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Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I was so excited to go to my local bookstore's midnight release party for Mockingjay. I hadn't been to a midnight release party for quite awhile and it's such a singular experience, wandering the aisles and just soaking up the high pitched excitement and general camaraderie in the air. And this time I got to do it all with my always-up-for-a-good-time sister Liza and the lovely Holly from Book Harbinger. Together the three of us admired the radical Capitol hairstyles, watched the archery contest, and stood slack-jawed as a couple of serious fans wowed the audience with their insane knowledge of Hunger Games trivia. And when we stopped in the cafe for some drinks and snacks and saw the special offerings (Creamsicles for Team Peeta vs. Root Beer Floats for Team Gale), I just went ahead and ordered that root beer float as a last toast to the guy I thought she'd be happiest with. When I walked out of the store that night with my shiny blue copy, I could not wait to get home and start it. I was very entertained by the first book and thought (after my initial anxiety attack) that the second installment was even better than the first, full of twists and turns and awesome intensity. So I went into the third and final novel up for anything, harboring a few suspicions and fears, but certain that Suzanne Collins would bring her A-game one more time.

District 12 is no more. This is the thought Katniss Everdeen must repeatedly force through her head until it makes some sort of sense. Gale's impossible words have failed to penetrate her brain and she must see the ashy remains for herself in order to accept what has happened and move on. To the fabled District 13. Where she is expected to breathe new life into her Girl on Fire persona and rally the troops from all twelve other districts in a full scale attack on the Capitol. She is expected to do this without protest, without questioning why, without the one person by her side who made it all seem possible. As a prisoner of the repulsive President Snow, Peeta is trapped beyond her reach. And Katniss must decide where to throw her support. Outside of the arena, she's assumes a different but equally crushing load of responsibilities worrying about her mother and Prim, keeping up with her best friend Gale who is putting his considerable intelligence and skills wholeheartedly at rebel command's disposal, and maintaining her fragile connection with the other surviving tributes, including beautiful, damaged Finnick and the deceptively savvy Beetee. Hanging over it all are the sinister, yet unmistakable hints that President Snow is watching her more closely than she knows. Surrounded by a tight circle of people who call themselves her allies, but do not always act accordingly, Katniss must claw her way through an ever-widening fog of manipulation and deception if she is to settle on a course of action and truly be the Mockingjay the world of Panem so desperately needs.

Honestly, I feel a bit raw, you guys. Worked over and only sort of holding it together. Under a thin veneer of composure, I went about my day, drifting from home to work, methodically going about my responsibilities and tasks. When all the time my mind was spinning and returning over and over to the adrenaline shot that was this book. I read the first 75 pages that night and, in a carefully controlled way, closed the cover and went to sleep. I finished the last 300+ pages the following night in one headlong gulp, looking up at the end with tears in my eyes. What an incredible feat of entertainment! And how very much I loved the ending. It was perfect down to the final word and somehow that perfection and attention to detail to the bitter end made me okay with it all. Even though it is the most brutal of the three books. Even though the things we find out about the real under workings of the Capitol are so much worse than I feared. Even though there was no way these characters I loved were going to make it out unscathed. But I was okay with it--the bleakness and the alienation and the loss--because it felt real and unvarnished. And because, though I had as much fun as anyone spouting my team allegiance from the top of any available elevated location, it was never about the triangle. It was about Katniss. It was her personal, harrowing account. That is how it started and that is exactly how it ended. And if I didn't necessarily agree with a few of her choices, I absolutely understood why she was making them and, more importantly, that they were hers. I loved her when she was the flame that ignited a revolution and I loved her when she was unbearably cold and flawed. A favorite passage early on that encapsulates so much of Katniss:
By the time we get to Command, Coin, Plutarch, and all their people have already assembled. The sight of Gale raises some eyebrows, but no one throws him out. My mental notes have become too jumbled, so I ask for a piece of paper and a pencil right off. My apparent interest in the proceedings--the first I've shown since I've been here--takes them by surprise. Several looks are exchanged. Probably they had some extra-special lecture planned for me. But instead, Coin personally hands me the supplies, and everyone waits in silence while I sit at the table and scrawl out my list. Buttercup. Hunting. Peeta's immunity. Announced in public.

This is it. Probably my only chance to bargain. Think. What else do you want? I feel him, standing at my shoulder. Gale, I add to the list. I don't think I can do this without him.

