Broken dreams: a review of Mockingjay

“Fire is catching!” I am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a word. “And if we burn, you burn with us!”

MockingjayI knew people had complaints about Mockingjay, the third and final Hunger Games book, but wow. What a way to let down your readers.

(Warning: SPOILERS!)

Recently, when I reviewed the previous book, Catching Fire, I discussed who I wanted Katniss to end up with. Well, I got my wish, but it wasn’t the story that I hoped for.

Catching Fire was all about gathering the strength to fight back against the Capitol. The rebellion, for Katniss at least, began as soon as she heard that District 12 had been destroyed. But that energy and hope is washed away in Mockingjay, in which author Suzanne Collins reduces Katniss to a shadow of her former self — with no chance of repair.

I feel like Collins kept writing horrible things until she reached a point where she didn’t know how to stop — how to save her main character from the total destruction of her soul and ideals. Katniss, for most of the book, is traumatized. Peeta’s in the Capitol’s grasp, and her home is gone. And District 13 is no heaven. Things get worse from there.

Let me take a minute to talk about what I did like. Katniss forges new, closer friendships with Finnick, once so abrasive and now so sensitive and caring and lost without his Annie, and even Johanna, who was tortured in President Snow’s care, finds understanding and strength in Katniss, who receives the same from her. Mockingjay isn’t about rebellion as much as it’s about recovery — hanging on even when the present and future are dire, and you’re not sure how to survive.

What bothers me about Mockingjay isn’t the countless deaths or shitty turn of events involving Peeta (at first I thought Collins was going to use that twist as a way to push him out of the picture and force Gale on Katniss, but thankfully, she didn’t stoop to that). This is war. Horrible things happen. No, what upsets me is that Katniss is never given a true chance to recover: She’s broken at the beginning of the book and even more damaged by the end.

But — and I’m about to reveal a huge spoiler here — what really irks me is how hypocritical it was of Katniss to agree to another Games played by the Capitol’s children. In Prim’s name. Prim would never want that. She’s a healer. And I can’t believe that Katniss, who blames herself for every life lost because of what she did with those berries, would want more death after everything that’s happened. After she chewed out Gale for devising what she saw as heartless traps and plans that blurred the difference between them and the Capitol. And for believing that Peeta was right: that humans are horrible because we use children to settle our differences. Isn’t that what she’s doing?

I believed Snow, too, when he said that it wasn’t his bomb that killed the children and ended the war — that took Prim away from Katniss. And Gale’s admission afterward all but confirmed it. But still, Katniss chose to punish more children, more families, for no reason but revenge against those who didn’t ever deserve it.

That’s the only moment where I felt Katniss did something out of character, or that what happened shouldn’t have. Because even Prim’s death made a strange sort of sense: Protecting her is what set everything in motion, and losing her is what stopped it. In a way, that was the end of Katniss’s world. For everyone else, it was the beginning of a new era. But Katniss isn’t part of it.

It’s fitting, then, that I felt like the whole world abandoned her and Peeta and Haymitch after the war. That they thanked their Mockingjay and their heroes by sending them into exile — into the graveyard of District 12, where their nightmares live. The old world. It was wrong of them. Even Haymitch and Katniss’s mother seemed to abandon her in the end. Only Peeta came back. And together, they did the only thing there was to: rebuild. Try to survive. Because life goes on.

So I got the ending I wanted, in a sense: Katniss and Peeta together. She knew she couldn’t survive without him because of the gift he gave her every day. Of joy. Of optimism. Of believing things can be better.

Collins is, as always, the master of cliffhangers and gripping prose. But I think she failed Katniss — and, ultimately, failed us. Katniss deserved better. We deserved more.

Grade: D

7 thoughts on “Broken dreams: a review of Mockingjay

  1. I agree that Katniss agreeing to another Hunger Games was out of character. But with all the other stuff… sure we all like a happy ending. But considering the world that they’re living in, or even considering this would have happened in our world, her ending isn’t all that bad. Usually heroes get the boot and are left to rot, they pay the ultimate price for others’ well being.
    She deserved more, I agree. But one doesn’t always get what one deserves. In war and harsh realities like hers this is usually how things turn out. I liked the ending as it wasn’t that Hollywood-ish. Everyone doesn’t get a happy ending, and considering how things went in the previous two books, I honestly didn’t expect a happy ending either. She gets to heal slowly and this is as happy as she will get, scarred and all.

