Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

February 18, 2012 at 15:52 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , , )

4/10

It is important for a reader to be able to trust an author. Sometimes this is easy, and from the very first line of a book, a reader will relax in the knowledge that this is a writer who will not let them down, and whose every sentence is lovingly crafted and set into place with careless ease and sensational beauty. As a contrast, sometimes a reader will read tensely, silently and unconsciously praying that a writer will not drop the ball, and will make it to the end without tripping over and breaking something. This matter of trust does not necessarily affect the quality of the book. Bad authors can begin with undeserved confidence only to ruin their book chapters in, and good books can begin stiltingly. Dickens, for instance, can begin his books very precariously. And Suzanne Collins began this trilogy with two very pleasing entries, both above-average novels. Throughout The Hunger Games, a lot of the mistrust was wrapped around her tenuous and shaky writing whenever she wrote about her dystopic society. When she managed to convincingly describe this dystopia in Catching Fire, a lot of the nervous feeling was focussed on whether or not she could write a second gladiatorial book without ending up with a pale shadow of the first.

“Within seconds, a low-flying V-shaped formation of Capitol hoverplanes appears above us, and the bombs begin to fall. I’m blown off my feet, into the front wall of the warehouse. There’s a searing pain just above the back of my right knee. Something has struck my back as well, but doesn’t seem to have penetrated my vest.”

-Mockingjay

Finally, this trust deficit has caught up with her. It is impossible to miss the feeling that Collins has constantly been on a precipice with her writing, and that she has extended herself just a little too far. Although not necessarily a bad piece of writing, Mockingjay contains some very palpable flaws, and brings this series to a disappointing and anticlimactically lukewarm end. The problems begin almost immediately: apparently not satisfied with the cliffhanger she left herself with at the end of the last book, Collins quickly and awkwardly wraps up all of her loose ends, before launching the story in a new and unpredictable direction: mental instability. Writing a breakdown for Katniss makes for uncomfortable reading, and is seldom convincing. The result is a hundred-page tantrum, interspersed with unsettling episodes where the suspension of disbelief is deucedly difficult.

It did not look in the first book like Collins could write dystopia. She wrote marvellously. It did not look in the second book like she could write romance. She did. Strangely then, it is the sort of writing she has already proved that gives another stumbling block here. Having taken gladiatorial combat in her stride, Collins redirects this book into some sort of juvenile special forces narrative, falling rather flat. It is Mockingjay’s ending, then, that provides the only light in this dingy tunnel. A handful of rather intriguing twists and turns make for an unnecessarily preachy but exciting and surprising conclusion, and a vague sense of regret that the ending was connected to the earlier storylines (the mental breakdown and the special forces assault) by the most tenuous of links. A mixed bag, and a flawed ending to an otherwise good series.

Related reviews:
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Jesse said,

    Sorry to disagree, but she was a weak writer throughout. At the start of the first book it was immediately clear that she was in over her head, as she failed to explain how one 13th of the entire nation of Panam seemed to consist of one small village, with a lottery held in a small courtyard. That aside, she is the sort of weak writer who tells you everything instead of showing you–a huge no-no. Unrealistic emotional responses to things, cringe-worthy dialogue. Hard to read at times.

    • J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

      My friend, never apologise for disagreeing. Disagree loudly, and with trumpets; obnoxiously if you dare. Let us talk about your disagreements. Firstly, it is bad sport to pick small holes in the plots of authors. Panem’s thirteenth district might be disproportionately small, but still make up one political thirteenth, like a dystopian Luxembourg. Or it might be that the author’s myopic style left her unable to properly demonstrate the size of her setting. Either way, if one is reading to find flaws, there are larger and graver flaws to find.

      As to your second point, I might posit a sin more cardinal than narrating the action instead of showing it: telling the action through interior monologue. Collins is certainly guilty of that, also.

      Nevertheless, the strengths of the first two books in the series were strengths of unlikeliness more than of timeless writing. Collins told a story, and if she didn’t display particular grace or dexterity, then at least she managed competence and conviction: that is, until the final book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: