I’m not generally a fan of dystopian fiction. I’m not really sure why either because I enjoy dystopian movies; but after seeing the ending to Catching Fire (the movie was fabulous, quick, but good), I wanted to know what happens next. I started the third book in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, last night, and after finishing it, I’m conflicted on my feelings.
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.
It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans — except Katniss.
The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay — no matter what the personal cost.
Mockingjay definitely ends the series on an emotional note, but not really until the very end. I can see the trauma both Katniss and Peeta goes through, but really none of that should be surprising to anyone. Surviving two Hunger Games should seriously mess with anyone, and expecting differently would be stupid. So it wasn’t until the end, and that tragedy in the Capital City Square, that I really started to get emotional. I’ve heard differently from other people, but I’m not as invested in the series either. I haven’t read Hunger Games or Catching Fire – I’ve merely seen the movies. So take this assessment with a grain of salt. Maybe I would’ve been more emotionally connected if I have read the previous books rather than just seen the movies.
But that seems a little divergent. The ending of Catching Fire definitely gives clues as to what Mockingjay is all about, but honestly, I’m not entirely sold on it either. Katniss, and all the Victors, go from being used as sacrificial lambs to appease the capitalist snobs to whoring their likeness for the rebel cause. Yes, the illusion that Katniss has the option of not being the face of the rebellion is given, but even she knows she has no choice. She’s still a slave to the machinations of someone else who will simply toss her aside as soon as she’s no longer useful.
While it’s obvious that Katniss is no longer the girl she was in Hunger Games (appropriately so), the change in her doesn’t do her any favors. She went from a strong and determined fighter to a broken shell who’s expected to play a role. I get it, I do and this change makes sense for what she’s gone through; but Katniss goes from a character with such depth to a one dimensional figure head. Maybe this is a case of the movie personalization adding something to the character, making her more engaging than what’s in the book, but I have to be honest, it wasn’t Katniss that kept me reading Mockingjay. I wanted to see how the rebellion played out.
The addition of District 13 also makes me pause as it seems like it was there, not to help people escape from a cruel tyrant, but to take advantage of adding more genetic code to their own populace. Collins even gives this idea in the early appearance of the District; and you can’t tell me that President Coin wouldn’t have turned into another tyrant once she succeeded in toppling the Capital regime. District 13 wrote off the people of the other 12 districts when they agreed to play dead, so bringing them in as the leaders of a rebellion just rubbed me wrong from the beginning. Revolution should begin and end with the people affected. I can honestly see dissent rising if Coin had tried to implement District 13’s strict culture into the rest of Panem, making people wonder if they only took part in the rebellion just so they could get their hands on the other districts resources. Katniss and Finnick were correct in their assessment – the rebellion was just another Game, where allies could quickly turn and nothing is as it seems.
However, even with all these thoughts running through my head, Mockingjay was still a captivating read. It was hard for me to put the story aside, to concentrate on other things and not drown myself in the words.
One thing that really stood out to me was the relationship between Katniss, Gale and Peeta. Yes, the idea of a love triangle is there, and while Collins could have gone with this, there was never really one. For one, the Hunger Games is still a young adult novel, so there’s definitely nothing more than a slight kiss here or there. But while the chemistry, the passion, the romance was missing, there was still that romantic element building. You can see the relationship Katniss has with each man growing and changing as she herself grows. I’ll tell you this right now, Katniss doesn’t get a happy ever after. There’s no way for her to get one. She’s psychologically incapable of it. She’s been broken and witness to too many horrors; but she’s not left alone either. She never chooses whom she wants to be with, but her relationship grows organically from friendship and isn’t forced into place.
After having seen both of the movies, I’m not really racing to read the previous books, but I will be racing to the theatre when Mockingjay hits next year. I really enjoyed the two movie versions, so I’m going to be interested to see what they do and how they transform Mockingjay to the screen.