Mockingjay Discussion 14: Hunger Games Formula

There are howls coming from Hunger Games fandom that Ms. Collins left the rails of her story in the series finale and wrote something of a treatise about war rather than the heart-warming Young Adult romance we got in Games and Fire.

I understand that response. But Ms. Collins did not leave her story formula when writing Mockingjay. In fact, the critical things that happen before and in the Games and Quell arenas happen in Mockingjay‘s story line as well. She is telling us that this “real world” slaughter of innocents and the “artificial world” nightmare of children dying in the Capitol’s Hunger Games don’t differ except in our seeing one as acceptable and the other as unacceptable.

Here are the formula story points of Games and Fire that are hidden but echoed in Mockingjay:

Katniss starts out in District 12 —

Mockingjay opens in the devastated coal district, which Katniss has insisted on visiting to regain her bearings. She returns with family tokens, to include a pet cat.

She is taken against her will to the artificial world of the Games’ sponsor —

Katniss is only in District 12 by special permission and for a brief period of time. She is air-lifted back to District 13, the Mockingjay host of the war starring Katniss that it broadcasts for its political purposes to all of Panem. This war is the Mockingjay equivalent of the Capitol’s Games.

She observes the cruelty of the power holders to those who will not conform

In Games and Fire, Katniss is horrified to meet the Capitol’s slaves, the Avox (Latin for “voiceless”), who are former citizens who have been mutilated and muted for daring to speak out against the regime. In Mockingjay, Katniss discovers that District 13 has their own torture facilities on level 39. Her prep team are being held and cruelly mistreated there for the crime of eating more bread than their allotted allowance.

She makes her choice to resist those in power

In Games, it comes at Rue’s death. In Fire, her decision to stay and fight, not to run away, is a consequence of Gale’s beating. In Mockingjay, she decides to play the role District wants her to after Peeta’s call for a cease-fire. but that is to protect him and the other Victors as much as to fight the Capitol. Her choice to do the right, sacrificial thing comes in District 2, when it response to Haymitch’s prompt, she tells rebels and Capitol members that “These people are not your enemies!” She is, of course, promptly shot (chapter 15, pp. 216-217) for her advocating a cease fire of sorts on her own.

She is prepped by her stylist’s prep team —

Check! The three stooges, sobered by torture, keep the Mockingjay looking good for her close-ups.

She is cloaked by Cinna in a coal costume that is illumined for her anti-Capitol “girl on fire” message —

Cinna is, sadly and unexpectedly, absent from Mockingjay. His place in the story formula, however is book-marked if not satisfied, by her Mockingjay super-hero action-figure battle-costume having been designed by Cinna before his repose. It is, like his costumes in Games and Fire, jet-black.

Katniss  is paraded before all of Panem in her pony-show chariot. She gives an unforgettable performance as the the Girl on Fire

Cinna’s costume in Mockingjay doesn’t come with flames but in this novel’s equivalence of the chariot entrance, the staged exhibition in District 8 for propo filming, Katniss opens fire on the planes that have set the hospital warehouse on fire. In case we missed the fire-on-black connection, she gives her “Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!” philippic.

She takes part in training sessions —

I think her time hunting with Gale above ground are Mockingjay’s equivalents of her training sessions with Peeta in Games and Fire. She gets official commando training alongside Johanna before she goes to the Capitol for the last battle which is the Games replacement in the series finale.

She makes an “I’m not your pawn” statement in her private sessions with the Games Makers —

Her list of terms to President Coin in exchange for her signing on as the rebellion’s Mockingjay is the anti-team player message she sends with arrows into the pig’s mouth and the Seneca Crane dummy.

She goes into the arena with Peeta — and realizes there that she loves him —

In Games Katniss enters the arena with the expectation that she may have to kill Peeta to survive. Peeta is determined to save her and, in this resistance, to demonstrate he is not a Capitol slave. In Fire she and Peeta are allies and committed to the other’s survival. In Mockingjay, Peeta enters the arena convinced he will kill Katniss and she must several times resist the call to kill him. She decides to protect him (chapter 21, p. 302) and gives him a kiss, less out of affection than to achieve an effect (chapter 22, p. 314). Sound familiar?

The Games arena is a nightmare of murderous monsters, machines, and poisons —

Katniss and Finnick joke during their briefings about the pod defenses in the Capitol that they are just going in for their third Hunger Games. In case, the parallel between the fight for the Capitol and the Hunger Games is not that obvious with all its Meat Gringers, Mutt-ations, and serial booby Pod traps, Katniss repeatedly refers to her feelings inside the place as echoes of how she felt in the arena.

