Not another blog post about Catching Fire and Mockingjay (The Inevitable Blog Post, part two)…

A month ago, I wrote a blog about the first book in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Now, at long last, I have finished the second and third books in that series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and have decided to blog about them simultaneously.

I did enjoy the first book, but found the plot almost relentless, with everything happening so fast that as a reader you barely had time to digest what had happened before something else would occur. But that novel did a good job of setting the scene and atmosphere for the next two books, and possibly made it easier to confront the horrors that await the characters in these later parts of the trilogy.

The simple truth is, both CF (Catching Fire) and MJ (Mockingjay) are, in my opinion, considerably better than HG (The Hunger Games…I probably don’t need to be explaining these abbreviations, but oh well). In CF, the pace of the story slows down, allowing time for development of both the characters themselves and also the relationships between the characters, particularly the relationships between Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Gale. At the same time, the brutality of the governing powers is ramped up almost immediately, with some deaths actually causing my eyes to widen in shock (I very rarely react to the point of showing it on my face to a book). But despite what might seem like shock value, I found the themes of political tyranny, abuse of power and repression of basic living standards were actually given their due attention in this book, in a way which fits the young adult genre quite convincingly.

Many people have attacked CF for being slower at the start, but I think I preferred this part in a lot of ways, because once they got into the arena again at the end of the book, it was starting to feel a little repetitive. If I was to name a key flaw for CF, it would have to be the predictability of the plot. Without spoiling anything for those yet to read it, I found the events of the final few chapters I had guessed almost exactly at about the halfway point in the book. Despite this, though, I was rather impressed by how my predictions about the plot came to fruition, and it was this that led to the stunning cliffhanger this book ends on.

Just as CF was an improvement upon HG, MJ was that much of an improvement upon CF. The final book in the series is by far the most shocking and horrific, but also the most realistic. The true colours of all the characters are revealed in this book; as we start to sympathise with characters like Haymitch, respect for other characters (I won’t mention who) quickly disappears. Many characters’ lives are not spared during the violent revolution that takes place across Panem, which, as sadistic of me as this might sound, I liked – it would have hardly been believable if all the most loved characters magically survived (I also won some cookies from a bet with a friend over who in particular died – aren’t I lovely?).

The themes of political and social revolution, alongside warfare, are examined thoroughly throughout this book, as Katniss and several other characters constantly question whether what they are doing is right, and who the enemy really is in all of this when so many lives are lost amongst both the governing powers and the rebels. Again, I have read books that drive deeper into such philosophies, but I think this is more than thought-provoking enough for a young adult book – enough to stir their imaginations without smothering them.

Lastly, the ending. Did I like it? Yes, yes I did. Many people have complained about the ending of this series, and I don’t really know why. I don’t really think Katniss becomes any more or less admirable – she is a convincing portrayal of a teenager who has gone through the atrocities she goes through in these books, and we see her change from an awkward, emotionally closed off adolescent to a traumatised young adult who will never really recover from her experiences. And though the ending isn’t all doom and gloom, it isn’t super-happy either, and so it shouldn’t be – this is a dystopian story after all, and if anything the story is supposed to serve as a warning, so ending with “and they lived happily ever after” doesn’t quite seem fitting. I think this ending is the only logical and realistic way it could end, and if people want a fairytale ending, well, they’re reading the wrong books.

At the end of the day, I have to confess that this series is well worth the hype, and is a rollicking good read. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a try, because chances are you’ll like it more than you think. I would give the series a 4 out of 5, as a whole!

Have you read this series yet? Did you enjoy it?

If you have read it, do you think the ending of the final book was a worthy ending, or were you disappointed?

21 thoughts on “Not another blog post about Catching Fire and Mockingjay (The Inevitable Blog Post, part two)…

  1. I agree with you on CF. I think it was my favorite book of the trilogy. However, MJ was my least favorite. I thought it got confusing at the end and I also didn’t like that Kat’s little sister was killed at the end. Since Kat has been set on her journey because she stepped in to protect her sister, I thought having her get killed was like saying that Kat had failed in her ultimate goal.

