Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay begins in the midst of a war. The rebels, who have taken refuge in the supposedly destroyed District 13, have revolted against President Snow and the Capitol. Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion, to rally those fighting for the cause. However, things get complicated for her as the Capitol pits Peeta against her.
While this novel does not feature any official Hunger Games, Katniss recognizes that she is fighting in just that. The rules in these games, however, are different because more than one person can survive. Moreover, Snow is a player as well! Katniss’ ultimate goals are to take out Snow and save Peeta. These are the thoughts that drive her forward during her grueling transformation into the Mockingjay.
It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.
Symbolism has been used quite extensively in the book. From the very outset, Katniss tries to discover her identity as the Mockingjay. With numerous references to birds and wings, seen everywhere from the hummingbirds in District 13 to Katniss’ wing-like bow, Katniss is constantly reminded of the metamorphosis she must undergo. The cycle between death and rebirth is another unmissable thread in the narrative. Beginning with ashes in the first section, the plot involves plenty of allusions to death: the physical annihilation of those who lay down their lives in the war, as well as the emotional death of those stricken by the loss of their loved ones. Characters struggle to carry on with their lives, including Finnick, Peeta, and Katnis.
Interestingly, it is these very struggles that set the stage for their rebirth. Collins has wittingly structured the natural settings to mirror this, elegantly switching them from the ashes to the wintry war to the spring at the end, which represents hope and rejuvenation.
While Mockingjay does exceedingly well with the gloves coming off, so to speak, and the sharp characterizations, it stumbles big time in the writing department. The plot is undeniably heavy-handed with a reality-television critique. It keeps reiterating the point how absolute power corrupts absolutely, to the point it seems as though the author were obsessed with this notion. The writing, too, feels repetitive and needlessly explicit and verbose. For instance, Katniss’ haunting ‘Hanging Tree’ is lovable. However, Collins’ need to explain the song – in the voice of Katniss, of course – stanza by stanza, was anything but. Mockingjay could have easily done with some subtlety.
Some walks you have to take alone.
Not much happens for the vast majority of the book. Too much time is spent on strategizing, but it hardly comes to anything noteworthy. All the thrilling stuff seems to unfold in the blink of an eye, in the last few pages of the book. The love triangle is not well played out either. It is tiring to read out three-way relationships, especially in novels that have a greater plot present. Readers also do not get to experience the action close-up. As the war unravels, Katniss is always on the sidelines, only stepping in when other people command her to. All her actions come across as nothing but a propaganda or a campaign of sorts.
The author eventually discards her trademark simplistic, lite version of violent dystopian horror. She ends up inflicting the most dramatic, traumatizing and heartbreaking agony she could have possibly subjected her characters to. At the same time, many deaths are unmistakably rushed and, dare I say, even pointless. Prim’s death simply fails to have the impact Collins might have expected to achieve. She is absent for at least a hundred pages before she suddenly kicks the bucket – not that it causes the much-anticipated trauma.
In a nutshell, Mockingjay is a beautifully tragic end to a poignant series. Its powerful, dark and soul-searching moments, which though incongruous with the first two books, are ultimately more admirable because of its the underlying pain. Bagging a score of 3.7 stars out of 5, Mockingjay is both resonant and emotionally exhausting – and nobody would want it any other way.
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