Oh man – how the hell am I going to review this book without getting all spoilery? I mean, I managed to read the first two books without getting into too much detail (which, disclaimer: I did in fact reread both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire leading up to Mockingjay, but I chose not to re-review them because hi, it is December 30th and counting Mockingjay, I have four reviews to write, so let’s not rehash old history, ‘kay?). I also read them at the same time that their respective movies were coming out, and I didn’t want to really get into depth with the plot so the movies wouldn’t be ruined for people.
But Mockingjay … I mean, the end of the film saga doesn’t come out until next year, and while I feel comfortable discussing some of the bigger plot points, the ending is super-contentious — both in what happens, and the opinions about the ending (I’m talking about the epilogue here, specifically).
Okay, here’s how I’m going to do this: I’m going to talk about the plot as much as I feel comfortable doing; then I’m gonna discuss in vague terms how I felt about the ending, the epilogue, and the overall atmosphere in the series. And then, I’ll open the comments up for further discussion (not that they’re ever closed or anything, I’m not that person and also I don’t know how to do that). So all of my book-loving friends who have read this book and want to discuss the feels or lack thereof – comments will be open for business.
So Mockingjay picks up a couple of months after the events of Catching Fire. Oh, right: spoilers for Catching Fire. And by extension, The Hunger Games. Caveat lector.
Katniss’s arrow has shattered the arena and Plutarch Heavensbee and Haymitch are taking her, Finnick, Beetee, and the survivors of District 12 to District 13, who are in the midst of planning their rebellion against the Capitol. Because once Katniss blew the arena up, basically the Capitol bombed District 12 all to hell, and it’s only through Gale’s quick thinking that a few hundred inhabitants were able to be rescued. Peeta and Johanna Mason were captured by the Capitol in the aftermath of the destruction of the arena. And as if that weren’t enough, Katniss is dealing with some major PTSD.
District 13 is severely regimented, and she has a very hard time adjusting to her new surroundings. President Coin, the leader of District 13, wants Katniss to be the symbol of the revolution; the Mockingjay. It takes her a while to agree – a part of her just wants to fade into the background. But she manages to negotiate pardons for the remaining victors that were captured by the Capitol in exchange for her likeness as the Mockingjay. Coin and Plutarch try to film Katniss in some propaganda films, but she’s not a good actress.
Enter: Haymitch Abernathy, who has become my favorite character in this series, both movies and books. He takes control of the Mockingjay situation and reminds everyone that Katniss’s power comes from moments where she’s unscripted – volunteering to take Prim’s place in the first Games, singing for Rue, etc. So the team drops Katniss, Gale, and a camera crew in District 8 in an attempt to get raw footage. When the Capitol bombs a hospital, Katniss’s reaction is extremely powerful and the propo (their nickname for the propaganda films) they create captures everything the team had hoped.
Eventually, Haymitch tells Katniss that a small team of District 13 soldiers – including Gale, who has quickly risen through the ranks, clearly having an affinity for soldierdom – has invaded the Capitol in an attempt to rescue the captive victors. Good news! They are successful! Bad news! Peeta’s been “hijacked,” and now he has an uncontrollable urge to kill Katniss whenever he sees her.
This is obviously very disheartening and horrifying to Katniss – the idea that the Capitol has taken almost everything away from her makes her withdraw even more. Prim manages to figure out a way to try to reverse the hijacking, but it isn’t going to completely remove the conditioning. For the rest of his life, Peeta will need to get confirmation that an event was real or not real.
Aaaand I think that’s all the detail I can get into. These events are covered in the first Mockingjay film, so I’m okay talking about these parts in relative detail. Let me scan through the rest: battle battle battle, death, death, sad, death, so much sobbing, and then Panem manages to overthrow the Capitol and Katniss ends up with Peeta.
Now, about those deaths: one of them (and no, I’m not going to say who) was horrifying. A part of me really can’t understand why Ms. Collins decided to have that individual die, because it’s awful. (Obviously, it’s not Peeta.) On the other hand, the last half of the book takes place on a battlefield, These characters are at war, and if there’s one rule of war, it’s that there will always be needless civilian deaths. And needless soldier deaths. War is not easy, and it’s not clean, and not everyone gets out alive. This particular death proves that, but it doesn’t make it any less sad.
There’s a brief moment that I’d like to discuss. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Capitol, it is suggested that the new political power hold a final Hunger Games, this time starring the children of prominent Capitol inhabitants, including the grandchildren of President Snow. The final Games is put up to a vote for the remaining Victors, and if the Victors vote for it, it will go through. I was hoping that Katniss wouldn’t vote for the final Games, but she raises her hand. I’m not sure if it was because she was searching for revenge or some sort of justice, or if she had already decided to do what she ends up doing and was just biding her time, or what, but I had hoped that she wouldn’t vote ‘yes’ because by approving the final Games, it’s like she’s validating the old regime.
Although the more I think about it, the more I’m of the mind that she had already decided on her actions and was just biding her time to throw the new President off the scent.
Finally, I think that brings us to the love “triangle” and its resolution, but I know that there are some definite ~feels about this out there, and none of them are fluffy. *sigh* I had always liked Katniss and Peeta. I liked that Peeta loved Katniss for all of her flaws, and I liked how Peeta made Katniss happy, and a more demonstratively-caring individual — especially when she didn’t realize the power he had over her. And I liked how, as the series progressed, she begrudged him that power less and less.
But now Peeta is, for lack of a better term, broken. Hell, everyone’s broken, but Peeta isn’t even sure what’s real anymore. As for Gale, he had assumed that he and Katniss were endgame (made more complicated by the star-crossed lovers plot Haymitch cooked up during the first Games), and even when it looked like Peeta was out of the picture, I felt that Gale still resented Katniss for her (admittedly confused) feelings. And no one should be with someone who resents them for how they feel.
So yes, Katniss ends up with Peeta. And it’s far from perfect, but while I’m not exactly happy, I’m not exactly mad, either? And let’s face it, you’d know if I were mad.
Where does this leave us? Well – I really enjoyed the series – more than I thought I would, given the atmosphere and worldview of the books. I really enjoy the movies, as well, and feel that they hue closely to the books.
And while I still enjoy Katniss, I am Team Haymitch Abernathy 4-EVA.
Grade for Mockingjay: 3.5 stars