Sep 13, 2010

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games, book 3)

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Mockingjay, the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, was disappointing. Not just disappointing, but unpleasant. I won't even pretend that I found any redeeming qualities in it, and it's going to be near impossible to provide a neutral, informative review; but I'll give it my best shot.

Katniss Everdeen is now in the real games. Not the Games made by the Capitol, but the ones that mean fighting against the Capitol. A revolt has risen, but it's weak and leaderless. Everyone is demanding Katniss's leadership as the Mockingjay. It's a hard step for her to imagine. The internal question of will she do it is topped by the thread of doubt, can she do it? Her best friend (and possibly more), Gale, is beside her with his advice and his agenda, finally joining the action--something he's wanted to do ever since he grew old enough to recognize the Capitol's control.
Peeta (Katniss's lover-on-screen-but-who-knows-what-behind-the-scenes companion) is in the hands of the Capitol. They're using him as a weapon against her.

Living in the old District 13 with the rebel group, Katniss finds herself thrust into battles on camera as filmed inspiration for the rebels. But part of her feels like a pawn--this time in the hands of the rebel leaders, not the Capitol. When District 13 is forced to take the final steps to attempt an overthrow of the Capitol, Katniss must make her decisions. Decisions that jeapordize her life, the lives of her friends, the lives of her family, and (predictably) the lives of all Panem.

First, the fact that Collins keeps the book's focus strictly on the fight for freedom. The romance/love-triangle is still in existence, but it never dominates the story. Second, there is one scene in the book that is actually happy. I clung to all two-and-a-half pages of it. Not only does it lift the spirits of the characters, but it lifts the spirits of the readers...for a time.
At last, Collins still holds on to her brilliant skill of ending a chapter with a gasp. I've never seen an author pull this off as consistently as she has. Page-turning to a T. However, I did not read this book in one sitting (as I did with the other two). I read it over the healthy course of three days.

(I'm afraid this will be fairly long) We'll start with the insignificants:
Mr. Model (as mentioned in my Catching Fire review) shows up in his undies instead of a fishing net with a knot. There's torture again in this book (in more detail this time). Old victors are sold as prostitutes after the Games (male and female). And more kissing (though not as much, until the last chapter ends with the "consummation of love" between Katniss and her man-of-choice).

As much as I despise messy love-triangles, I despise sloppy, last-minute endings even more, which is how the Katniss-Gale-Peeta triangle ended. If I'm going to be forced to sit through the angst of attraction through three books, I better come out of it with a stinkin' good ending (even if it's cheesy). But no, everything "romantic" in the Hunger Games series is concluded in two measly pages of thrown-together afterthought.

Collins spends the majority of Mockingjay bringing the reader into the ugliness of war--the realness of war. And I don't think this is good. No one needs to see war at such a descriptive and realistic level. Our world already has to live it.

Collins also changes our beloved character, Katniss, into a girl unrecognizable--hollow, passive, self-focused...she's not the same girl we came to love. She's not the "girl on fire" anymore.

The deaths in Mockingjay are descriptive, creative, and gruesome. I skimmed over many of them (a rare thing for me), just anxious for the book to finish. It finally did, with an incomplete, unsatisfactory, depressing ending. Nothing came together as it should. Everything went wrong. And during the peak of action, Collins kills off a conclusion with a dazed type of writing. The main character is in a daze, leaving the reader in a daze. I wonder if the author was in a daze.

I, personally, hated it. I have found many five-star reviews, but almost all of them say that they liked the book because it was "a war book". And they're right. The book puts war on your doorstep, wiping it's uninvited shoes on your welcome mat. But you can get a similar feeling by joining our troops in Iraq--or any troops at war, for that matter. It leaves you with pain. Pain of different levels, of course--real soldiers at war will come home far more scarred than a 23-year-old grad student curled up with a book. But the book is still dark. Still disturbing. Too real with no hope. No, it did not follow the common thread of happily-forever-after. Instead, it weaves a tapestry of bitterly-forever-shattered.

As stated, there is no hope in Mockingjay, which comes off as "realistic" to many readers. But instead, it's just feeding the world the same heartbreaking lies--there's no hope. There's nothing worth living for. There's no God.
No wonder one of the world's biggest questions is, "What's the point of life?"

