The Fire Fizzles: My Thoughts on Mockingjay

I first picked up Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games because the buzz around it was too loud to ignore. As a young adult writer, it’s important for me to stay up to date on trends in my genre and the Hunger Games was definitely a trend. It also felt like it was being marketed as the anti-Twilight and I was curious about what our culture would turn to after being obsessed with the supernatural.

“Like” isn’t a very good word to describe how I felt about the first book. Dystopian novels aren’t written to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside so it would be a little voyeuristic to say you “enjoy” them.  “Respect” is a much better word. It was similar to when I read Ender’s Game: heavy, gripping, and complex.

P.S. Yes, I’m excited about The Hunger Games movie. I’m not sure if I’ll watch it, though, because it will probably be very violent and possibly horrific. It was scary enough reading the book, I might not be able to take seeing those gory deaths on screen. We shall see. The author has experience with television and has written the screenplay, so I have high hopes that the movie will be well done.

WARNING: Major Hunger Games spoilers below. I’m about to discuss the details of the final book, so if you haven’t read the entire trilogy yet, turn back now!

(And also, if you’re not planning on reading any of the books, this probably won’t interest you.)

Favorite things about the series

1.  The importance of mercy, innocence, and forgiveness.

From book one, Katniss isn’t just fighting against the Capitol, she’s fighting against everyone (especially herself) who wants revenge. If you fight dirty like the enemy, you will become evil like the enemy. Heroism is about doing the right thing, even if doing the right thing might lose the war. And there is honor in remorse too. When Katniss fails to show mercy, she is haunted by the mistake.

However, Katniss isn’t supposed to be the model hero of the series. That award goes to Peeta, who seems to never waver in his capacity for selflessness. Even though there is nothing wrong with Gale’s relationship with Katniss (in fact, it’s a heck of a lot less messy than her and Peeta), Gale doesn’t get the girl because he never learns that “an eye for an eye” mentality isn’t okay.

2. Suzanne Collins’ minor characters (especially those you initially do not like)

THIS is what made the series worth reading. Hunger Games has all these characters who look flat or shallow at first glance. Seriously, did any of you immediately like Cinna, the prep team, Boggs, Effie Trinket, or Finnick Odair? No, of course not! They start as clichés, but Collins is such a masterful writer, she transforms them into deep and downright loveable people! My favorite character of the series is Finnick because I was just blown away by how many layers his character has.  I’ve never been so surprised by a character  before! (And the best part is that he’s never a love interest for Katniss.)  Heck, by book 3, Haymitch went from one of my least favorite characters to my second favorite of the entire series. Now if Ms. Collins could only restrain herself from killing so many of them off!

3. It matters why you kiss someone

Peeta has the unconditional love thing down pat, which is great, but my favorite thing about Gale is that he’s smart. He wants Katniss, but refuses to take advantage of her confusion. He knows that until she makes up her mind, kissing will only make things worse. I was so impressed when he pointed out that Katniss never kisses him unless she sees him in pain. He wants something real from her that is based on more than her attempts to alleviate her guilt. He’s not perfect, but I was very impressed that the author would give a character such a mature understanding of love. I’m not saying Peeta isn’t mature. He’s simply more willing to accept Katniss instead of calling her out when she needs it.

Alright, now the negative stuff!

Let me start by saying that there was only one character I liked less at the end of the series than at the beginning. Who would that be?

Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss starts out a little rough around the edges. She’s a scrapper who doesn’t trust anyone and with good reason! For the first two books I was sympathetic with her caginess. I mean, this is a world where everyone is working an angle and looking out for themselves, right? The problem is that by the end of Catching Fire, we know who Katniss’ true friends are and she has a LOT of them! But Katniss doesn’t learn to trust her friends no matter how many times they prove themselves. She is always convinced she has to look out for herself or no one else will. Herself. First. Before anyone else.

Oh, sure, she keeps putting her life on the line, but why? Revenge and guilt. Her motivations are completely self-centered. She’s fighting so she doesn’t lose more friends and so she doesn’t have more lives on her conscience. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me, though. I mean, you need a personal element to fight a war. While it’s annoying to see Katniss sulk around in District 13, when she finally comes to conclusions about the war, they’re usually the right ones. The problem is that her self-centeredness bleeds over into her personal life.

 

For starters, it bugs me that Katniss learns to care about so many people (see all those in #2 above), but she never really tells them she cares. She is a horrible communicator. She keeps wanting to apologize or show appreciation for someone, but fails. Actions speak louder than words, Sweetheart. And just because WE the readers know you care doesn’t mean that your poor friends do!

However, that’s just a small complaint.

I lost sympathy with Katniss when Peeta returned hijacked and she ran away. By that time, I knew Katniss was in love with Peeta and not Gale. While I like both Peeta and Gale, clearly Peeta should be with Katniss because  being around him helps her to be a better person. Katniss has a lot of fear and Peeta is the only person who teaches her to trust–not just him, but to trust her other friends too.

But…BLAGRAARGH! After all the crap he’s put up with from her, she decides she can’t handle him being less-than-perfect? Ummm, he actually has REALLY good reasons for distrusting her. Sure, the Capitol lied to him about lots of things, but Katniss did use him over and over again. Has she ever stopped using him? Only a few times in book 2, which were really good! I wanted to see Katniss build off of that progress of thinking about Peeta before herself. But Mockingjay takes us back to square 1 and never goes further.

I understand she’s afraid Peeta will try to kill her, but Katniss doesn’t just run away, she makes up her mind to give up on him. Even after Haymitch reminds her that if she’d been hijacked, Peeta would have stayed. She feels guilty, but does she go back to rescue him? Heck no! And when Peeta comes to the camp, she still shuts him out. She abandons him and never repairs that broken relationship. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does she ever apologize? Oh, right, she was too busy trying to kill herself after she shot Coin. There is no hint of her love when she kisses Peeta the last time. It’s just so he doesn’t go berserk on the team. It’s a kiss out of desperation. While it might remind Peeta of his love for Katniss, it just confirms Gale’s words about Katniss only offering kisses to guys in pain.

Oh, and how about that love triangle? Who’s Katniss going to choose and, more importantly, why? According to Gale, she’ll choose the guy she can’t survive without. This is a pretty good assessment, but he’s ultimately wrong. Lucky Katniss doesn’t really have to choose at all! The author brings up all these important questions that need to be answered before Katniss can be in a healthy relationship. Then the author doesn’t even make Katniss answer any of them! Katniss puts off choosing for so long that the decision is basically made for her. Gale is accidentally an accessory in the explosion that kills Prim. Even he acknowledges that it’s sort of a deal breaker. Katniss never has to figure out why she shouldn’t be with Gale. She never has to realize why Peeta is a better fit. The author offers her a tidy little get-out-of-conflict-free card. Katniss ends up with the right guy *sigh* for all the wrong reasons. And I’m sorry, but that is not good enough for me.

I wanted to see Katniss grow as a character. For her to break out of her “woe is me” bubble and start to deserve the love and respect of her friends. Haymitch was so right when he said that Katniss could live a hundred lives and never deserve Peeta. It would have helped if she’d at least tried.

Rant over.

P.P.S. These are just my opinions, so please feel free to leave comments disagreeing. Let’s get a discussion going, guys!

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeyna Grace
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 15:40:50

    You make some really good points here. But overall, It is a lovable series.

    Reply

  2. Jeyna Grace
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 15:41:20

    You make some really good points here. But overall, It is a lovable series!

    Reply

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