Updated! November 25, 2014
New 2nd addendum below the 1st addendum. Further thoughts/explanations as to why I gave this book five stars at the end of the original review. Warning: addendum contains some spoilers.
I've thought long and hard as to how I should review this book. For starters I feel I need to say upfront, this book is not for everyone. Mockingjay is the darkest book of the Hunger Games trilogy, containing excess violence, brutality and ugliness. People die. It would be naive to expect otherwise in a book dealing with war.
If you're all about puppies, kittens, rainbows, unicorns, and disgustingly sweet happily-ever-afters don't bother reading this book. Faint of heart need not apply, I mean it.
This story isn't told by Katniss, The Girl Who Was On Fire. It's told by Katniss, the quiet girl from District 12 who unintentionally inspired a revolution through one simple act of defiance. Needless to say Katniss, ever weary of the roles she's been forced to play, is reluctant to officially step up, to be the Mockingjay, to lead the revolution against the Capitol.
President Coin, leader of District 13, makes it clear from the start she is no fan of Katniss, saying they should have saved 'the boy' first. Katniss agrees with President Coin here--Peeta was always better with words and has a 'way' with people--but otherwise Katniss does not trust the woman. Life in District 13 isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
Though Katniss doesn't desire the spotlight and never wanted power she finally agrees to take on the burden of leading a rebellion. Hoping that in doing so she might save Peeta's life and finally put an end to President Snow's rule. And so, with Haymitch, Gale, Beetee, Finnick and her old prep team backing her up Katniss becomes the Mockingjay.
So much happens in this book, so much I didn't expect. That being said, I love this book. I love this series. Mockingjay is a hauntingly-beautiful conclusion to an enjoyable, thought-provoking series. This series will always have a home on my bookshelf, and I hope that one day, when my girls are old enough to read it, they'll appreciate it as much as I do.
P.S. And it needs to be said: even though the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle is very much present in this book, it's not the focal point of the story. It never was. The Hunger Games series is about so much more than teenage angst, or romantic love. So...I don't know, get over yourselves and go read something else if you were looking for a nonsensical happily ever after.
P.P.S. The epilogue is what finally pushed me over the edge and made me cry.
Further explanation/thoughts about why I think this book is amazing (contains some spoilers):
I didn't cry with either of the major deaths in this book, though I felt more when the first one happened, probably because I felt more connected to the first character then I did the second. The second death was tragic and senseless. But I don't think the second death undermines the whole series, like many critics of this book have said. Nor does it make the story pointless.
Many have said that they felt detached from the story while reading this book. I felt that detachment too, but I genuinely feel that is what Suzanne Collins was hoping for.
Here's the deal, my father went to Vietnam and experienced a lot of senseless violence, lost a lot of friends and acquaintances. In all my life I've only heard him speak about it in a candid manner one time. Otherwise he speaks about it in a detached way, as if he read about it or watched some footage of it instead of actually experiencing it firsthand. I feel it is his way of coping with it, which is kind of sad but understandable because even to this day he suffers from the PTSD that resulted from his time in Vietnam.
I feel that Katniss, by starting that book about everyone she knew who died, was doing what my father needs to do (although, as far as I know, he probably has done something similar--like I said, he doesn't ever talk about it with me). She was finally facing and working through the all the grief and pain.
My point is, the reason we felt detached from the story is because Katniss was already detached. She was so messed up by all the senseless violence that she'd already checked out emotionally. And when reality threatened to take over, she took drugs to make it all better.
Under similar circumstances I think every normal person would shut down emotionally. If Katniss had continued to function normally after going through all that we'd probably have a sociopath on our hands. Like Peeta said, when you kill someone you lose a part of yourself, you're killing a part of your soul. Suzanne Collins did a fantastic job illustrating that.
Katniss triumphs in the end because, even though it took time, she confronts the pain, works through it. She lives her
life, no longer the actress, the puppet or the victim. I especially love that she does what she vowed to never do. She has children. The best part is, her children, everyone's children for that matter, won't ever know the horrors of Reaping Day and the Hunger Games.
I feel she ended up with with the right man. And no, I don't think she settled for him. I knew she truly loved him when she started fighting for him, not only for his life but for all those lost memories, for his love.
I also feel Katniss is a romantic person, just not in the traditional sense. The girl kept the pearl, would take it out when she was thinking of him! Carried it with her into battle. Didn't even throw it out when he rejected her when he tried to kill her (on more than one occasion)! Speaking of, talk about the ultimate rejection Peeta strangling Katniss after he was literally rescued on her behalf and she finally understood how she felt about him
. I think my heart broke for Katniss when that all happened.
