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