I picked up Mockingjay on release day but it took me a few days to crack the cover. Once I did, I was annoyed with the times I had to set the book down. Picking up just after the cliffhanger from Catching Fire, this book just keeps ratcheting up the intensity and doesn't back down until the conclusion.
I could theoretically see this book as being a "stand-alone" experience, but you would likely miss many of the nuances and references if you just jumped to book 3 without reading #s 1 and 2. Still, I'll try to speak about this book individually and avoid spoilers either for Mockingjay or for the series as a whole.
Katniss's world is in absolute chaos as the book begins. She's gained a lot but lost a lot more. Worse, she has tons of new questions to try and answer but no sure fire way to find answers. From a high level, this explanation can be applied to each book in the series. And yet, book 3 is actually quite a different experience from the other two.
In Mockingjay we find Katniss given a bit more latitude to become her own character and to express her own desires, needs and personality. The problem is, she has a hard time figuring out what those may be.
Similar to the previous books, a number of strategic alliances are made, but on a much larger scale. Everything is much, much bigger in this book….the action, the conflict, the fears, the anxiety, the uncertainty. Another thing that seemed even more accentuated to me was the nature and presence of evil. President Snow (that vile, noxious dictator of a leader) is much more at the forefront of this book….and a variety of other similar characters are presented.
In fact, the concepts of "what is good", "what is right", "what is true", are almost always in question such that it often felt like most of the characters were living either in grey area or perhaps in some form of darkness…there were very few who were obviously "good". Because of this, I sometimes found my reading sessions to be emotionally draining. This novel is definitely not for the overly sensitive/empathic/faint-of-heart. Not that it was horrifically violent (there was a bit more violence, but it didn't feel over-the-top) but rather, there is just so much antagonism and opposition that the sense of hopelessness felt in the first two books has been multiplied exponentially in book 3.
After I finished reading, my wife (who is nervous about reading it) asked if "it ends well." All I can say (without spoiling the story) is that "it ends as well as can be expected considering how truly awful Panem is." That's actually probably a little harsh…I can certainly think of a number of "good" ways the book could have ended which would have been much "worse" in terms of "happy endings." What I will say is that if you're looking for a happy ending….you might find it, but you'll have to look real close and make sure you don't overthink things.
I really enjoyed the series. Mockingjay is a bit of a change from the previous two. I'm not sure if it's because of this (necessary) departure or if it was something else, but I did not enjoy book 3 as much as the previous 2. I'd have a hard time picking between Catching Fire and Hunger Games (book 1), but I can definitely say that I liked them both a little better than I liked Mockingjay.
That said, I can still definitely recommend Mockingjay as an engrossing, well-written, and enjoyable book that brings closure to the atrocities of Panem…as best it can.
Give it a read. It's well worth it.
4 out of 5 stars
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