Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review- Catching Fire and Mockingjay

Okay so I'm finally getting around to writing my reviews to the second and third books in the Hunger Games trilogy, yay! Sorry for the wait. For those of you who want to read my review of the first book, The Hunger Games, you can find it here. So a brief intro to the Hunger Games series; The Hunger Games is a new young adult, sci-fi series that have been exploding in readership lately. The last installment was released about two weeks ago and has shot to the number one spot on best sellers lists. The series is by American televison writer Suzanne Collins and is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic North American (renamed Panem) where a totalitarian government named The Capitol rules the rest of the country, which has been split into 13 districts. Each district controls a certain type of industry which fuels The Capitol's wealth. Distric 13 controls the development nuclear weapons (at least I think)and led a rebellion again The Capitol years ago which ended in their destruction. To impose punishment and control over the other disticts, The Capitol started the Hunger Games in which all the children from each district are put into a lottery each year. One boy and one girl from each district are selected and put into an outdoors televised area where they much kill each other until only one remains. Our heroine of the series, Katniss Everdeen is thrown into the games with her co-district tribute Peeta; in short, boy falls in love with girl and they both make it out in the end.

Oh, there will be a lot of spoilers in my review, so you've been warned!!! I'm not sure how to do a review of the third book without giving the end plotlines of book two away. In book two, Catching Fire, talk of rebellion again the Capitol among the districts begins. This is fueled by Katniss and Peeta's defiant ways during the hunger games which was televised to the entire nation. President of the Capitol, President Snow, is not a happy camper from the results of the Hunger Games and makes a point to keep his eye on Katniss and lets her know. Peeta, desperate to keep Katniss safe, makes Katniss out to look like a stupid, love-sickened girl in the public's eye as a means to explain her decorum during the games. Even so, the image of Katniss as the symbol of a rebellion, in the form of a Mockingjay, continues. Snow, who cannot accept this, formulates a plan that forces Katniss back into the Hunger Games; he does this to publicly show the districts he still has control and to have the symbol of rebellion get killed off live on television. In short, a rebellion had long been planned by District 13 which included utilizing Katniss' image. Some tributes of the Hunger Games took a part in a plan to get Katniss out without Katniss knowing. In the end, Katniss and a few other tributes are whisked away by a Disctict 13 aircraft while a few others were left to be imprisoned by the Capitol. An angry Snow reacts to this by bombing District 12 and leaving nothing to remain.

So I thought this book was a step back from the first one. The first novel was full of action packed adventure and was throughly engaging. I felt that Catching Fire didn't get exciting until they finally entered the arena which took place about two-thirds through the book. The beginning third was just Katniss and Peeta doing their victory tour while a strange love triangle was forming between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. The book is written in Katniss' point of view, but even so, I was slightly confused on what exactly her feelings were towards this whole love triangle dealio. She doesn't exactly seem torn between the two; she's just kind of going with the flow. She displays selfless acts for both of these boys in the novel but I couldn't tell is that was just her character or if she actually cares for them. Katniss' character as a whole just confused me as a- I'll get more in detail later when I go into book three.

A big problem with the book was its pacing. Who is the editor of this series? These last two installments definitely needed some HEAVY editing! The first third was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo that wasn't really necessary. The middle was getting a bit more into the story but I still had trouble focusing on it. The book is just so poorly written I couldn't tell what was happening; the images I was creating in my head were only half complete. Like I said in my review of the first novel, Suzanne Collins has trouble drawing out the complete picture. The whole concept of Panem and this dystopian world they live in was never fully there. Maybe it was in Ms. Collins' head but it did not translate. If she can't create a different and fully functioned world for the audience to travel into when reading, they won't stay interested. Finally the book picks up when we are thrown into the games. I feel like the biggest draw this series has is the action that goes on during the games- this is why the first novel was so compelling.

Okay now lets talk about the third book Mockingjay. Um, wow. Where do I start? I wasn't too too excited about reading it after Catching Fire to be perfectly honest. I was hoping Catching Fire was just a slump in the middle before an epic final installment. So the third book is Katniss, now living in District 13, developing strategies to overtake the Capitol with District 13's military team. War is in full effect now and all the districts are fighting again the Capitol (with the exception of District 2 who works closely with the Capitol). Obviously Ms. Collins isn't a military strategist. This was what basically what the entire novel consisted of:

"We are going to go to this place to attack. We got there. We started shooting next to a building. People died. We got on the aircraft 20 days later and left. We got some footage of me doing it which will encourage the rest of the districts to keep fighting because I'm the Mockingjay."

There's no strategic placement of anything or fully fledged plans of attack! I mean, Katniss could be in the middle of talking about being in some battle that I guess supposedly had a lot of planning behind, and she'll transition her thoughts with "three days later we left and were back in District 13 planning the next move." What exactly happens between all this schizo dialogue? At one point in the book, a team of soldiers from District 13 goes in to penetrate the Capitol and rescue the imprisoned tributes. This whole part happened with some exchanged dialogue between Katniss and her mentor Haymitch going something like this.