***About Katniss and PTSD
I believe only those who know someone who have suffer from PTSD or suffer PTSD themselves can truly understand the Katniss Everdeen that showed up in Mockingjay. She's an emotionally wounded person who is suffering from PTSD and never given any therapy to deal with it. She is shoehorned into the role of HERO/REBEL to fit someone else's agenda. Perhaps Suzanne Collins should have done a better job pointing it out. Maybe she should have been like, "HEY EVERYONE! KATNISS IS SUFFERING FROM MAJOR PTSD AND DOESN'T FEEL LIKE A HERO OR LEADER!" But, see, Katniss basically says as much with her actions and thoughts and actual words spoken to other characters throughout the entire book. You just have to pay attention. About Peeta vs Gale
Okay, I've already said it but I feel it bears repeating since so many people hate this book simply because of who Katniss chooses in the end: this series is about so much more than romantic love. It's a story about a revolution that happens to have a love story in it, not the other way around. This isn't Twilight.
But fine, whatever, let's talk about this.
I'm tired of people saying Katniss settled for Peeta. No she didn't. It's clearly there, her love for him. It's all over the pages of this book, though it's even present in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (more about this later). Even Gale knows how she feels and says as much when they're in District 12 to film the propo. Gale tells her he knows she kissed him because he (Gale) was in pain. He says it again when they're out hunting right before they attacked the mountain compound. Gale isn't stupid but he keeps his pony in the race because he wants to be the one she picks because he loves her.
Then Gale and Peeta talk about who Katniss is going to pick. They agree she's going to pick the one she can't survive without. We can debate day and night over who that person is, but based on Katniss' words and actions throughout this series it is clear to me Peeta is the one she 'can't survive without'. Sure, she would have continued to live if Peeta had never returned to her in District 12, but she'd have been a shadow of herself. With Peeta, because he understood her struggles and was able to be there for her and support her, she was able to recover a part of who she was before and then some. They needed each other. Same reason Haymitch needed Katniss and Peeta in his life. Same reason all the victors seemed to gravitate toward one another. They understood what others could not.
But if Katniss really wanted Gale she would have picked him.
From the beginning Katniss did what she wanted whenever she could. Once she removed herself from the spotlight and once her life wasn't threatnend she was able to make whatever decision she wanted and she did. Katniss choose Peeta because she wanted him. She loved Peeta.
If you need further proof:
"She loves you, you know," says Peeta. "She as good as told me after they whipped you."
"Don't believe it,"Gale answers. "The way she kissed you in the Quarter Quell...well she never kissed me like that."
Again, Gale isn't stupid. He saw that kiss
What kiss, you ask? It was all an act, you say?
Yeah, well, not all of it was an act. Of all the kisses Katniss bestows upon her suitors, only two are really described in a way that sounds sensual. Both of those kisses are with Peeta.
First kiss happens during the 74th Hunger Games in the cave:
“This is the first kiss that we’re both fully aware of… This is the first kiss where I actually feel stirring inside my chest. Warm and curious. This is the first kiss that makes me want another.”
This one didn't really go anywhere because Peeta notices her headwound is bleeding again and so he stops kissing her to take care of it. But still, she wants to keep kissing him rather than continuing to do so because she has to. Not really a sexy kiss but it means something.
Second kiss/makeout is during the 75th Hunger Games and is the kiss Gale is talking about:
"This time, there is nothing but us to interrupt us. And after a few attempts, Peeta gives up on talking. The sensation inside me grows warmer and spreads out from my chest, down through my body, out along my arms and legs, to the tips of my being. Instead of satisfying me, the kisses have the opposite effect, of making my need greater. I thought I was something of an expert on hunger, but this is an entirely new kind."
Man, that sounds pretty amazing, right? Yeah, she never has a kiss like that with Gale. Not once. And if she had it would have been in one of these books because it might have made a difference in who she picked. But Gale and Katniss never shared such a kiss because he wasn't the one.
Also, Gale did think up the trap that ended up killing Prim...so there's that. Prim's Death Doesn't Undermine The Entire Story
Of all the reasons to not like this book, this one makes me the most angry. I honestly don't understand it.
Sure, the whole reason Katniss volunteered for the 74th Hunger Games was to save her sister's life. It sucks that, in the end, she dies. It's truly awful and seems senseless and that my folks is the point. War is awful and oftentimes senseless but Prim's death was not in vain.
Prim's death, the specific way she died, is the only way Katniss was able to see and understand how truly evil President Coin was. Sure, in a way she always knew, especially when crazy Peeta was sent to do propos with them, but Katniss might not have done anything about it. Because of Prim's death Katniss made sure President Coin's rule came to an end.
The people of Panem will never know the bullet they dodged because of Prim's death.
Look, if you don't like this book that's fine. Just stop saying Prim's death cancelled out everything or Katniss settled for Peeta or that Katniss was a weakling. You look like a fool when you say as much. There are other reasons to not like this book, reasons I can and do totally respect, but the reasons listed above are probably the dumbest I've ever heard. I actually think less of you when you list one of these reasons.
Do yourself a favor and read it once more without your hopes and expectations mucking up the experience for you. Pay attention to what's actually going on. Put yourself in Katniss Everdeen's shoes and realize you'd probably react the exact same way, especially if you'd experienced what she has experienced or lost what she lost. Realize that after experiencing such trauma you probably wouldn't be up for leading a nation and, no, that isn't selfish.
And, yes, Katniss got a happily ever after, it's just not the one you wanted. But it's a good HEA. It's really dang good.