She defeats the Games with bow and arrow and by attacking the story parameters —

In Games, Katniss walks away a Victor by sending an arrow into the Career tribute’s face and by her Berry Rebellion. The suicide attempt forced the chief Gamesmaker to choose between losing face because the children died on their own terms rather than those of the Hunger Games or because more than one tribute survived.

In Fire, Katniss uses her bow and arrow to destroy the literal and figurative story boundaries by exploding the arena force field and escaping.

In Mockingjay, Katniss sends a lethal shaft into President Coin, the District 13 Gamesmaker-President, for killing Prim and for proposing a Capitol-children Hunger Games to replace the tributes version. She destroys in one shot the woman who was responsible for turning the rebellion into her own Hunger Games and, flushed with success, who was determined to continue their use as a political tool.

She winds up her story by exiting the Capitol miraculously

In Games, she exits under a cloud consequent to the Berry Rebellion, and, in Fire, it’s in a rebel hovercraft. After the assassination in Mockingjay, she leaves the Capitol as a mentally unstable PTSD veteran who was let off on the murder charge through an insanity defense.

So, if Mockingjay really is the third Hunger Games novel and conforms to the story formula in its key points, why does it feel so different?

Three things.

(1) Catty Katniss: In the first two books, Katniss is an innocent girl just fighting to survive and protect her family. In a nutshell, she is a “gothic heroine” and de facto story orphan, for whom the reader sympathizes because of her situation and with whom he identifies because of her being the narrator. We see the story from her perspective and eventually join her because of her likability and our shared experience.

In Mockingjay, her family is safe (we think!) and she volunteers for her entry to the Games/fight in the Capitol. She is as likable as a Career tribute might be. The reader, consequently, does not enter into the story as profoundly in Mockingjay as s/he does in the first two books.

(2) No romance! Peeta is a prince and a saint in Fire and in Games, and, as we identify with Katniss and she falls in love with him despite herself, so do we. President Snow turns Peeta into a mean Mutt-ation of himself, however, in Mockingjay and it isn’t until the very end of the book that we get any of the Katniss-Peeta in love energy back. The story line, consequently, doesn’t engage us as it did in the set-up books.

(3) Good Guy and Bad Guy confusion. In the first books we don’t have to think hard to “remember who the enemy is.” President Snow and the Capitol power holders are the black hats and there is very little about them that we need to understand. Capitol, bad; rebels and tributes, good.

President Snow and the Capitol are still folks we can love to hate in Mockingjay but the saviors of the finish in Fire, namely, District 13, not only don’t seem so good, a lot of the time they look and act like the Gamesmakers in Fire. Geez, the District even has a Capitol Gamesmaker producing their audio-visual spots and master minding the war as a made-for-broadcast studio production.

Games and Fire worked on the surface level because the story points, narrative voice and narrator, and clarity of pro and antagonists worked together to draw us into the surface, to suspend disbelief, and experience the story on the inside. Mockingjay, not so much. Which is a real shame, because I think it has a load of edifying meaning in its allegorical levels (moral, allegorical, and anagogical, about which, more tomorrow) but without that immersion or full entry into the book’s surface story, the reader does not experience these other levels or walk way much changed by that experience.

Your comments and corrections, please.

Comments

  1. I wonder if in time people will have a better reaction to it. I think a lot of the negative reaction is shock. Also, it seems at first glance that adults are responding to it better than the targeted “YA” audience. Not sure if that will hold, but it just seems to be a quick observation.

    I thought the book was very powerful. Personally I can’t wait for your write up about the deeper allegorical meanings.

  2. I agree with your breakdown of the plot pints. I think a lot of the backlash is from people who were engaged in the story due to the love triangle and not the more dystopian elements.

    At first I wasn’t sure I liked the story because of Prim’s death. Prim being behind the barricade and being killed was such a shock hat I sort of finished the book on autopilot. When I went back and reread the ending, I liked the story a lot more. The ending with Peeta was much more satisfying.

    Great analysis. You hit the nail right on the head.

  3. Kristy Claire says

    Totally agree with you about the YA audience, Lynn. The kids seem to be tragically disappointed with the ending and body counts. The adults seem very pleased. A High School reading specialist I know who is using this series for her Reluctant Readers group told me she is extremely happy with the book and the series resolution because “that’s how it should be. That’s reality.”

    I have 4 teenagers. They’re all great kids (if I don’t say so myself). But they’re young and, therefore, inexperienced. They haven’t yet learned that out of hardship comes perseverance, and from perseverance comes character, which is better than shallow bliss any day, in my book anyway. Maybe this is why the adults are more accepting of Mockingjay as a group?
    I know I’ve learned that joy does come out of (or despite of) hardship. I don’t know a lot of kids who get that in this Disney Channel generation.

    “We acquire the strength we have overcome”. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  4. I thought the book powerful & moving too, although i agree with you, John, about why the novel feels different.

