Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Mockingjay

[Total Spoiler Alert]

I admit it, I went into the third book of the Hunger Games series with pretty low expectations. And yet, Mockingjay still managed to disappoint. For the vast majority of the book, I found my comments on book two still applied: Katniss, the main character, is still upside down emotionally. We continue to have her blaming herself for things that aren't her fault, and yet failing to take responsibility for things that are hers to own. Perhaps worse than that, the story continued to trickle on with hardly a plot twist in sight.

Seriously, what book has a weapon designed for the main character that's voice activated, yet doesn't use this capability in some pivotal scene that saves the day? But I digress.

Cleverly, the author has provided us with a a Hunger Games in each of the three books. In book one, Katniss pulls off the seemingly impossible: she's survived the games, and got her partner out, too. In the second book, she manages to accidentally start a revolution. This would be worth some points in my book if it wasn't followed by a temper tantrum that sucks any sense of accomplishment out of it. And in the third book, the 'games' consist of her and her team traversing the Capital's streets. Again, I give the author serious credit for fitting this in; yet this final quest appears to be completely useless. Other than killing off some characters and gently moving the story line along, I fail to see any advantage she gained through this exercise.

So yeah, I was unimpressed.

But then, in the final pages of the book, Katniss crossed the line from petulant teenager into sociopath territory. With her killing of president Coin and her recommending of a hunger games for the Capital, she seems to have fully embraced the evil that she was fighting. Perhaps I misheard these critical pages and am taking away the wrong impression. But seriously, how could she be so dense as to not realize her behavior is exactly that of the tyrant was was supposed to be executing?

There was one highlight of the book, though. The audio version contains a short interview with the author at the end of the book, and I found it quite fascinating. The author discusses her inspiration and remarks that as a TV writer she could totally appreciate the game-maker side of the equation. Perhaps the main character in the book isn't Katniss afterall, but the games itself? I'm probably too stuck in Katniss's behavior, though in my defense, so much of the book is spent on her emotional baggage, it's hard not to get frustrated with it. Especially when she appears to be the only character who doesn't grow. Her sister, her mother, her fellow victors; they all evolve into better versions of themselves. And yet Katniss remains locked in a state that seems to force her into bad decisions.

When the Hunger Games first came out, there was plenty of concern that the content was just not kid appropriate. How could a book that has kids killing kids be for kids? And yet, immediately, it's not the themes that bother me. No, it's the ridiculous main character. If your child is aching to read this series, by all means, let them. But you best read along with them and plan to have some frank discussions about why the main character's behavior is so wrong, so often.

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