First of all, let me apologize for making you all wait for our Mockingjay discussion. I realize that a lot of you are anxious to talk about it, and I've been holding us up. I finished the book about a week and a half ago, but I needed time to process and get some distance before I wrote this post. If I hadn't, you would have gotten something really snarky, like the zero draft I started immediately after finishing Mockingjay. Let's just say that it was not kind.
Having said that, I won't beat around the bush: I did not like Mockingjay. To me, it was the weakest book in the series, and my motivation to actually finish the series kept me reading more than anything else. I'm sad to say that this final installment kind of changed my feelings about the entire trilogy. I was on the fence before, but as much as the previous books frustrated me, I still felt really interested in all of the characters and larger thematic issues and questions that the books bring up. Mockingjay changed that for me, and while reading it, I finally lost my sense of investment in The Hunger Games. In all honesty, I can't say that I enjoyed the series or that I would recommend them.
Let's break it down, shall we? I've divided my discussion into sections to make it easier to navigate my thoughts.
*Spoilers ahead. If haven't read the series and don't want to know about key plot points, you should stop reading now.
My largest problem with the books has always been believability, or lack thereof. When I have discussed my concerns with Jordan, he'd always tease me, "Don't go pulling on that thread - everything will unravel!" To me, that perfectly describes the experience of reading the third book.
I've had issues with believability since Katniss threated to eat the berries at the end of the first book. I still don't believe that Capitol would have let her act of defiance slide, especially since the head gamekeeper was executed for allowing it to happen in the first place and President Snow confronted Katniss about her actions and constantly threatened her. In a world where children are forced to kill each other for sport, why would a hint of rebellion escape punishment from the governing powers?
And to me, Mockingjay solidifies the unbelievability of Capitol's response. To understand why they didn't punish Katniss, you have to accept that her actions weren't actually discernible as a form of rebellion. But by the third book, we're told that Katniss' act of defiance ultimately led to a full-scale rebellion. To me, Collins wants to have it both ways: she wants us to believe that the berries incident is unassuming enough to escape the wrath of Capitol and President Snow but important enough to catalyze a rebellion. But it can't be both, and if Katniss' actions were responsible for starting a rebellion, then Capitol would have acted differently towards her from the outset.
I also don't believe that Katniss was absolutely crucial to the rebellion. Collins makes it seem like the rebellion has been building in District 13 for over seventy-five years, and yet, they have no idea how to get the other districts involved so that they can actually overthrow Capitol. If this rebellion has been in the works for years and is actually capable of uniting the districts and defeating Capitol, I don't think they would have been sitting around waiting for "something" to catalyze it. Either they would have had something else in the works, or they simply would have seen Katniss' act as a fortuitous opportunity that they could capitalize on. If they really needed her to catalyze things, then the rebellion itself wouldn't have been strong enough to overthrow Capitol.
And even if I believed that Katniss was important as a symbol of the rebellion, I don't believe that they actually needed her physical presence. She's so clearly not on the rebellion's side, and more often then not, she acts as an unpredictable loose cannon. In all likelihood, Katniss was more of a problem for the rebellion than anything else. It would have been more productive to simply reappropriate her image for the rebellion's own purposes, but instead, they wasted countless time and energy on an unstable teenager who was admittedly not invested in their cause.
Finally, I thought the entire rebellion was just too easy. In the second book, there are growing whispers of it, and by the end, Katniss gets clued into the fact that there is a District 13. But in Mockingjay, Collins rushes over all the details of the entire rebellion. We don't see the hard work of getting the districts to unite and overthrow the powers that rule them. We're told that almost all of the other districts have essentially joined forces, we see very little struggle or fighting, and before you know it, Capitol is the only thing left to take down. And that's unbelievable. Either Capitol wasn't actually that powerful to begin with, which would make the districts seem incredibly weak for allowing themselves to remain subjugated to Capitol for so long, or the resisting districts and Capitol were far too easy to overcome. Collins has built the entire premise of her series on Capitol's absolute power, which makes its easy fall entirely unbelievable.
I'll also briefly add that Collins needed to explain in much greater depth how Peeta got better after he was hijacked. He was completely destroyed by Capitol, and yet, Collins offers no plausible explanation for how he was able to regain some semblance of his sanity.
The Love Triangle, Peeta, and Gale
I don't want to get into the love triangle because I think it's weak, uninteresting, and underdeveloped. By the end of Mockingjay, I didn't care about romance at all. In a dystopian world that is falling apart at the seams, who has time to think about which guy Katniss ends up with? I guess I prefer Peeta because he actually has a place in the novel as a character and a love interest. I do really like Peeta, and at one point, I thought that he and Katniss made the most sense together because they understood exactly what they'd lived through in the Hunger Games. But he and Katniss are so destroyed in Mockingjay that it seems unlikely that they could build any sort of life together. I didn't even want that life for them (especially Peeta) by the end of the book.