    I also think you hit it pretty well on the third point in particular.

  5. I love how you’ve mapped out the trilogy based on plot points. That really helps me digest the events in Mockingjay and fit the finale better into the series as a whole. More than anything, seeing Suzanne Collins’ novels plotted like that makes me praise her careful craft of fiction even more!

    justinai, I completely agree with you about Prim’s death. It was such a shock that the novel really hit a downturn for me at that point and I no longer anticipated reading about the following events. I have yet to re-read; maybe that will make the difference.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    “Geez, the District even has a Capitol Gamesmaker producing their audio-visual spots and master minding the war as a made-for-broadcast studio production.”

    Plutarch is Collins’ own version of producer Stanley Motts in the dark-humor film Wag the Dog, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120885/synopsis. Except that the song doesn’t exist; Brean has a songwriter create (and insert historically into the Library of Congress) the song “Shoe,” even distorting the studo taping to sound like an old 78, and having it pressed as one with an “old” label.

  7. Arabella Figg says

    Oh, and I forgot Mott’s repeated classic line–“It’s not a war, it’s a pagaent!”

  8. Ah. I’m an adult and I loved it, read it cover to cover, felt profoundly moved, and can’t stop thinking about it. Sure I missed Peeta sorely, and yeah it was kind of sad not to have a bit more Peeta/Katniss romance, but I think I loved it more than I expected to.

  9. I think you totally nailed the breakdown. While reading it, I felt it was a completely different book, filled with different characters and essentially it is. The characters have grown up (even Haymitch). So much loss and pain has forced Katniss to become colder and detached. We only see the true Katniss when she is doing something related to Peeta actions. Reflecting back on it now, I can see through to the real character in each of them but it was hard to do while reading it. One thing I wish Collins had explained is how Peeta got burnt. Was it saving Katniss from the flames or trying to help the children… what? My gut tells me he was never far from Katniss, when the explosion happened. And he was the only thing that kept her from throwing herself into that fiery mess burning himself in the process. I also would have liked to see some kind of conclusion for Gale in the epilogue, but (fingers crossed) maybe Collins will develop something for his story.

  10. Wow! Yet another illuminating post. You are absolutely right. Now that I see it, it’s not the structure that is different, but rather that these other (primarily character) elements are. It really is too bad that the book didn’t facilitate the same level of deep immersion.

    Did anyone else get the feeling that she may have gotten so focused on highlighting the aforementioned allegorical and moral meanings so much so that she also, please excuse the cliche, stopped writing “from the heart?” That she ended up kind of beating us over the head with morality lessons rather than drawing us into a narrative and allowing us some flexibility in what we take away from it? That is how it is feeling to me….

  11. My daughter (17) and I just walked around in a daze shell shocked. At first it is just so hard to get over all that death. Cinna? Prim? Madge and her whole family? But I guess that is the point. Thanks so much for this posting putting it all in perspective for us.

    And to follow up a bit on Sarah’s comment….when Collins put Kat and her film crew in the capitol and it all unraveled so horribly, I did think that we had hit the heart of one of her first inspirations, that of seeing reporters embedded with troops at war. That all she felt about the horrors of war and of those who insist on seeing it in a entertaining, or patriotic or in an unreal, detached way was finally coming out and she didn’t want to water it down with any of the ‘heart’ that we felt in the first two books. However, as I reflect on comments I find here on this blog have helped me appreciate what she was doing and pull it all together.

  12. oh and not to mention…Finnick?

  13. @Lor

    I know. I thought Finnick’s death was especially jarring because Collins spends so little time on it. The reader doesn’t really get any time to process his passing. Boggs got more screen time when he passed than Finnick, but I do understand that was mostly because of the pacing of the action.

  14. In war, death comes that quickly. When you find yourself in the middle of a battle you don’t really have time to process it. I think that Finnick’s death gives us a taste of this. I could be wrong, but that is how I perceived it. This is all on the surface level though, so I will be interested to read the next few days posting about the allegorical meaning of things.

  15. Finnick’s death is pre-figured throught Mockingjay by his making nooses out of rope remnants. He is hearing and responding to the call of the man on The Hanging Tree, just as Katniss did as a child when she first learned it; his death, while not dwelt on and sudden, was not unheralded.

  16. Thank you for this post. I may point some friends in this direction since I wasn’t doing the best job of explaining why I thought this book fit with the rest (and why I think it’s the best in the series).