    • I think that death is the particular one that upset a lot of people (it was also the one I had the bet on – I had guessed it from the start of that book). I think that was the whole point though – through bringing revolution, she was always going to pay some dear personal cost for it, something much more valuable to her than her own life, and as she was never really in control of her fate throughout the whole trilogy, she was never going to achieve her personal goal, as it was subsumed by the goals of the revolution and the wider society. The only moment she has any real control is at the very end, with the two presidents on the balcony. And immediately after that she loses it all again.
      I think the hard part is accepting that Katniss isn’t your typical hero, and that Collins in writing this final book was really using a “take no prisoners” approach – she killed off particular characters specifically to pull on the heartstrings of the readers, and to further traumatise other characters within the story. Essentially you’re right – Katniss did fail, and in that sense the ending is quite devastating.
      I loved MJ, but I can see why people would have been disappointed or saddened by that ending! I am glad I finished it during the day, and not right before going to sleep 😛

  2. After reading your opinions of these three books, I definitely need to get my hands on these books and find the time to read them! Others have also raved about them and I’m beginning to feel a little left out of the conversations! 🙂

    • Haha, I know how you feel – I felt much the same a couple of months ago, and decided it was time to see if the hype was really worth it (because it so often isn’t, to be honest). They’re not the greatest books ever, but they are quite good, and definitely provide a lot to talk about. I would love to teach these books to a more academic class of high schoolers, actually!
      If you do read them let us know what you think! 🙂

  3. I finished reading these a little after you did, Goodreads tells me. And I agree with you, more or less. These books aren’t particularly spectacular, and won’t make it to my favourites list; but having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a book as quickly as I finished these. I was completely hooked, and it was a great (and slightly addictive) read while it lasted. I have issues with Katniss and Gale and Peeta, <> and I was rooting for Finnick and Annie (was that necessary? Really? Couldn’t she leave the poor guy alone?) but overall, I’d give it four stars, too. 🙂

    • Yeah, they are definitely an addictive read – the story kind of consumes your mind while you’re reading them, so you have to just work your way through it. I took big breaks between each book mind, but I found with each one once I passed the halfway mark, I tended to finish them within the next day (which suggests something about the pace, perhaps?).
      Yeah, that love triangle, if you could even call it that, was really quite odd. But Gale started to annoy me by the third book, if I have to be perfectly honest. And yeah, Finnick’s fate was pretty tragic….I had seen it coming though. He was very much the male equivalent of Prim – those two characters both embodied all the good and pure traits that the other characters lacked – they were both constantly selfless, working hard to protect others to the point of putting their own lives at risk. And sadly, as a result, it meant they were both bound to die (which I think is how I guessed it, on some level). But it was good. I’d love to teach those books one day.

  4. I read the first book a few years ago and really enjoyed it, but never went back and read the second two after they were released. I’ve been debating whether I want to read them for one reason, which you alluded to in your post. I hear tell of a love triangle, and very few things make me more irritated. I’m typically in the frustrated camp of “what do you see in either of these guys? Ditch them both” or “if you really loved either of them, you wouldn’t be having this quandary; you wouldn’t be torn.” Mainly I was scarred by “Twilight,” and Lionel Shriver’s “The Post Birthday World” frustrated me. Maybe there are books with legitimate love triangles, and I just haven’t read them?

    What are your thoughts on this, in the HG trilogy?

    • Ahhh very interesting. Yeah, the love triangle in the HG trilogy is odd, but I think it doesn’t bother me as much because it doesn’t ever take the forefront of the story – these books really are just not romance in the slightest (as where those awful Twilight books were). Really Katniss spends so much of the story caught up in all the horrors happening around her that she never has time to consider the love triangle, and it kind of just solves itself for her in the end. I think overall it doesn’t really weaken the story, because the triangle keeps linking back to how the characters try to survive and cope with everything, which I think in an odd way is kind of more realistic (at least in context).
      I think it is worth reading the last two books despite the love triangle, because even if it does annoy you, it doesn’t really affect the story as much as you would think. And if I have to admit it, I think she ends up with the right one in the end anyway.

      • Ah, okay. I’m glad the romance doesn’t overpower the story; one of the things I like about Katniss is her strength and independence, so I’m relieved she doesn’t fall swooning over romantic interests!
        Thanks for your interpretation; I’ll probably read them this summer 🙂

  5. What an insightful review. I appreciate the depth of your comments and do agree with you. You guessed what I did not– the death of Katniss’s sister. While that particular death fit the overall theme and make-up of the book, I would have been happier without it. What can I say? I have a soft spot for happy endings.

    Despite all that, I was satisfied with how the series ended because it ended with hope. Ultimately, I believe that is soemthing the author wanted to leave you with. The books started with hope, and I’m glad to see that it ended with hope, too.

    • Ahh, good to know you agree with me too! 🙂 I guessed both her death and Finnick’s death too because they were both the pure characters in the story, the only ones who really were completely selfless, always working for others, and there was that little writer’s voice in my head that just whispered “they’re going to go.” Their deaths, while shocking, were also incredibly powerful, far more than if they had have survived (which might have seemed forced). But I can see how they upset readers.
      And I agree, the series did end with hope – it was going to be a struggle to recover from the aftermath, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom, either. It struck a nice balance, I thought, and revealed a little truism about humankind, that we can get ourselves into all sorts of horrible messes, but we can pull ourselves back out again, as well.

