On the Wings of the Mockingjay   5 comments

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Warning: This post will have spoilers for all three of the Hunger Games books. If you haven’t read them yet, you may not want to continue reading this post. If you get to the end, and are pissed that I spoiled something, I will simply remind you that the very first thing I wrote in this post was a warning.

My hands have had a bit of a set back the past few weeks. While the original issue has somewhat plateaued in the improvement department, about three weeks ago I developed additional tendon damage/injury to my left thumb/wrist area. While this has been highly disappointing, and the new injury has affected more than just playing on the PC (trying working with fondant when your hands hurt trying to soften it up or color it, or try shuffling a deck of cards when the action causes pain in your thumb), I’m trying to roll with the punches and facilitate as quick a recovery as possible. Which means that I’m not spending a lot of time on the computer and I am again spending a good deal of time reading, watching TV and doing other things.

I bring this up, because over the weekend as I sat and enjoyed one of the ten days of sunshine we get here in Seattle, I finished up the Hunger Games trilogy. In fact, I was so involved in them that Saturday night found me up way past my bed time trying to finish the final book (I sadly had to give up with about 75 pages left when I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any more). Anyhow, as I read through the three books and observed the changes in Katniss and the other characters I had some thoughts on them that I wanted to flesh out, and figured this is about as good a place as any to do so. Before I move on, I want to again remind you that I am about to enter into spoiler territory, and if you haven’t read the books yet, you may well want to stop reading this post now.

Even though I’d already seen the movie, moving through the first book of the series was tough at points and played very heavily on my emotions. I still balled my eyes out when Rue died. I still held my breath when the medicine was available at the cornucopia. And I still found myself hoping that Katniss would see all of the good in Peeta and truly fall for him – a feeling that grew even stronger in Catching Fire. However, as I progressed through the series, mainly through Mockingjay, I found myself growing more unhappy with the way Katniss fell apart. In fact, by the end of Mockingjay I was almost completely dissatisfied with her evolution, even though she ended up with Peeta. I think perhaps it was the epilogue that really made me unhappy, as I felt it was somewhat unneeded.

I guess, when push comes to shove, what I really want to write about is Katniss.

I really liked her in the first and second books. I liked the emotions that were provided to us, I like that everything wasn’t a Hollywood happy ending (something that I think is important to acknowledge considering that these are “young adult” books). But the way that she just completely and totally fell apart as book three progressed made me incredibly dissatisfied with the story. I think that this probably also has to dovetail into Peeta’s progress in book three as well – since so much of that directed what happened to Katniss.

I think what really disappointed me was how little of the “girl on fire” we actually saw in the final installation of the book. I get that she’s been through a lot. I understand that she’s confused and there are a million changes happening around her. And I absolutely think that those things would have a profound impact on her as she experiences them. But to have her in a nearly catatonic state of mind through a good deal of the story is just…wrong. Katniss is a survivor. She beats the odds. She does what is required to win. And somehow the girl in Mockingjay just seems to be a completely different character at the core.

There are a few times when we actually see shadows of the Katniss from books one and two in book three – the fight in District 2, early in the book when she goes to District 8, when she puts that arrow into Coin (I’ll admit, I cheered at that part). But, frankly, I’m not sure that watching her mope around the majority of the book sends the right message. Yes, shit happened and it sucked and it absolutely has an effect on who you become. But her character was so strong, with moments of pure weakness, that it’s really hard to swallow that she’d become a complete shell of herself and stop fighting altogether. I don’t know, it just didn’t sit well with me. I know that Prim was one of the things that she was fighting so hard for, so I could see her semi-catatonic state at the end of the book once she’d died, but we’d already seen so much of “hopeless” and “directionless” Katniss throughout the entirety of book three that it felt almost contrived.

The other thing that I think really bothered me was the epilogue of Mockingjay. I felt the book would have ended well with Katniss deciding that what she needed was the dandelion, Peeta. I was happy with that resolution. But the epilogue was to shallow to really leave me with an impact. It needed to be better done or completely excluded. It’s great they had kids and got back to some semblance of their former lives, but it was so empty of anything that I think I would have much rather have let my imagination write their future.

I have so much I think I could say, but at this point my thoughts are running themselves in circles, so I think this is a good place to stop for now. I will say that I did enjoy the first two books tremendously. And I will probably re-read all three again. But the third book was somewhat disappointing when taken as a whole. What do you think of Katniss’ transformation? How did you feel about the ending?

5 responses to “On the Wings of the Mockingjay

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  1. I had a similar response on my first reading of Mockingjay, but when I re-read the series a while later, I saw more of Katniss’s descent earlier.

    She’s a girl that just wanted to live her life in peace after her terrible experience in the arena, but circumstances kept pushing her into the fire. Forced to try and quell a revolt, to fight for her life again, to be the symbol of the revolt. All at the age of 16-17.

    I think the empty ending is all that would work. Her life was empty after the revolution, all she had left was to live out the rest of her days, and hope the nightmares are a little less bad the next night.

    The last book is the weakest of the three, but give it a second chance. There is so much there that can get lost in the rush of plot.

  2. Third book was odd; felt like the author was suddenly being pushed by the publisher and had to finish it in a rush. Some things had no proper build up; occurrences seemed random and out of the blue, and there was no proper closure for several incidents. Just odd and haphazard as hell.

  3. I remember being pissed reading the 3rd book. I was so unhappy with how she just stopped. It really felt like she ended up with Peeta because there wasn’t anything else she could do. It wasn’t like she _wanted_ to, it just happened. I don’t know if re-reading it will help (it did with ASOFIAF) but I am almost afraid to have the same reactions.

    Don’t feel bad about the emotional roller coaster. I think I spent half the book in tears. They came back when I watched the movie. Even thinking about what happened has me tearing up at work.

  4. I found that the third book was a very weak ending to the series. The first and second books built up a huge story that the last book just didn’t live up to. It also made me very unhappy to see just how sad of a character Katniss became. All throughout that book she seems to be going through the motions and trying to hide from anything and everything she can as she mopes. The ending was such a let down too. She’d been having the internal conflict between Peeta and Gale since the very beginning, and instead of actively picking one she just tells herself she can’t be with Gale because of Prim. She didn’t choose to be with Peeta but instead went with her only choice. Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t find the last book to be very good.

  5. I read all the books on some transatlantic flights I had for work…I think my biggest complaint about the third book is the repetition. So many shots of her shooting the propaganda shots unfolding in the same way over and over.

    I actually thought the best part of mockingjay was the way that she completely and utterly fell apart. In the end she isn’t special in a way that puts her above being crushed by going through all of the physical, emotional, and psychological torture she endured as a political pawn. Sure, she’s a good shot. And she’s also brave and fiercely loyal to her family and close friends. Those are all nice qualities.

    But there are no real mockingjays. There are no singular, superb individuals who can rise above their circumstances unscathed. There are only manufactured images, ideals made in the service of manipulating others (whether to noble or horrific ends). Behind such ideals are nothing more than human beings, and those human beings pay a steep price.

    Her circumstances are extraordinary but she is not. Because no one is. Then again, this isn’t a ‘bad’ message because, more or less no one goes through her circumstances and so no one has reason to be as devastated and hopeless as she is.

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