    I agree with your three points about why it has a different feel, but the one about the lack of romance kind of makes me chuckle. (not because it’s on here but because it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. Some people were pretty upset about the loss of Prince Charming Peeta). There’s less romance, but I think there’s a lot more about love. And I thought it was pretty realistic, too. Finnick and Annie’s relationship was done really well. And I liked that he and Haymitch (of all people!) are the ones who help Katniss recognize she should fight to get Peeta back. I think it’s funny that people were so upset they traded the more superficial romantic elements for what turned out to be a story about unconditional love. Maybe I just read it wrong.

    And about Finnick’s death, I think I was just so happy for him and Annie that I didn’t want to see any of the signs that he was going to die. His death was harder for me than Prim’s.

  17. @Kathy- I feel the same way you do regarding the romance in the book… I didn’t mind that Peeta was less than perfect. It felt very real and was a poignant way to end the relationship between Katniss and Peeta.

    @Justinai and @Billie Dooley- I didn’t care about the last chapter, and what went on with Katniss romantically after Prim’s death… I guess I should reread the ending.
    Thank you so much John for writing these much needed posts in such a timely fashion.

  18. in all honesty, i was very disapointed in the ending of this book. i felt as though she needed a way for Katniss and Peeta to be together so she made Gayle leave without ever looking back. i understand that many people think it shows great relation to real world expiriences, and i think thats whats wrong. i dont want to read a book about reality and how happy ending never happened. i want to read something to take me away from it all not bring it into realization.

  19. Kristy Claire says

    @Erin – I’m confused by your comment about Peeta & Katniss’ relationship ending. Did you mean Gale & Katniss?

    @Victoria – I know what you mean. Most of us were imaging that Mockingjay was going to be a “kick ass” finish where Kat evolves into Eowyn and she and her crew overpower and out think the bad guys. The cover certainly gave that impression. This is a far different book than the majority (I would bet) imagined, but it’s not a loss, nor is it a disappointment to me. I think Collins forces us to look deeper (between the lines) to find the nuggets of strength, love and hope for the future we all want these beloved characters to obtain. They’re all there (the nuggets), just not the way we expected.

    That said, I’m sure we can all expect A LOT of fan fiction going forward where Mockingjay is concerned.

  20. @Kristy Claire- i see where you’r coming from, and i admit that it was a realitic ending. its what should have happends. however i don’t think that’s what anyone wanted to happen. im just sad because by the end of the books it’s like the charachters are compleatly diffirent people from who they were before. it’s like the entire series was leading up to something so great, and then it compleatly twisted around and ended unexpectedly. but it was an AMAZING book, ending was justa downer for me.

  21. @Sarah- I TOTALLY KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN! it’s like half the time she was busy telling us instead of showing us.

  22. this book totally made me depressed.

  23. I thought the surface story was fascinating! In the previous two books, Katniss always rebelled once she was within the framework of a greater plot, but now she (eventually) spearheads this movement to change the system and really grabs her power with both hands, even if her grip shakes from time to time. And the way everything turned out was very natural in my opinion. Characters and plot cannot remain the same after everything that’s happened. And since “Mockingjay” is the last of a trilogy and akin to a teen becoming an adult, of course you’re going to answer the black-and-white questions only to find endless gray areas.

    While your analysis is pretty interesting and does highlight some facts that people wouldn’t normally think about, I take issue with your insistence that “The Hunger Games” is a “heartwarming teenage romance”. In my opinion, “The Hunger Games” has always been about discovering power, whether it’s emotional, physical, or political. While “Mockingjay” was not as flashy as its predecessors in terms of an entertaining story, I believe it’s a superior book as Katniss begins to truly stagger under the weight of everything she’s gone through and yet still manages to rise from the ashes.

  24. Catherine, John was not the one saying The Hunger Games series was a “heartwarming teenage romance.” He was saying that was the complaint of other people who thought the series was a romance & then turned into a war story.

  25. Kristy Claire says

    @Catherine – Where’s the “like” button on here? 🙂 Liked your second paragraph A LOT! Well said.

    @revgeorge – First off, your picture scares me. Second, how did you post it? lol! 😀 I want one!

  26. Kelby Carlson says

    John,

    Your comparison of the plot points throughout each book is quite illuminating, and has helped me get a handle on some of the shock I’m feeling. The biggest complaint I had was not how the romance elements were handled throughout most of the book (the entire trilogy did quite a good job) but the manner in which she chose to resolve it. I had no issue with who Katniss chose, but I feel that if Collins had stretched it out for even a page it might have worked better. The ending was just so abrupt and didn’t seem to be a real denouement to what came before. I can see the point of the reviewers on Amazon who say that Katniss’s character arc was derailed, but according to this, it was actually transformed. The reality of these books is brutal, and I wasn’t expecting so much packed into the last book. Ironic, as I was prepared for most of HP7.

  27. @ revgeorge I see, my bad. Thank you for the clarification.