In comparison to Peeta, I think Gale is completely superfluous. I've never understood his place in the novel, especially as a love interest. The only thing I'll add is that Gale's mentality throughout Mockingjay did not sit well with me. At all. Even if he's not directly responsible for the bombings that kill Prim, I don't think he would have had a problem with them. He makes it clear that he's fine with any actions that advance the purposes of the rebellion, even those that entail killing innocent people. And you know who else has that mentality? Capitol. How Gale can justify the horror and violence that he does (like trapping District 2 citizens in the Nut and leaving them to die) because it's for a cause he deems worthy is beyond me. I'm sure that President Snow and other Capitol citizens use the same logic to justify their own acts of atrocity.
I loved Katniss in the first book. Absolutely, unequivocally. By Mockingjay, my feelings had radically changed. I think she's incredibly vindictive and judgmental, and her inability to think through the consequences of her actions causes so much harm to herself and especially to others, and that makes me dislike her even more.
One thing that I have never understood is Katniss' hatred for Haymitch. Maybe it's because I think he's incredible and find him immensely fascinating. But in Mockingjay, I couldn't understand why she was so mad at him for "tricking" her in the second hunger games and "using" her for the rebellion. I especially couldn't understand why she didn't have the same feelings towards Cinna when she found out that he, like Haymitch, was also involved with the rebellion and had plans for her to be the Mockingjay. But Cinna's role just made Katniss feel like she should be a part of the rebellion, while Haymitch's involvement infuriated her. Maybe the only explanation is that Katniss just so happens to like Cinna. But if that's not a double standard, I don't know what is.
What's worse, though, are all the needless deaths that occur in Mockingjay as a result of Katniss' poorly thought-through decisions. I couldn't understand why Katniss decided to go off on her own assassination mission against the express orders of the rebellion, and it broke my heart that so many of her squad members (including Finnick) died in such horrific ways. And for what? Katniss didn't accomplish anything, and the rebellion got into Capitol on their own and took it down while Katniss was wandering the streets trying to get to President Snow. Ultimately, her mission was completely for naught, and those who died essentially died for nothing. This section actually made me livid.
I know a lot of people think that Katniss exhibits classic signs of PTSD, but I just don't see that coherently developed in the books at all, aside from the fact that she has trouble sleeping at night and is plagued by nightmares. If you think she's suffering from PTSD, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe I'm just missing something?
The Final Hunger Games
When I reached the end of Mockingjay and Coin suggested one last Hunger Games with the Capitol's children, my heart broke. With that ending, Collins basically undid the entire series for me. The books are built around a dystopian society whose horrible power is crystallized in the needless waste of life every year during the Hunger Games. We are supposed to feel sorrow and disgust over the unspeakable horrors that the Capitol subjects its citizens to, and we are supposed to cheer as Katniss and others rebel against and overthrow this terrible power. Needless to say, I was utterly confused and disappointed when Katniss, Johanna, Haymitch, and the others turned around and did exactly what the Capitol had done to them.
In that sense, Capitol's children are held responsible for their parents' acts of oppression, just as the district children were held responsible for the generations that rebelled before them. And yet, somehow it's justifiable when the districts do it to Capitol but not vice versa? I cannot understand why Collins would write this scenario into her book. It would be one thing if only Coin and the other rebellion leaders wanted the last Hunger Games. I actually think that this would have been a much stronger and more plausible scenario because it would have demonstrated that the rebellion was just as corrupt and oppressive as Capitol. There are hints of the rebellion's corruption throughout Mockingjay, and Collins' book could have made a much stronger statement about the dangers of localized power.
However, Katniss and other Hunger Games victors are also in favor of implementing this cruel punishment. In many ways, their justifications are absurd, and Collins once again rushes through this significant moment in her novel with little explanation. Johanna's motivation is reduced to a desire for revenge, and Haymitch offers little more than a cop-out.
But it is Katniss' explanation that is the real problem. She justifies her agreement to the final Hunger Games by saying that she's doing it for Prim, which makes no sense. First of all, Katniss already doubts that Capitol set off the bombs that killed her sister. In fact, she suspects that Coin was responsible and is about to kill her, so why would she vote for the very thing that Coin wants to solidify her own power? And secondly, Prim would never want another Hunger Games. We see little of her character in the books, but we do know that she was terrified of going into the Hunger Games and constantly worked to help and heal people. She saw firsthand how the Hunger Games affected and hurt Katniss, and I can't imagine that she would ever subject another child to the horrors she was so afraid of, the very horrors that destroyed her sister. To me, that makes Katniss' vote not only unbelievable, but also inexcusable.
By the end of Mockingjay, Katniss and many of the others act just like Capitol, and their oppression has taught them little else than how to effectively oppress others. Power, it seems, always goes hand-in-hand with violence, and there is no true redemption for anyone.
There you have it - my feelings about the final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy. Don't take my novel-length post as any indication that I've exhausted this topic. There's still so much more to say, and now it's your turn! I would love to hear your thoughts on Mockingjay specifically and the series more generally, and I welcome dissenting opinions (I know my cousin will probably have a few!). I'm just one person, and I only have my own thoughts, and now I want to share yours! I look forward to a lively discussion in the comments.
Also, how is everyone feeling about the movie? It's coming out next week (as if any of you had forgotten)!
Also, how is everyone feeling about the movie? It's coming out next week (as if any of you had forgotten)!