I seem to be the exception to the rule for this series. Instead of loving The Hunger Games and finding myself steadily more disappointed by the second and third book, I had my doubts about the first book in the series. Admittedly, I did not think Catching Fire was perfect either, but at least the first half of the book addressed those questions that I felt were missing in the first book. Now, I was prepared to be disappointed by the third book, as most people were. But, in a funny way, I think Mockingjay might have strengthened my enjoyment of the series as a whole. Certainly, it had its weaknesses, but at the same time, I may have liked the third book best. At the very least, reading this was what I needed to appreciate The Hunger Games more.
[spoilers for the series as a whole, including Mockingjay]
In Mockingjay revolution comes to Panem. Hiding in District 13, Katniss needs to decide if she will accept the role of the Mockingjay, to rally the resistance to fight against the Capitol. With every act of defiance, she might endanger the life of Peeta, who has been captured by the Capitol during the end of the 75th Hunger Games. Trying to navigate life in a district that is not her own, carrying a huge responsibility, and also trying to keep everyone she loves, her family, Gale, Peeta, safe, Katniss grows up in Mockingjay. Not necessarily in a good way, as growing up in violence leaves scars. But if anything, Mockingjay comes closest to tackling questions about totalitarianism, resistance, personal and political allegiances, gender politics, and class inequalities, in a realistic and unsettling manner.
If I was not all that sure if a comparison between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Chaos Walking books was fair before, I realised while reading Mockingjay that it finally lives up to the more complex questions tackled in Patrick Ness’ trilogy. Much of what I loved about The Ask and the Answer in particular can be found in this final book of Collins’ trilogy. I personally still prefer Chaos Walking, and always will. I am afraid that this will be a debate with no end if it is ever started.. What I meant to say is that I can see how The Hunger Games trilogy might mean to some what Ness’ books do to me.
I am still not sure if it is really Katniss growing up as a character, or Collins realising the full potential of her world building in this book. But does it really matter? I simply love that the second and third book slowly make up for what I felt was missing in the first. And I am happy to report that this includes the somewhat strange relationship dynamic of Peeta-Katniss-Gale. The manipulation, the expectation of feelings and interactions with boys are addressed through Katniss confusion.
And this is where we come to why the triangle did not bother me in Mockingjay. Perhaps it was because I was prepared to dislike it. But really, as I have discussed with Amy after finishing the third book and seeing the movie, it did not bother me because the triangle can be read along thematic lines. Gale as Katniss’ initial home, but also as someone who is very much like her in many aspects. But Gale gets so caught up in the unfairness of the treatment of the districts, that Katniss loses touch with him, since he seems to gallop into a more black and white world where violence is legitimate without question. Something that Katniss, through the games, has come to question from the very beginning. Peeta, on the other hand, is manipulative and initially Katniss does not feel “at home” with him, because he is less straightforward than her, and she feels he had a more privileged life. But then, as the books progress, you see he is busier navigating the pitfalls and subtle sidelines of a world in which an ideology is being fought by another one that is not perfect per se. Katniss comes to this conclusion independently (yay!) but she also comes to the realisation that with that personal growth her and Gale’s worldview no longer mesh well, while she and Peeta, and their believe in love and sacrifice, seem to fit better. Of course, mixed into this is the question of what is real and what is not, what is true and what is not. And with that, I think the triangle might add that extra layer of wanting to put love as the better force opposed to violence. [I apologize if this makes little sense to anyone, I can imagine that it doesn't].
Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was that it has no clean aftermath. There are consequences to almost every decision made by the characters in the book. And there is emotional damage that is portrayed as never going away.
One thing I did find less convincing in the novel was the episode when Katniss and co fight their way through the Capitol. In a way, by setting the city up as another arena, sure, the books come full circle. But did it make it more convincing? I am not sure. There is something easier about suspending believe when it comes to mutts and traps when it is an isolated liminal arena, not so much when it is an actual city. Perhaps that was the very thing Collins was trying to get across: desperate times call for desperate measures, violent regimes retain their power through more violence, etcetera, but something felt a little off during parts of these sequences.
There is one thing I am trying to forget. One thing that I wish Katniss had not done. The go ahead on the last Hunger Games. Why make children pay for the crimes of their parents or their regime? I thought the whole point of the horror of the Hunger Games was that out of everyone the Capitol punished, it were children. This is where I felt Katniss should have stood up to Coin. Of course, I am reading the aftermath, the killing of Coin, as Katniss final rebellion and want to believe that with that, there will be no final Hunger Games.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I had problems with parts of it, mostly at the beginning. I also did not love the prose at all times. But Mockingjay, despite having weaknesses of its own, made me appreciate the trilogy as a whole more. And I feel more confident now, on having read Mockingjay, that I will reread The Hunger Games, and perhaps, enjoy it all the more for knowing what is to come.
Other opinions: I am a little lazy today knowing that there is an endless supply of posts on this book. Instead, I will direct you to Fyrefly‘s book blog search engine. The results for posts on Mockingjay can be found here.
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