The headache's coming on and my thoughts begin to tangle. I shut my eyes and start to recite silently.

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is alive. He is a traitor but alive. I have to keep him alive . . .

The list. It still seems too small. I should try to think bigger, beyond our current situation where I am of the utmost importance, to the future where I may be worth nothing. Should't I be asking for more? For my family? For the remainder of my people? My skin itches with the ashes of the dead. I feel the sickening impact of the skull against my shoe. The scent of blood and roses stings my nose.

The pencil moves across the page on its own. I open my eyes and see the wobbly letters. I KILL SNOW.
Ms. Collins most definitely brought her A-game and it shone brightest in the excellent cast of secondary characters, in the complex and painful path of introspection Katniss trod, and perhaps most of all in the expertly crafted fight to the finish. Several times I paused while reading to silently acknowledge the brilliance of a certain plot twist or to admire the way she always kept me guessing. My emotions tumbled over the edge at the most unexpected of moments. As I smiled and frowned, questioned and disagreed, and thought and thought and thought. I felt winded and yet filled to bursting with excitement for the entire 400 pages and that caliber of reading experience will never be lost on me. Mockingjay assaulted all my senses and left me with not a little of my own post-traumatic stress. It made me feel and long and rage and cry and I loved every word. Finest kind.

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  1. How violent would you say Mockingjay is compared to the first 2 books?

    I heard the epilogue is beautiful.

    Great review. Now I just need to get the book.

  2. Excellent review, Ang! I strive to be as articulate. Though I won't I'll enjoy writing a review anyway.

  3. Yay! Best review I've read yet and I felt much the way you did, this book, while I was looking forward to it, I really had no expectations for it. As such, it completely blew me away, I read it cover to cover and it is still disrupting my life as the need to talk about it is so great.

    I thought it was brilliant, unflinching, and like you said...REAL.

  4. I loved it too, even when it left me feeling drained and traumatized. Scratch that. Especially because it left me feeling drained and traumatized. The first two books were well-crafted page-turners, but Mockingjay was the boldest and most emotionally gripping of the three. Honest, brutal, and beautifully-crafted. Wow. This book left scars across my heart.

    Violet @ The Eager Readers

  5. I just finished this last night... I'm blown away! I love the fact that the book was about Katniss, and the triangle took to the background. I can't believe everything that Suzanne Collins gave us in this third book. I found it utterly amazing!

    I cried at the end. The epilogue was beautiful, but I started tearing up when she had the breakdown with Buttercup. *sighs* I think I HAVE to read it again. Maybe today... ;-)

  6. I gave this book 4 stars because even though I liked it, couldn't put it down and thought it was very well done, it just hurt so much. Collins was so brutal but as you've said, also brilliant. Thanks for your great review and reminding me that even when it's painful a book can still be beautiful.

  7. Love your review! You brought up all the feelings I felt while I was reading.

  8. Thanks for this review. It really helped me gather my thoughts on the book as well.

  9. I just finished and I'm not sure what to think yet. I must ponder some more...

  10. Oh goodness. I keep tracking my book online and it says it should be here today(!) but no luck so far. I'm dying to find out what happens and in no shape to try anything else.

  11. Katie, I think it's more violent than the other two. It felt so to me anyway. Possibly that's because Katniss gets knocked around herself quite a bit in it. And because the violence is not confined to an arena.

    Personally, I thought the epilogue was lovely. Though the final words on the last page before the epilogue are my very favorite. I think you'll love it.

    Holly, aw thanks. And you are always wonderfully articulate. Looking forward to your review!

    Amy, you sweetheart. So glad you liked it. I'm so relieved I'm not the only one walking around utterly disrupted by it. STILL. It made very short work of me. In every good way.

    Violet, that's the thing. It wins because it reduced us to rubble. I admire it so much for that.

    Caitlin, hey! Good to see you around these parts again. :) I cried at a few beautiful moments as well. It was so hard but vital to watch the characters go through what they did. I'm still keeping the book physically close to me so I can re-read favorite parts. *sigh*

    Kim, that's certainly the case here, isn't it? I mean, brutal is the word. My, it was quite a read.

    Brenda, this one is really bringing people of like minds together. On both sides, I think. What an amazing thing.

    Amy, I'm glad. :) Looking forward to your review. I've been honestly contemplating it every day since I finished it. Just can't get it out of my head.

