Saturday, April 7, 2012

Yay for YA: Catching Fire and Mockingjay

After seeing the movie version of the Hunger Games, I just had to read the sequels!

Catching Fire: 6
Mockingjay: 9
Series checkouts: 27
Source: Catching Fire was from Follett for the school, personally purchased my copy; both the school copy and my own copy of Mockingjay were personally purchased.

Synopsis: Katniss continues her narrative of what happened after the 74th Annual Hunger Games, in which she competed and won.

My Goodreads ratings: 5 stars for Catching Fire, 3 stars for Mockingjay

The following reviews contain spoilers.

Catching Fire is one of the most satisfying middle books of any trilogy I've read.  It was creative, and it distanced the series from comparisons between this and Battle Royale.  The book starts out with the confused relationship between Katniss and Gale, a threat from President Snow, and the need to make peace with the spurned Peeta as he and Katniss must travel the country in the victory tour and convince the populace that they are in love.  Then comes the announcement of the third Quarter Quell, the amped-up Hunger Games that happen every quarter-century.  The contestants this time are chosen from past victors, who had always thought themselves safe from ever again competing or knowing hardships.  Since Katniss is District 12's only female victor, she must again compete.  And when Haymitch's name is drawn, Peeta volunteers to go with her.

Throughout the book are hints at rebellion and what's to come.  The end has a great twist, which left me breathless and reaching for the final book in the trilogy.  Great storytelling!  I didn't even mind the relationship drivel, showing how Gale and Peeta loved Katniss while she didn't feel anything beyond friendship and camaraderie toward either of them.  More on that later.

Unfortunately, after a fabulous start, and more world-building as the plot moved to District 13, Mockingjay got old quickly.  Don't get me wrong, there's still some excellent adventure and twists here.  But Ms. Collins found a dead horse to beat.

War is Hell.  Repeat, War is Hell.  And if you missed it: War is Hell.  Oh, and by the way: War is Hell.
I get that part of what inspired the author was news footage of one of the recent wars, followed by a reality TV show.  And I know that this is young adult literature, where sometimes the audience may not know as much as us wise adults do.  But it seemed like the point was driven so far home that it got preachy and ham-handed.

As I sit here writing this review, I'm realizing that Mockingjay probably had some heavy influences from another final book of a YA series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Both have characters dying a bit arbitrarily (though if you know Greek mythology, the fact that Castor dies and Pollux lives is nothing new).  Both have tear-jerking, pointless casualties.  (What the heck was a certain character doing in the Capitol, anyway?  Never explained.)  And both have epilogues where it's "babies ever after."

Except I liked Harry Potter's epilogue.  There, the pairings felt natural, and it was cute to see the main characters' progeny heading off for their first year at Hogwarts.

If the last three paragraphs plus the epilogue of Mockingjay did not exist, I would have liked it far better.  Instead, we have a complete change in Katniss' character just to ... what?  Satisfy the audience's need to have an answer to the infernal Team Peeta/Team Gale question?  Enforce society's charge that motherhood is the best role a woman can ever achieve?

I'm not going to give a spoiler as to who Katniss ends up with, though I will say there was no choice, no other option.  More disappointingly her mate, in the epilogue, takes fifteen years to convince her to give up her beliefs that she's held so long throughout three books and have children.  While I did not expect a happy ending, it really did not need to include a broken Katniss worrying about how her children will react to learning about her past.

Epic fail.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you referenced the ending to Harry Potter, as I also felt it was Harry Potter-esque with the killing of characters off, just for the sake to kill those characters off.

    I think what blows my mind is the end when everything she has worked for in the past three books which is protect her family it all turns out to be moot. The scene in which she loses her, didn't need to lose her at all. That scene would have been emotional regardless of who was in that just based upon the whole fanatical nature of those killings.

    I never really understood that in this series, why people need to arbitrarily die just for the sake of including death to tug at the heartstrings. Plus the epilogue made me think of that as well, except it was wrong and wasn't as endearing as Harry Potter's was.

    Spot on critique, and I feel you hit every point of why Mockingjay was a terrible read.