  28. Catherine, no problem. With all the material John’s pumping out it’s rather overwhelming & confusing at times. 🙂

    Kristy Claire, I use a place called Gravatar. http://en.gravatar.com/

    It’s free although you sign up for it. Then you connect whatever image you want to use with the email address you use when posting on blogs.

  29. I feel very much like I wasn’t reading the book fairly. I had some preconceived notions about District 13 that were dashed pretty immediately, which jacked with some of my expectations about how CF would continue. I came into it with some expectations about Cinna and Madge and as a result, kept waiting for them to show up. I was a bit unprepared for the Hunger Games formula to be as whole as it was, though I think it’s a legitimate choice on Collins’ part. I do feel that Katniss spent a lot of time toeing the line between good and bad — joining the war effort as a spokesperson, her absence from the actual taking of the Capitol — because I had expected more politics and less romance. I do feel that there was comparatively a lot of which-boy-will-I-choose drama and that Haymitch was perfectly justified if ill-timed in noting it.

  30. I just finished it this morning, and I haven’t really had time to digest the last four chapters. The entire book is just so… dark. I can’t see young readers enjoying it. In Prim, Collins picked the one character that she could afford to kill off with the most emotional impact. (I say “afford to kill off” because I think killing Peeta or Gale would immediately have alienated half the fandom who would refuse to read the book ever again.)

    As for Finnick’s death, maybe I’ve just been too well-trained by Joss Whedon, but as soon as he got his wedding midway through the book I knew he’d never make it to the end. I can’t even feel that bad for him. He got his month of true happiness. That’s probably more than Katniss got her entire life.

  31. Most of you are probably right about the teenagers not appreciating the story and its meaning as much as adults did. I found that it didn’t sit right with me at all and I could barely get through the epilogue because I was sobbing over the last chapter 😛 I was so disappointed by the way it turned out that I contemplated burning the book in my depressed state of being. But I love the series too much to do anything that drastic. :]

    The story was much too depressing, though admittedly realistic. However, I don’t believe all the deaths were necessary. Even though Finnick was likely to die (he was way too happy after his marriage…) his death was so much worse than Prim’s. Its almost as if Collins tried to compensate for the lack of deaths of loved ones in the previous two books.

    I used to love how Collin’s used subtlety (?) or sarcasm to create humour throughout the books and also to tell Katniss’s story while still provoking us to delve into the ‘allegorical levels’. MJ however, just seems like she decided to go all out explicit and write a different story about the effects of war.

    oh well. thanks for the breakdown of the ‘formula’ by the way. really helps.

  32. Jabberwocky says

    Thanks for the analysis; I hadn’t considered before how similar the three books really are in terms of overall plot points.

    However, I have to disagree on your idea that it was more difficult to be immersed in Mockingjay. I had to stop and read it in briefer periods than I read the first two books– precisely because I was too close to the story and way, way too close to the pain. However, even though it hurt deeply to read about so many characters dying, all of whom I had come to love or at least respect or understand, I had to give massive credit to the author for writing the story as she did.

    Mockingjay portrays a rebellion and a war not as triumphant or heroic, as so many books (adult or YA) are prone to do, but as gut-wrenching, painful, numbing, and horrific. This is of course started in the Hunger Games, but really comes to fruition as we see the full-fledged version of war which the arena only parodies.

    In fact, the only other series I can think of which treats war so realistically is George RR Martin’s books, which might be why I was reminded of those books so frequently while reading Mockingjay. (That, and I think Collins might have succeeded in killing off a greater percentage of named characters than even Martin.)

    Mockingjay was a good book; painful, but powerful. Is it one that I will reread frequently? Probably not, because it was a very difficult read. But I think it’s an amazing work and an important message. I can definitely see that a YA audience might not quite understand that yet, especially if they went in expecting a valiant rebellion and a lovestruck romance… and got a bloodbath instead.

  33. In truth, I am having a difficult time with the ending. But not because it was disappointing. It was painful and real, and part of me wanted a fairytale ending, even thought i knew from the end of Catching Fire that the fairytale ending was never going to happen. We got our happiest ending possible between Katniss and Peeta. I mean really, what more could we have asked for. Did any of us really think they were going to have a “Disney” happy ending? Of course not. They were never on the road to the Capitol to become the new President and first lady(Or president and first man?). This is where they were always going to end up. Together. Back in twelve.

  34. The pacing was at odds with the ending and that’s a charge that cannot be easily defended with realism.

    Collins spent an insane amount of time on violence, suffering and death. And then she tacks on a happy ending in which Peeta and Katniss get together and have kids in about two paragraphs.

    That’s not realistic, that’s not done well, that’s simply tacked on badly. The “white picket fence” ending doesn’t belong. And the only way to make it belong would have been to explore it, to give it space and actual development. But then the novel wouldn’t have been as depressing and have that “realistic” feeling.