    Suey, yes. I've been doing a lot of that myself. Happily, none of my sentiments have changed, though I've gone back and forth on several things. But never Katniss. And never the end. *love*

    Michelle, okay, sending out good thoughts that your book will arrive ASAP. I can't seem to talk about it enough with others who've read it. Prepare to hibernate when it does come. Cause, she is not kidding around with this one.

  12. angie, i love this review because it encapsulated so much of what i felt about mockingjay. and you're right - the last two sentences of the last chapter (not the epilogue) were so poingant. suzanne collins is such a good author - i've stressed over these books for two years now, and i typically don't do that with most books!

  13. Indeed! This is an excellent review. It is been a while since I found this kind of reviews. I will be visiting this post more often for more amazing reviews.

  14. I’m loving the fist book so far!I just finished Mockingjay in three days!!

  15. I finished last night and know I need to read some parts over and more slowly as I was so caught up in all that is Mockingjay. :D

  16. I just finished reading this a few minutes ago and I still need to absorb everything. As always, lovely review, Angie! :) You managed to sum it up pretty well and without spoilers at that.

  17. OMG i need 2 read Catching Fire asap!* shame on me!* lol

  18. I love how you can write out your feelings so well...and all I can think after reading this is how much better root beer floats are than creamsicles.

  19. I'm at a loss after finishing this. I need something to fill the void! Matt is sitting on the couch reading all night and I have nothing to turn to! Loved your review.

  20. So good but left me so angry. At a loss of words for my review.

  21. I just posted my review (more thoughts, really) on my blog. It was totally raw-making. I think it needed more good Peeta to make up for all the sadness and death. But I still liked it very much.

  22. heather, that's awfully relieving to hear. I never know how well my reaction will jive with that of other readers. And stressing is the word, isn't it? I'm honestly just very pleased with where it ended. Despite everything.

    amish, why, thank you! I'm delighted you'll be dropping in and hope you find much to please. :)

    Sam, so have you finished all 3 books now??

    Sheila, SO much to take in at once, wasn't it? I mean talk about action overload. I have already re-read several scenes and will continue to do so over the next few days, I'm sure.

    Chachic, I hear ya. How are you feeling by now? Pleased overall or left wanting?

    Faye, ha! No shame allowed here. I was so worried over CATCHING FIRE I had to stop and come back to it. But it was truly worth it. And so is this one.

    Lizzy, LOL. You are awesome. And I am with you on the root beer float bench. Here's to Gale. We loved him so.

    Liza, I know...I haven't filled the void yet either. But as soon as I find the right cure, I'll be sure to pass it your way. Can't wait to hear what Matt thinks.

    Rosey, oh man. *hugs* It was brutal. Absolutely brutal. Hope your thoughts coalesce soon. I want to read them!

    Lenore, I just read your thoughts and I understand all of what you're saying. What does it say about me that it took Evil Peeta to get me on board with the guy? *shakes head* I'm hopeless. But it's true and it worked brilliantly for me. Katniss needed that shove, IMO. Needed to recognize him for what he really was and for what he could be. I felt pretty blue the day after, but ever since I've just felt incredibly satisfied. Interested to see what a re-read does to me... :)

  23. Anonymous7:13 AM

    This is an excellent review, Angie. I just finished last night and, boy, it was a tough one. Definitely brutal. It took me a long time to read The Hunger Games because I feared it would be too violent for me. When I read it, I was surprised and pleased by, I don't know, how tame it was, I guess. (That may sound wrong, but I thought the deaths in HG were well done. No gratuitous violence.) Though there was more action in the first two, I feel Mockingjay was *harder*. I'd just mailed several books to my niece in Denmark for her 17th birthday, including this trilogy. Last night, when I was near the end, I turned to my husband and said, "Maybe I made a mistake. I don't want to traumatize her." That's how hard I was taking it all!

    I wasn't on any team as far as the love triangle is concerned, so I'm just happy the thing I thought was going to happen didn't. Love triangles are tricky.

    While reading Mockingjay, I had a strong desire to reread HG and CF. Now after reading your review and the comments, I have a strong desire to reread this one as well.


  24. Karen, it really was hard, wasn't it? Hard subject matter, hard choices, hard to read. I wouldn't worry about your niece too much, though. She'll be able to tell after the first two if she wants to continue on. And if she loves them, I imagine she'll love this one. Though I know there's been wildly varying reactions. I just thought it was extremely fitting as an ending.