H: "Katniss, Gale and some other people left to break into the Capitol and rescue Peeta."

K: "What! Now I'm going to lose both of them!" I go into the training room to sulk.

H: "Katniss they're back!"

The writing was just completely lazy and bad. There needed to be a lot, a lot more put in to describing the sequence of battles and events that were going on. When Katniss and her team finally go on a mission to break into the Capitol and kill Snow I just get utterly lost. Collins introduces all these characters suddenly and I lost track of who is who. She doesn't make much of an attempt to clearly state who is who because they are only there to get killed off ten pages later. This was meant to make this third novel seem that much more serious than the other two but nobody gives a shit about these characters. It was just a bad attempt to get the audience emotionally involved. The team sneaks their way into Panem through some sort of underground system thats part of the city. I couldn't quiet figure out how they were going about their plan utilizing the cities resources. The Capitol, like everything else in the book, was an incomplete picture. How does the city function, how is it laid out, how does this underground system happen to lead directly to Snow's mansion? I was just having trouble picturing the entire story all the way through to the end.

Well at the end of the novel, a plane with a Capitol seal on it bombs a building full of Capitol children and Katniss' sister Prim. This led to the abrupt end of the war when the people of the Capitol saw the ruthlessness of Snow. Katniss falls into deep depression when her sister gets killed off and goes to see Snow when he is imprisoned by District 13. Snow informs Katniss that it was not his plane that bombed the building but District 13 as a means to quickly end the war. Katniss realizes the truth in this and is horrified at both Coin (the president of District 13) and Gale because the plan must of stemmed off an idea that was originally his. In short…well it was actually short in the book too…Katniss assassinates Coin and marries Peeta.

Now can we please talk about Katniss’ character? I’ve lost my respect for her character by the end of this book. The first novel, I understood her as a normal girl thrown into an unimaginable situation to discover she has a deep, inner strength and great selflessness. Okay by the third novel, I now see her as a drone void of any true feelings that acts only because she’s been told to. She seems to make her decisions based off the fact that she has to choose to do something in order to move forward. For most of the book, she’s told what to do, and when it comes around to Katniss making a decision for herself, she doesn’t really thinking about things thoroughly. There's not mcuh emotion behind her decisions, just some strange logic in her head. She’s unsure how to feel in several situations including the fact she may have to kill Peeta. Her thinking goes something like this “I don’t want to kill Peeta cause I’m suppose to protect him but if he acts up I can always just shoot him in the head.” One of the characters Finnick mentions at one point to Katniss that she does love him but doesn’t know it. Well, reading an entire book based off her POV, I didn’t really see anything that exhibited that fact. She sometimes seems selfless and other times she’s downright reckless. It makes me think she not as noble as I originally thought, just not exactly all there mentally. I think was done to show that Katniss is losing it and closing in on some sort of breakdown. Well it doesn’t work.

The thing that topped it for me was when Katniss agreed to having the Capitol children compete in another Hunger Game. I kind of see what Collins was trying to achieve from this but it still pissed me off. A few pages ago, she seemed so bothered that rebels were heartlessly shooting all the Capitol citizens including the young children. Then her sister dies, someone else comes into power, and everything she did in this last mission was basically pointless. Katniss agrees to have another Hunger Game with Capitol children as retribution for the horrid crimes of the Capitol. So basically, she imposing something she was previously fighting so hard against. A new ruler, District 13, is using their power to punish the children of a city who’s earlier generations fought against them. So what was accomplished from the war?? Well its resolved slightly later on when Katniss assassinates Coin but so much of what happened seemed entirely pointless!! I was left completely unsatisfied at the end and there was a piss poor epilogue. This may still turn out to be a cool movie if they can get someone to fill in the gaps of Collin's incomplete vision and they don't show what's going on in Katniss' head; however. I don’t think I will be re-reading this series…I’ll stick with Battle Royale.

Catching Fire- 6/10

Mockingjay- 5/10


  1. Interesting point about Katniss having a mental breakdown, it would explain some of the abrupt changes in scenery and impulsive thoughts, but it doesn't excuse the lack of writing style by Collins. The first book was carefully woven with detail and the trilogy slowly deteriorated to the point that Mockingjay was a piss poor ending to a work of great potential. I enjoyed reading your review TiffaTookie. Please post more.

  2. I don't know if I want to read this series or not. I've heard they are great but I'm still iffy on it....You should read the Historian! I really loved that book!

  3. i can't say i would endorse this series, lol, as you can probably tell with the six and five scores i gave it. the concepts are unoriginal, the writing is like a five year old and the characters kind of suck. the first one is mindlessly entertaining enough but stop after that one lol. i wont go as far to say its junky and trashy like twilight tho.

    the historian, eh? i might check it out. you know me, i love a good vampire novel. i got a mile long book queue right now so it may be awhile til i get around to it. <3 you

  4. I totally agree with you.
    The first book wasn't perfect but it was fun. But the sequels were really bad.