  6. I think you did an excellent job with this review of the books. I think that the way all of the characters developed and grew threw CF and MJ was amazing. And yes, the internal struggles that Katniss faces are both akin to teenage dilemmas as well as the social turmoil that surrounds her and the pressure that she is forced to carry. That was the thing I really enjoyed reading the most, the burden that Katniss put on herself and those forced upon her given her role. I think that is why it makes for a great Y.A. book, these are things teens can associate with themselves on a smaller scale. What is within your control to save? I had one main issues with MJ though, this being the scenes where Katniss’s mental stability was in question. I felt that it lasted for far too long and I couldn’t connect well with that portion of the story. And while the ending of the story fit everything that happened, I felt that is wrapped up too nicely in a little bow. I thought given the emotional and psychical trauma both character underwent, that the ending was a little too sugary for me.

    • Thank you!
      Interestingly I liked the whole section when Katniss was becoming mentally unstable, maybe because I think she would have, and if anything I expected that section of the book to last longer, but then that’s just me. The ending was a little bit that way, but I did like that it kind of hinted that she never really recovered. But I wonder if it was necessary to jump ahead a couple of decades the way they did…

  7. I did like that they alluded to that as well! I also like how she was pyshically scarred, it was so representative of how broken it made her and the strength to survive. I guess overall I have a bipolar love for the series. On the one hand there are elements that I think are genius, on the other portions I could have been much happier without. But I suppose that is the truth with most things in life…?

    • I know what you mean, some things about this book annoyed me too (like the three spelling mistakes I found in the third book…three mistakes! And obvious ones too! Anyway I’ll live…), but at the end of the day I have to remind myself that it is a young adult book, which is why the writing is good but not amazing, and why the themes are explored in some depth, but not as much as other writers. And while it may not have been life changing, the story has stuck in my head, which is always a sign that something was done right in the book!

  8. I took an entire weekend off to read all three in almost one sitting shortly after your review of HG.
    The story itself was genius in a lot of ways and I admit, though I did see Primrose’s death coming, it still hurt. Katniss did everything for the people she cared about and in the end she lost everyone she had relied on before the games.
    I thought the ending seemed a bit rushed. Not so much rushed, but maybe there could have been a bit more detail or something. It was lacking something, not plot wise because everything was neatly answered but I feel that there should have been one or two more lines. I do like that it seems Katniss never really recovered because really, I don’t think it would be humanly possible for someone to fully recover from what she went through. It would have made things seemed forced.
    I’m not really at all surprised that she ended up with Peeta in the end. A relationship with Gale would have been too perfect. She grew into the relationship with Peeta and that’s what made it work. I enjoyed that the love triangle wasn’t the main focus because it would have taken away from the horror going on.
    Speaking of horror, leaving Annie alone like that, one word: OUCH. And I say that only because they were like THE beacon of hope (to me anyway). Kind of like, if two people can find perfect love and happiness after all this then everything will be okay.
    Anyway, wonderful review for all three books. Also, I hope that you’re starting to feel better (I was reading your post about NaPoWriMo a few minutes ago). I look forward to your next post. 🙂

    • Ah wow, that is pretty cool you read it so quickly like that! A lot of other people read all three books in quick succession it seems. For some reason I cannot fathom I took big long breaks between each book.
      I do know what you mean, although I was happy with the ending, the epilogue was a bit short at only a couple of pages. But then the books were incredibly formulaic in that sense – they all were about 450 pages long, they all were broken into 27 chapters with 3 parts containing 9 chapters each within each book, and they all had that thing where every single chapter ends on a twist, which is normally quickly resolved at the start of the next chapter. It worked for the most part, but I wonder if that’s part of why the epilogue seems a bit brief.
      I agree, I liked who she ended up with because it took more work to get there and make it happen. And I know what you mean about Annie and Finnick, that was quite horrible what happened there. But I thought that if Prim was going to go, Finnick probably would as well for similar reasons, so it didn’t surprise me though it was quite sad.
      Thank you, glad you (and other people) liked my reviews. I was trying not to just do a typical review and to focus more on my thoughts and feelings about it (because most people at least know roughly what it’s about, even if they haven’t read it), so it was quite fun to write actually.
      I am slowly feeling better, but it seems to be two steps forward, one step back, most of the time. And the doctor’s appointments keep ending up inconclusive, so it’s just frustrating more than anything. But with my hours dropping at work I at least have more time to read (and I don’t have much energy for much else most days).

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