Book Talk #5: Mockingjay

Posted: April 23, 2013 in On Novels
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

This is it folks – not only are we on the home stretch of the year, on the last book talk of the semester.. but we’ve also reached the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy after beginning the semester with the first two. The popular opinion regarding Mockingjay seems to be that it is everyone’s least favorite of the series, but they still enjoyed it.. despite it being “boring”. Today, I’m going to explain to you not only why that is wrong, but why the series needed a clincher like Mockingjay. (spoilers: it has to do with not writing the same damn book 3 times in a row).

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So, what’s going on here?

For the rare breed of the uninitiated in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay is the third and final book. The Hunger Games entail the story of the country of Panem, the shambled remains of the United States after some great war, and then following said great war, a great rebellion. Panem is split into 13 districts with a capital, and every year, each district offers up a boy and a girl to fight to the death in a televised event as punishment for a rebellion some 75 years ago. Crazy stuff. Specifically, the books follow Katniss Everdeen of District 12 and her friends in their attempts to first survive the Capital’s wrath, then quell the rebellion, and finally in the ultimate table-flipping move say “fuck it” and join the revolution. That’s Mockingjay. Katniss and Peeta Mellark (her faux love interest) have survived 2 go-rounds in the Arena, and the rebellion against the tyranny of the Capital and President Snow is fully under way. The rebellion needs a figurehead to lead them – and Katniss is first in line. With her allies either being damaged goods or captives of the Capital, the Mockingjay (Katniss’s rebel persona) is going to need a miracle for this to work.

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So, why is this different from The Hunger Games and Catching Fire? Is that good or bad?

Mockingjay, rather than dealing with Katniss and Peeta’s attempts to survive in the arena (as in the first two books) take us away from the arena and place us into the thick of a warzone. Refugee camps, drone strikes, active warfare in the streets: the tensions have been building for two books, and the rubber bands are finally starting to snap. And personally, I think this is what the series needed. The first two books are great, don’t get me wrong – but they both largely have to do with the Arena and what goes on between the people inside. Catching Fire has some elements of the incoming rebellion going on, but ultimately we find ourselves back in the formula of *survive nature, kill other tributes*. A third book taking place in the arena or a 3rd set of Hunger Games would have been too much. We’ve seen it before. We don’t need another Catching Fire or Hunger Games – those books exist already! Suzanne Collins could have easily milked this series into a 5-7 book franchise, continuing to recycle the different arenas and tributes. Thankfully, she gave us instead what we needed: a change. The book is about a revolution! RE-VO-LU-TION. The entire point is breaking out of the norm, disrupting the established order in favor of something else. The arena feels claustrophobic and clamped down – but an active warzone in the streets of the capital! That’s chaos! That’s disorder! That is the change we need. Might not be what we want, but complacency never got anyone anywhere, now did it?

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So, the verdict then?

I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can see this book as boring. The book is separated into two halves – Katniss learning to be the Mockingjay and how the rebellion works, then after rescuing Peeta, actually planning and commencing the attack on the Capital (which, Hollywood is conveniently turning into MOCKINGJAY pt.1 and 2. Thanks, Harry Potter. I’m never going to get to see an entire story in one movie ever a-god-damn-gain.) The first half can tend to lag in places. Katniss spends a lot of her time dealing with an internal struggle the likes of which most of us have never even come close to experiencing. Her brooding can begin to grow tiresome, but it’s made up for with every snappy remark and every loose-cannon approach she takes to her field missions. At no point did I find myself bored, however. I always wanted to know what happened next. It was worth the wait.

Obviously, I can’t recommend that you read this if you haven’t read the first two. I mean, you could – but you’ll miss a ton of past references, have no clue who certain characters are, and probably won’t care much about this ragtag group of rebels if you don’t know how they got there. Looks like you’ll just have to read the series!

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Si vis pacem, para bellum

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Comments
  1. Nice reflection. As you probably know, I’m a huge Hunger Games fan (hello dystopia!). What I loved about Mockinjay was that it tied up all of the loose ends. We know what happens, no cliffhangers, and I most enjoyed learning of the Games’ long-term effects on Katniss. Collins really finished the series with the book. Have you read Divergent? It is similar but spends more time on the full-scale war. It’s excellent, but the 3rd and final book doesn’t come out until fall.

  2. rachelrmack says:

    Great book talk! Having read the Hunger Games series, I was shaking and saying “yes, yes, exactly” through your talk. I agree 100% that Mockingjay was absolutely necessary to bring the story full circle. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun reading about the different arenas, but I was ready to see how the rebellion was progressing. I enjoyed the third book as much as the other two and am glad to hear you did, as well. Collins was smart ending it with the third book in the way that she did. It’s a great series. Way to not give up any spoilers. I like your style!

    • jamcfarland says:

      Well thank you for complimenting what little style I have! Like Kelsey said, I’m also a fan of this one because there are practically no loose ends left. As you said, it comes full circle – the story is over. There’s no cliffhanger ending, life just goes on.

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