival and it makes you wonder why you care about a character that isn't motivated beyond something greater than herself. Maybe it's just me but I prefer my heroes having a motivation beyond, "I want to stay alive."

There was a lot of potential here in exploring how the revolution would end and ultimately how it would change the face of Panem and its consequences but we unfortunately don't really get to explore that because the focus remained entirely on just Katniss who realizes she's been little more than a pawn or figurehead in a lot of other people's plans. This book could have been a lot better by widening the focus and exploring the consequences of the war a lot better rather than sticking on just Katniss. Strangely, I find myself saying that perhaps this should have just been one book. The Hunger Games set up a rich world with profound social, economic, and political structures and the sequels could have done a lot more to explore that structure and its frailty. Instead, the focus remains on Katniss, merely one part of a much larger series of events, and as a result we don't get to explore that world on a deeper level. Whatever promise The Hunger Games had for me, it failed to deliver with Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

- Kalpar

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