    Collins wanted her cake and eat it, too. I don’t think the readers who don’t like that are wrong.

  35. Para, I can’t classify the ending as happy. The ending only says that life goes on. The final line about playing repetitive, tedious mental games to ward off her depression for twenty years, and there being much worse games to play, is pretty depressing. This is no DH “All was well.” ending.

  36. israel8491 says

    I’m surprised to see that many people disliked Mockingjay. I personally loved it. I thought it was a perfect bookend to a great series, and it deals with the realities of war really well. Hunger Games caused a bit of a sensation because it didn’t shy away from the violence and the brutality of kids hacking each other to death. So why should Mockingjay be any different? Hunger Games and Catching Fire, as this article points out, had the Capitol and Snow as the clear villains. I really liked how in Mockingbird that line got blurred. Because in war, it’s incredibly difficult to tell who is really the good guy and the bad guy, or if there even is one, and which side you end up on. Katniss gets a taste of her own medicine when Gale’s bombs are used to murder her sister. She’s been using those same techniques for years hunting. And when Gale and Beetee showed her their plans, she had some reservations, but she didn’t protest very much. It takes Prim’s death to realize the vicious cycle the entire of Panem is caught up in.
    Mockingjay is incredibly depressing. Yes. But if it was a light, fluffy romance novel, would anyone like it? I loved Hunger Games and Catching Fire because they were dark, they were well-written, and they were thought-provoking. Alright, I cheered on the Katniss-Peeta ship, it’s true. But Katniss and Peeta and Gale and their little triangle was never really the main show. Which is more important, who Katniss kisses or how many tens of thousands of people are gonna die?
    And as far as the love triangle goes, I think Collins found a great way to end it. Because even though Gale obviously never would have used the bombs on Prim, he was becoming something rather ugly. His hatred for the Capitol had turned him into a very cruel person. Katniss had fire, yes, but compassion too. Gale just didn’t know when to stop and where the line was, and he crossed it big time. Think about his actions in District 2. He wanted to lock everyone in the Nut up to a slow, painful, horrible death. Peeta balanced Katniss out. He had more compassion than fire. And Katniss needed that in order to stay human and sane. I’m almost a little afraid of who Gale will end up to be. He has so little reservations about using extreme measures I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up like Coin or Snow.
    There wasn’t a lot of happy moments in Mockingjay, nor should there have been. It was a story about a war. But there were some. Finnick and Annie for one. And Johanna is rescued! And Peeta regains his mind. And – and – ok, not much happy. But Effie lives! The pink wig will rise again once more to rule the world and keep everyone on schedule!
    All joking aside, I think Mockingjay was a very powerful book. It really did an excellent job of showing how easy it is to become your own worst enemy. Coin, Gale and his bombs, the murder of the girl in the yellow coat (Holocaust reference, anyone?). And how at the end, they’re saying the other sylists have been killed, and someone says was it by Snow or Coin? And Katniss realizes there really is no difference. Over the course of the book, Coin and the rebels begin to turn into Snow and the Capitol. By the end, it’s eerie and rather creepy. I think this book says an important thing about war in general and how easy it is to lose your humanity and sense of reason.
    And finally, to those that wanted a happy ending, Katniss and Peeta get married! Have kids! Live in District 12! Joy! Sunshine! Flowers! Ok, not so much the last 3. But after that book, could they really ever live normally again? Both of them are mentally and physically scarred for life. They’ve lost their families, their friends, they’ve seen kids die by the dozen, Katniss watched her sister become a human torch… That ending was the happiest ending one could hope for. Plus I bet their kids are super cute.
    In the end, Mockingjay is a very dark, violent book where several beloved characters (Finnick and Prim being the prime examples) are killed. But Collins proved to us in the last two books she doesn’t shirk the scary or gory bits. Anything less would be disappointing to say the least. I for one am extremely happy with it and think it’s the best of the three.

  37. i am a kid and i hated it. i would have like it but i expected so much more. everybody on this site is saying that if you look deeper, you’ll see that it was really well planned and good, but i like it in her first two books where you could enjoy the story to the fullest without even having to think. it was too repetative and predictable. so dissapointed.

  38. Ellie, not everybody on this site or on other sites are saying it was really well planned & good. Quite a few people are disappointed & have pointed out what they thought were departures from the first two books that didn’t help Mockingjay. But I respect the views of those who do see lots of deeper meaning in the book. In many cases, the book is just as deep as the first two in the series, but there’s something about it that makes Mockingjay fall a bit flat for me.

  39. Basic rule of thumb for YA books: nobody ever likes the last one. ESPECIALLY if the author has a grip on realism and will take a logical route, even if it’s not sunshine and happiness and rainbows and such. I’m nineteen. I loved Mockingjay.