Suzanne Collins was asked in an interview, "What do you hope readers will come away with when they read The Hunger Games Trilogy?"

(This should be the driving question for authors. The reason behind why they write).

Collins answers, "Questions abut how elements of the books might be relevant in their own lives. And if they're disturbing, what they might do about them." (Full interview found here).

She wants the reader to come away with questions about issues in the book--the issue of war, the issue of purpose, the issue of government-control, the issue of the world's future. And she doesn't mind if they're disturbing questions. The problem is, these are questions the entire world will be asking for the rest of its life. With no clear answers. Why is there always war? Why can't we avoid it? How could we have done things better in the past with our government? What is our future going to look like?
And Collins is expecting teenagers (her target audience) to search within themselves for answers to these questions? All her books are doing is saying, "Hey, here are the same painful issues our world is going through, but in story form, with a depressing ending."

One review I found accurate and helpful was by Suzanne G. on Amazon. Her review has spoilers (gives away the story) and is written in an adult banner, but if you're not going to read book 3 and you don't mind the spoilers, I think her review is worth a read. But be aware that she does use mild language.

Here is my conclusion: read book one if you want, but go no further. Or skip the series altogether. As well-written, well-imagined, and well-delivered as The Hunger Games, book 1 was, I don't think it's good enough to compensate for the disappointment of book 2, or the brutality and repulsiveness of book 3. I wish I had never read past the first and just clung to my own imagination of an ending.

I do not recommend this book for anyone, even if it stays within PG-13 limits (pushing it...). It is effective in making the reader feel what the character is feeling--398 pages of depression, frustration, mistrust, anger, and hopelessness. What do you expect to feel when you're done? I felt the need for Christ--to open my Bible or pick up a devotional. Or even just grab a happy book to get me out of the funk that Mockingjay put me in.
It is unhealthy and damaging to the focus on Christ that we should be having. So, if you've read book 1 or even book 2, put down book 3, write your own ending, and leave it at that. Then read something wholesome.

That's what I'm going to do--pretend I never read Mockingjay. I'll imagine things ending how I wish they had, and I'm going to snag a Christian fantasy novel as my next read.

Good bye Hunger Games...I hunger for you no more.

Violence Level: ***** (inappropriate)
Romance Level: *** (In the last chapter, it insinuates sex, but there is no detail or specific words used.)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: ***
Story Depth Level: **** (Sadly, not as deep or well-thought as the first two)
Recommendation: *

For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at


  1. Agreed. I finished this book last night and I pretty much hated it. The author killed or mutilated all the characters I fell in love with and the ending doesn't belong on the end of the story-- it doesn't resolve anything. It's gruesome and heartbreaking and repulsive... I could go on. Only read the first book

  2. she is an amazing writer.... i was just soo hoping for a happy ending after all that awful stuff! At least redemption... but no, Katniss lives on as if thrown together with Peeta, both of them slightly insane and Katniss still living in her hate; Gale never forgiven for something he didn't do... :(

  3. Elizabeth--I felt the same way. Angry for days and missing the characters I fell in love with.

    Anonymous--Suzanne's Collins is brilliant. I'm just sad she allowed herself to forget her characters and the fact that there must always be SOME sort of redemption. Yes, war is very sad and often unnecessary, but our world bears through it with the hope for a better future and life. She didn't leave any room for hope. :(

  4. I absolutely loved the first two books of this series! But after reading mockingjay, I was beyond let down. It almost ruined the rest of the serious for me. I found myself upset and extremely annoyed at all the characters in the book, and the author, when I finally finished mockingjay. Terrible ending to a series that started out so great.

  5. This was a very thoughtful and fair review. I felt exactly the same about the series and wondered whether the author was either not very good at "good-byes" or whether she already had some other project at hand. My tweenagers (10 and 11) will not be reading these books, but I have looked at Collins' Gregor series with interest. One reviewer noted a similar problem, a dismal and poorly finished ending. Have you or any of your blog readers read them and would you recommend?

  6. Stephanie--Thank you for your comment. :) I personally have not the Gregor series, but I'd be interested in reading them and reviewing them once I do. I would recommend reading the 5-star and 1-star reviews of the books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The one-star reviews always help me get a grasp on what will be the most negative in a book I want to read (or let someone else read). After that, I decide whether or not it's worth pushing past.