    1. If I recall correctly Katniss did agree to a new Hunger Game, but ultimately killed the one suggesting it, in other words she officially agreed to it but made sure it’d never go through, since she diagreed and though no one ever would have to experience the same thing. I might be misremembering but I recall her disagreeing anyhow, if not because of her words then her actions.

      1. You’re right: Given the nature of the book, a happy ending is probably out of the question. This is war; bad stuff happens to everyone, and Collins shouldn’t have tried to sugarcoat that. I didn’t expect a *happy* ending, per se, as much as I expected one that did right by Katniss. I just really felt that Collins spent too much time destroying her character and not showing that she was still strong and resilient in this book.

        And ooh! That’s a good point, about her killing the one who suggested the final Games. I didn’t think of that. I just found the whole thing a bit muddled. I’ve had conversations with people where they argue that either Katniss was just out of her mind in that moment or that maybe Collins was making a point about how no one is immune to the flaws of humanity — that Katniss has become a bit of what she despised with that decision — but in any case, I think the end result was a bit mishandled.

  2. I’ve only read this book once and it was a couple years ago, so many of the finer points have become foggy. What I do recall is an overwhelming sense of disappointment in the whole story. Maybe it’s because the first book in the trilogy was such a unique, gripping thriller, and book 2 wasn’t a bad sequel. I loved Katniss – what a likable heroine. And Peeta was absolutely darling. Mockingjay, to me, was one book too many in the series. I felt the premise had been stretched far too thin. After a while the whole plot seemed so “out there” and I could no longer suspend belief. Katniss wasn’t the strong heroine I so admired anymore. Collins turned her into a basket case and left it at that. She never really recovered, unless you count the watered-down epilogue. Probably the biggest let down was President Snow’s demise. I was hoping it would be Katniss’s doing, after everything she’d been through in the previous 2 novels, but we didn’t even get that.
    Great review – I share your opinion entirely.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Gwen! It seems a lot of people share this disappointment with the book, for one reason or another. It’s been a few couple weeks now since I read Mockingjay, and honestly, I don’t want to let the characters go. I’m two books past this series now, and I miss Katniss. I miss her voice as a protagonist. Even though she fell apart, I still miss her, because I’m still hoping she’ll pick herself back up. You’re right that the epilogue doesn’t quite do it.

      You’re spot on, I think, when you said The Hunger Games shouldn’t have lasted three books. Even Catching Fire rehashed the first novel a bit (with another run-through of the Games). What a letdown.

  3. I always interpreted that scene as a tacit agreement between Haymitch and Katniss to go along with Coin’s suggestion, in order to keep her and her followers in the dark about whatever was going to happen. She knew she wouldn’t be allowed to proceed with Snow’s execution if she didn’t agree with what Coin wanted. Even though it’s presented as occurring in the heat of the moment, I always thought the seeds of Coin’s assassination were planted in that very meeting. And those words – ‘For Prim’, echo the same thing, since by now, she knows that Snow isn’t responsible – so it’s a subtle reminder to Coin about what is about to happen. I don’t think another hunger game was ever really on the cards, except in the minds of the District 13 leaders.

    I was shocked in my first reading of the book with the amount of tragedy heaped upon Katniss and with how she is damaged, irrevocably, by the end. And somehow, I appreciated that Collins had the guts to do it and not script a conventional happy ending – something I have never forgiven Rowling for. As someone commented before – this is war, and bad things happen to people in wars, and being a protagonist should not render you immune.

    I really enjoyed reading your review, though I didn’t agree with some of the points in it. Thanks for sharing this :)

  4. I actually really appreciated that Katniss was left a shell of her former self (poor girl). Any lighter of an ending and it would have felt unrealistic. It truly seems as if Katniss has developed some sort of PTSD from all that she’s been through, and she’s been through some truly horrific and psychologically scarring things. She’s not just going to recover from that so quickly, and I appreciate that Collins showed that with how she left Katniss off.
    Also, I completely agree with your assessment of Katniss and Peeta and Gale. Gale and Katniss are childhood friends, hunting partners, and practically family, but Peeta and Katniss has something Gale doesn’t – going through not just one, but two games together while struggling to handle the aftermath of both. Peeta and Katniss survived together, survived because of each other, and learned to depend instinctively on each other, and sort of developed a bond like one between soldiers in a war. Peeta is the only one who can empathize with her, instead of sympathizing with her, and he’s the only one who shares that trauma and memory with her. Romance and love are actually kind of irrelevant in this triangle – regardless of whether or not she loves him, Katniss would probably go insane without Peeta. This is no typical love triangle, and I’m glad.

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