WARNING: If you have not read The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, do NOT read this review. SPOILER ALERT!
Rating: 3 out of 5 (the ending itself: 1 out of 5)
If you’re like me, you rushed right into Mockingjay because Catching Fire left on such a cliffhanger. Katniss destroyed the arena by shooting a weak spot in the force-field, and then was rescued by Haymitch and the District 13 rebels. Unfortunately, Peeta was captured by the Capitol, and District 12 was obliterated in retaliation. Now the finale documents Katniss’ journey to rally the districts together, save Peeta, and kill President Snow. Sounds hard enough, until she starts doubting the rebels’ motives and questioning whether she’s being manipulated yet again.
It was extremely difficult for me to process this novel. I couldn’t sleep last night, because my mind was whirring with reflection. I decided that I have two opinions, one for the majority of the book and the other for the ending (the last 50 pages or so).
First, I enjoyed most of Mockingjay. Like the previous two in the series, I was riveted to the story. I had to be dragged away from it. I cared about the characters and wanted the best for all of them. The fear over what was happening to Peeta drove me just as crazy as Katniss, and I was equally as impatient to end the war and breath a well-deserved sigh of victory.
Well, that sigh of victory never came. As soon as the rebels I loved started dying off (especially Finnick), I knew that something was wrong. And when Prim was killed, I felt that any hope for poetic justice was also burnt to a crisp. This whole time I waited for Katniss to find her courage and bring Panem into a golden age, but I was sorely disappointed.
And before you start arguing that that was Collins’ whole point, that war destroys happy endings, that life isn’t fair, JUST STOP. I don’t want to hear it. I never said I needed a cliche happy ending, but I did need a sense of closure. Collins dangled hope in our faces, and then cruelly jerked it away at the end. I get it, war sucks, but there are books out there that address that message and still manage to leave the reader satisfied.
Case in point, Harry Potter. Imagine if the entire series built up to this epic battle between Harry and Voldemort, and then instead of destroying the villain from the inside out via Horcrux, Harry becomes hospitalized while Voldemort dies from choking on his own laugh. Harry misses the entire climax of the war, and when he wakes up, Ron’s dead, all his friends are shipped off to different countries, and he hooks up with Ginny not out of true love but because there’s nothing else better to do. Oh, and then he’s coerced into reproducing, bringing his children into a world that you feel hasn’t quite learned its lesson.
THAT’S HOW THE HUNGER GAMES ENDED.
If you’re not pissed, then either you enjoy feeling like a Dementor just sucked all the happiness out of your life or you don’t require enough from an author. I’ve loved every minute of the series, but just because Collins decided to take the “Sorry, life’s not rainbows and butterflies” escape route, I regret recommending this series to everyone around me. I would never wish that depression and frustration on anybody, but if you’ve already started reading the trilogy, hurry up and finish it so you can move on with your life.
I’ve read reviews by other hurt readers, and I agree with their points. Katniss was a total weakling in this novel: where was the girl on fire who defied the Capitol in her first games? Instead we get a girl who’s medicated and out of the loop most of the time. Sure, she’s only 17, but she had absolutely no agency whatsoever. In the end, she’s shoved back to District 12 while more corrupted adults tell her what to do, even who to choose–since Gale’s shipped off so unceremoniously to District 2 you don’t have to time to react.
I know that Katniss would pick Peeta regardless, after Gale most likely murdered her sister due to his obsession with violence. But it’s a default choice, like all the others she makes in Mockingjay. I understand that nobody would ever be the same after experiences like hers, but then you pull a Frodo and travel to a place where your pain won’t affect others, where you can live in true peace. Could you imagine Frodo marrying some hobbit and having kids like someone normal, after all he’s been through? (And yes, this argument also applies to Harry Potter, as I didn’t particularly like the Epilogue in Deathly Hallows either. But at least there will never be another Voldemort…I can’t say another President Snow or Coin wouldn’t rise again in Panem).
I also agree with readers who say that this series should have never been written in first person. Katniss is a pretty boring character in Mockingjay, and I would’ve appreciated insight into Peeta, Gale, even Prim, Johanna, or Finnick. I missed out on the end of the war because Katniss got herself turned into a fire-mutt–a rather lousy attempt to wrap things up. I couldn’t even cry over characters’ deaths, because the story wasn’t emotional enough to draw out my sympathy.
Overall, Mockingjay had redeeming qualities, unlike Meyer’s Breaking Dawn, but I felt extremely cheated anyway. I went to bed in a deep depression, but woke up angry. How dare Collins do this to her fanbase! In fact, I actually wouldn’t mind if the movie producers went in a completely different direction with this novel, because I know I would.
If you want a story about a corrupt alternate universe with characters that pull at your heart-strings and a story that changes your life in a sorrowful, but satisfying way, read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro expresses true human emotion without sugarcoating it like Meyer or hacking it to pieces like Collins, and because of that, he is one of the authors whom I admire the most.
I’ll continue to look forward to The Hunger Games film, but with less excitement than before, because now I know how it will all end. I know I’ve ranted quite a bit, but I’d love to hear what you all think, whether you agree with me or not. Just don’t tell me to give it a second chance, because I promise you I won’t be reading this series again.