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Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 400 pages

Suzanne Collins
Since 1991, Suzanne Collins has been busy writing for children's television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. Most recently, she was the Head Writer for Scholastic Entertainment's Clifford's Puppy Days. She currently lives in Connecticut with her family.

Suzanne Collins Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

Katniss Everdeen can stand tall. She's won two hunger games and, in the second, the cards were stacked against her. Katness Everdeen, the girl on fire (a reference to her costume in the second games), finds herself as the Mockingjay. The Mockingjay is a small little bird that has many qualities but perhaps the most important for now is that it draws others to itself through its song. Those in power who would fight the oppressive government of the Capitol and President Snow (father of the games) rally to the standard of the Mockingjay which Katniss has come to represent. Perhaps it would be fair to say that Katniss has been manipulated to represent since she is pressured into the role in the second book, Catching Fire.

I hate to start a review out on a negative note but I was greatly disappointed by the conclusion of The Hunger Games trilogy especially when I have been anticipating its forthcoming for nearly a year. I remember when I finished Catching Fire that I thought the release date would never arrive. Not unlike a five-year-old waiting for Christmas, I greatly looked forward to the final installment of The Hunger Games. I don't think I'd read very far before my disappointment became known to me. Below are some reasons why I think this novel is weak.

First, I think Suzanne Collins bit off more than she could chew. Two novels about the Hunger Games and now she's faced with a major war to write about. Such an undertaking usually requires years of study. Or perhaps my expectations are unrealistic considering all of the military history I have read. Mostly, she tackles small skirmishes but she does some creative work on how the Capitol city is mined (called Pods). No two Pods are the same and to say they are lethal is an understatement. Actually, these Pods may be the most creative invention in the book. Anyway, there never seem to be enough solders on either side to move this war forward. Nevertheless, the rebels seem to push their way towards the capital.

Second, I have to ask the question where is Katniss Everdeen? Where is the Mockingjay? She does make a couple of televised promocials designed to urge the rebel troops forward. In one case, dressed in her black MockingJay outfit, she seems to forget herself and rises above the artificial shooting situation and give a genuine performance. In each of the previous installments, Katniss rises above herself to become the beacon of hope the people need so badly. One can only imagine what it must be like to live under the oppression of the Capitol and President Snow. It's so bad that even her opponents in the ring (during the Hunger Games) often preserve her life. Of course Peeta and Gale are chief among them. As mentioned above, only once in Mockingjay does Katniss rise to a portion of her former stature.

Most of the time she's hiding in closets or thoughtlessly following orders. Hiding in closets is not the Katniss Everdeen we grew to know and love in the first two books. That was a young woman with terrible resolve and incredible motivation. One who could face entering the games and knowing she'd have to kill others to survive. She didn't know how she would do this but she knew she could. The Katniss Everdeen in Mockingjay is full of self-doubt and loathing. Perhaps she blames herself for what happened to Peeta when he was tortured in the Capitol but it's never really clear. She simply appears as a lost soul for most of the book. In addition, there's never enough sheer terror. The Pods are truly deadly in the cruelest of ways. We're talking decapitation, gutting, loss of limbs, melting, burning, acid baths, etc. These clever ideas for inflicting death are never quite appreciated. Only one memorable character loses his life. The rest are card-board stand ups.

Third, other characters in the book are much stronger that Katniss and overshadow her much of the time. Some of her old friends like Finnick, Gale, and Haymitch. Peeta, who was left behind after the games in the second book so that Katniss could be rescued, was captured and tortured by President Snow. Peeta steals every scene he's in. Knowing how much he loves Katniss from book two, one does not know what to expect from him at any time. Was he sent back to kill her? The question looms large on the horizon. Perhaps the most colorful character in the book is Tigris. She has a short spot near the end and provides a safe haven for our heros for a time. Tigris, having been a survivor of the hunger games, has instant sympathy for Katness and what's left of her patrol.

From the very beginning of the book, Katniss' plan has been to kill President Snow herself. When she has that opportunity at the end of the book (spoiler), she whips around and kills President Coin from district 13 instead. The reasoning behind this move is completely lost on me. Why would she change her mind at the last minute? Coin is no saint to be certain but she's committed no atrocities either unless Katniss blames her for the exploding parachutes that kill her sister Prim. It is so out of character for Katniss to change her mind like this that I wondered if I was reading about the right person. President Snow deserved that arrow. He had earned it. All of the horrors (Pods), not to mention the hunger games, came from his head. I may know why she killed Coin instead but it was personal, something no Mockingjay can afford to be and something she'd been able to overcome in the past.

All in all, I don't feel like reading Mockingjay was a waste of reading time. There are number of nerve-racking parts and the plot is not spelled out for you. There was certainly enough suspense and tension to keep me reading. I guess I was expecting Katniss to become Rambo. She's certainly cut out for such a role as that is how the hunger games are played. I would have liked to see Katniss infiltrate the enemy, get into Snow's office, and put an arrow through his heart. I did not expect her to survive such a mission. Perhaps that's what everyone expected and Suzanne Collins wanted to give us something else.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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