    I knew some readers would be shaken up, but the answer for the “Why”s that seem to be predominant is (to quote another YA author Libba Bray): “Because. Because sometimes life is damned unfair. Because sometimes, as the writer, you have to put your characters in harm’s way and be willing to go there if it is the right thing for your book, even if it grieves you to do it. Because sometimes there aren’t really answers to our questions except for what we discover, the meaning we assign them over time. Because acceptance is yet another of life’s “here’s a side of hurt” lessons and it is never truly acceptance unless it has cost us something to arrive there.”

    I think that a lot of the (predominately female) readers got too caught up in the romance of the first two novels, spent too much time picking their respective “teams”, and forgot the big picture. The novels aren’t about the relationships, and they’re not about happy endings. They’re inspired by how we as a society see violence, and how we as a society interpret the media circus that surrounds war, in which real children fight and die daily. It’s funny because I have spent less time pondering the sacrifices present in Mockingjay, and even less time about the ending, than I have thinking about a rather minor part near the end where Katniss wonders why her society’s ancestors- us- didn’t think about her when they made their decisions.

  40. @Maia – Thank you. You nailed it. Part of why I stayed off any and all discussion boards about “The Hunger Games” was because of the ridiculous shipping/team-picking business that seemed to completely forget the war story going on. How Collins got the idea for “The Hunger Games” says a lot about how it should be read and how we see war as a whole in the present. I’m not saying we’re betting on violence and squeaking about uniforms instead of paying attention to the human cost of conflict, but it seems like we might end up there if we’re not careful.

  41. I don’t understand why people are saying that younger readers don’t like Mockingjay as much. I’m 15, and my friends and I all loved it. It was powerful- very powerful- and it showed the bitter realities of war almost too well. Collins did a fantastic job. I’m wondering it anyone else is seeing a “money is evil” connection here- in The Hunger Games, the Capitol was using their wealth and resources to dominate the poorer districts. In Catching Fire, again the rich government plays the villain. In Mockingjay, the Big Bad’s name is Coin, and the rich government is still the enemy. Is this just me?

  42. @maddlibbs – Very insightful! I hadn’t realized the money connection until now.

  43. It just dawned on me… Collins wrote the first books through Katniss’ perspective but through the eyes of the capital citizens. We all got caught up in the star-crossed lovers bit, the flashy costumes and entertainment of the games. We fell in love with Katniss as the districts fell in love with her. And either this was intentional on Collins’ part or she said “NO YOU GUYS ARE’NT GETTING IT, wake up and look at the big picture”. This is what led her to writing Mockingjay from a completely different angle, thus creating a whole different story feel.
    Maddlibbs- you are right on about the money motivation also. I saw in HG and CF the connections to money controlling and destroying everything around them, but I hadn’t made that connection in Mockingjay until you mentioned it. Mockingjay was like walking directly onto a battlefield without out even a shout of “the British are coming”. I for one am having a little PTSD from it…

  44. was i the only one who was extremely shocked and horrified by Coin trying to have the hunger games again with capitol officials children? That was just so sick, i couldnt believe it.

  45. @thinker – oh i totally agree with you. my friend and i spent forever on that, and the reason behind Katniss’ agreement to the capitol hunger games. i couldn’t believe Haymitch’s agreement, either. i still am not really sure about the why.

    on mockingjay, i thought it very good, if a bit shocking at first. the ending was, in my opinion, realistic. Katiniss greiving. Haymitch fighting his demons. And Peeta…being Peeta.

    i have more things i’d like to say but its late and i’m exauhsted. good day all.

  46. John, I appreciate the comparisons between the first two books and MJ. And I appreciate the discussion and see all the points of view.

    I wouldn’t say that I really liked any of the books – not in the way I like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Narnia. I continue to re-read all of those, but the violence in all three of the Hunger Games books was such that I have no interest in reading them again. However, they are books that have made me think, and continue to keep me thinking about them.

    The biggest problem I had with Mockingjay was not the smaller focus on romance, as I never saw that as the point of the first two books. It was always more of a distraction and pointed toward the incongruity of life going on while there is war all around. In that way, the last book fit right in.

    However, it was the level of violence in the last one that nearly stopped me reading. I was about 60 pages from the end and just felt numb to it all. It was so over the top, that none of it really had the same sort of impact of events in the first two books. I flipped to the end and read the Epilogue and then backed up a few pages to the end of the last chapter. And then I went back and finished the book. But I was not impressed with how Collins got to the end. It seemed rushed and contrived.