    I'm with you on the thing we were afraid would happen. So glad she didn't pull that kind of cop out. That's how it would have felt.

    What a series though, right? I've re-read my favorite scenes from this one already several times. :)

  25. Perfect review, Angie. You captured the experience of reading Mocking Jay so well. It was so good to talk to you and read your review and feel alone! It looks like I'm great company. I really loved the entire series.

  26. I devoured these books. I got Hunger Games from the library and read that one the slowest. I then proceeded to purchase the next two and read them in the last five days.

    Catching Fire and Mockingjay still seem like a blur (I read them so fast!), but I loved, loved, loved all of them. I found Katniss so well-defined, so essentially herself, that sometimes it was jarring to have her referred to by name; in so many ways she was just her, the narrator, not even Katniss. I don't know; it's hard to describe!

    I was on the edge about whether I liked Gale or Peeta more until Mockingjay, and then I became firmly Team Peeta. I can't wait to read these books again, and I would love to teach them some day, too.

    Have you read Collins' other books? And sorry to take over your comment feed (I almost said hijack, and I then I remembered that the word has come pretty negative Hunger Games-related connotations!)!

  27. I loved this book so i wish for my review readers to not get upset with me.
    The plot of this book was incredible and left me longing for at every corner. But over all i was exceptionally dissapointed. Katniss was not her self and though she is more relatable she is not suppose to be.
    I believe the whole point of these books was destroyed. Prim dies and thats the only reason they started as it felt like collins waas simply killing characters for the hell of it. Annie had almost no reaction to finnicks death and at that his death was quick and thoughtless. I agree that the epilogue was beautful but i dont belieeve she shouldnt of been with peeta, not because im a team gale fan but because she doesnt need someone taking care of her, she never has she needed that fire to keep going and to become her old self again and thats what gale is. The last 100 or so pages of the book were rushed it felt unstaisfyign and like it had a lot of loosse ends from my point of view. Things were left unresolved and everything else was just kind of shrugged off like gale, her best friend since she was 12. The first two books were amazing yet this seems to lack their fullness. For all the climatic parts of the sotry it seems as though katniss was just knocked out. So as an adoring fan of the hunger games i can only manage to give this book three stars. No offence to anyone especial collins herself but being someone who reads her bookks she could of done a hell of alot better than what she did.
    So with all that i have one thing to say;What happened collins?

  28. Emily, it was SO good to call you up and share reading experiences. I was so in need of someone else who had just gone through it as well. Aaron's reading THE HUNGER GAMES right now and he is engrossed, to say the least. :)

    Read the Book, WOW. You got to read CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY back to back?! That is awesome. And I bet they were a mighty blur. You've articulated that relationship between the reader and Katniss particularly well, I think. She's her. She felt so real.

    And I have not read her other books yet. Do you recommend them?

    Katy, I'm sorry you felt so disappointed in this ending. I know you're not alone. I felt the opposite, but I hear where you're coming from. Gale was wiped out awfully quickly and I was a big fan of his the whole time. But you know I was talking with a co-worker today about that and she made the astute comment that in many ways that was realistic. You don't always get these grand goodbyes with people you love. So often people fade out of your life quietly and you look back and realize it happened. I hadn't looked at it that way before but it makes sense to me. The same goes for Finnick's death, unfortunately. In war, the lives of bright and vibrant people are snuffed out in a single moment and there isn't even the time to mourn properly. It was horribly difficult to read like that, but I understood why it happened the way it did.

    All of that aside, I really am sorry you felt let down. There's nothing worse, especially with the end of a series like this. I hope you've found something to read after that picks you up!

  29. Anonymous10:29 PM

    Discovered your blog over at Chachic's BBAW: First Treasure post. I read this review to get to know how you review books then I added you to my reader right away. You pretty much captured everything good about the book without giving away any spoiler. Just when I finally got Mockingjay out of my system, you reminded me of the things to ponder about. Excellent writing. I'm a fan.

    You really have cool stuffs going on here. I might participate on your Retro Friday meme soon. I got loads of books that falls under those categories you've enlisted. :)

  30. Angie-Reading the entire series one after another was probably more dangerous than anything. Despite having lots of other books to read (and tons of unpacking to do), I found myself starting Hunger Games again on Tuesday!

    I haven't read Collins' other works; I thought you, as an almighty YA guru, might have! ;) Thanks again for the review!


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