    Honestly, with what Katniss and Peeta lived through, I don’t think they would ever have been emotionally healthy enough to marry and have a family. They would more likely have ended up in therapy and on meds the rest of their lives. If she wanted the sort of happy ending of a marriage and family then she needed to include a bit about the healing. We needed to see it to make it believable. It just wasn’t.

    The other comment I have is about the amount and kind of violence. I’m not of the generation that’s OK with it. I don’t need such graphic descriptions to get the point that war is horrific and has consequences beyond anything people should have to endure. (For instance, I hated the movie, “Saving Private Ryan” – there was no point to it besides seeing how many ways and how many times we could see someone getting blown to bits.) In the first two books, I kept reading because there was something more to the story; there was character development that made me want to find out how Katniss would survive. What would she find deep within herself that would allow her to retain her humanity in the face of the Capitol trying to strip all of it away.

    But in Mockingjay, even though she had those inner struggles, it just seemed the focus was so much on the details of the violence that after a while I began to feel numb to it and I just wanted to get to the end so I could read anything else.

    When I was little, and having a television was a new thing, I wanted to stay up and watch the movies that were on late at night. Very often they were westerns and I would sneak out into the hallway and stand and watch while my parents thought I was asleep. If I started watching and mom said I had to go to bed, she would say ” It’s late. I’ve seen this movie before so I’ll tell you what happens. The cavalry shows up to rescue the wagon train and runs all the Indians off the cliff and they go off after them. So everyone dies and they have to end the movie because there’s no one left.” It sounds weirder than it was. I knew she was kidding and I knew that I wasn’t going to get to stay up late to see the movie for myself.

    But when I was reading Mockingjay that’s how the ending felt to me. Collins decided to kill off as many of the characters as she could and as many of the “extras” and then the story was done. I didn’t find that to be satisfactory.

    War is horrible and anyone who wants to glorify it needs a reality check. But more people survive than die in a war and I would like to have seen her have a few more survivors. I wanted to see how they would put their lives back together after the Capitol was defeated and after Coin was denied her chance at creating the same kind of government under a new name. But Collins killed off too many to give the characters the chance to have those reconciliations that could have happened. I wasn’t expecting a happy ending, but I was expecting something better.

  47. I’ll add that if she had let some of the characters live, I don’t think they would have all had happy reconciliations. But to me it would have been more interesting to see that some people can heal and live a somewhat normal life while others never get to that point and many are somewhere in between. She really left it that Katniss and Peeta survived, Gale just went off without another mention of how he was coping, Haymitch was there, and the rest died.

    I remember being told the one time I tried to write a short story that killing off characters as a way to end the story was trite and a horrible idea. I felt like that’s just what Collins did. The few main characters that were left really had no choice but to be together.

    I was just thinking about other characters who survive a war and try to make a new life for themselves and I thought about “Gone with the Wind”. All through the book Scarlet is sure that her true love is Ashley and she schemes every way she can to get him. At the end, when she can finally have him, she finally realizes that he’s not what she wanted after all. And she sees that who she really loves is Rhett.

    I guess I would have preferred that Katniss had actually made a decision that Peeta was the right choice and Gale was not. But as it was, because Gale was responsible for Prim’s death, that choice was negated. Peeta was just the only one left. Katniss and Peeta deserved a better ending than that.

  48. This probably summed up most of my feelings, but there are a couple things I need to add.

    1. Generally when I come off a good book I end feeling fantastic, a little thoughtful, and perhaps with a couple, heart-warmed tears in my eyes. Even if the book itself was depressing as hell, all it needs is a good, happy-but-not-cheesy ending to just make it perfect.

    Mockingjay lacked this. I came off that book in a horribly fowl mood. The ending just wasn’t worth all the pain and tears it took to read the book. Not only that, but I didn’t really feel as if any of the conflicts got resolved. Sure, the Panem government was torn down, but we’re barely given a hand wave as to what’s happened afterwards. Killing Snow just wasn’t enough for me. Especially not the way he went.

    2. Katniss’ decision between Gale and Peeta never really seemed like it was there enough for it to matter, and at the end it doesn’t seem so much that Katniss thought about it and chose Peeta but that Katniss just grabbed the closest male with feelings for her.

    I loved the other two books, but this one was just…too depressing, I guess. There didn’t seem like a point to the depressing stuff.

    So yes.

  49. I’m a teenanger myself and I just finished reading Mockingjay today, and I’m still pretty much blown away.
    Even so I personally can’t help but enjoy the book very much, atleast from a writing point of view, as it is nowhere near what I expected. And the more I think about it the more happy I am that the author didn’t let the trivial love-triangle take all the place.
    I think I’ll comment here again later, when I’ve sorted my thoughts since there are lots I want to add, I just don’t have the words yet

  50. I didnt like the book very much. Specially the ending. It was overall a dissapointment.

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