I loved The Hunger Games, mostly due to Katniss and the fact that the love triangle took a background seat, not only to the plot, but to her own desire to keep her family alive. It was something so many people could connect with, that drive to protect your family no matter what the cost. Then we had Catching Fire which was slightly more of a chore to read. The characterization was so-so, but the addition of Finnick and Johanna and the clever design of the arena made the read worthwhile. Which brings us to Mockingjay. My hopes were not high as a result of Catching Fire, but I was still hoping there was time to turn this thing around and bring back the Katniss I loved from the first book.
There wasn’t. To start with, Katniss spends most of her time being passive about the entire situation. She literally spends most of the book hiding in closets, behind pipes, or in any other hidey hole she can find. Okay, I get it. She’s gone through some severe psychological trauma and she has some issues that need to be worked out. Except she never does. And she never even tries to, because instead of worrying about her fragile mental state, she spends a good majority of the book trying to decide between Gale and Peeta. Yes, that love triangle that took back stage in the first book is now front and center in her mind. Frankly, I don’t really understand what either of them sees in her at this point. She’s like a giant lump of clay just waiting to be molded by the next person that walks through the door, and I don’t really see any chemistry between her and either of them. Since we’re covering the love triangle so early, I have to talk about the resolution of it. More like the lazy execution of the resolution. Because Katniss decides that she cannot be with Gale because he had previously talked about the trap that ultimately killed Prim. Yes, he did not set it off personally, they might not have even gotten the idea from him, yet for some reason, Katniss decides she will never be able to separate that incident from Gale. Even the decision as to which man she will end up with was taken away from her. Again, a lump of clay just waiting to be molded.
As for Prim’s death, I don’t think it had quite the emotional impact that Collins was going for. For one thing, Prim had been absent for the past one hundred pages or so. For another, characterization in this book has dropped off the deep end. Why give life to characters who only exist for you to kill them off anyway? Except for Annie, who gets to live but doesn’t get much characterization beyond the fact that she’s the woman Finnick loves. Oh, and she suffers from hallucinations, which really tells us nothing about her character. Because Katniss did not want to get to know her. Because Katniss seems to have an aversion to all female characters except for Prim. As for Prim’s death, it was clearly only included for the emotional factor because there was absolutely no reason for any medic to be on the front line with your soldiers, regardless of how close you are to winning the war. Medics are more valuable alive, so you keep them back as far as possible. The whole book is filled with sloppy moments added for nothing more than shock value.
Speaking of emotional impact: my roommate once told me in Twilighti, there was this weird shift in the narrative that seemed like Meyer was too close to Bella as a character to actually show her pain so the perspective shifted. In Mockingjay, every time there is room for emotional pain in Katniss’ life, she blacks out. Every… single… time. We get whole paragraphs of Katniss reflecting on her pain later, but no moments of actual pain for the reader to connect with, which lessened the emotional impact. Oh, and while she was passed out, the plot plowed forward in leaps and bounds without her, so once again, we are left with a summary of what was going on. Much like the end of Catching Fire. But instead of being isolated to the end of the book, it occurs quite frequently.
Then there’s the ending. I don’t even know where to being with the ending. First of all, you condemn Gale for creating an idea that killed Prim but then vote to put the children of Capitol officials in a final Hunger Games? Hello? Hypocritical much? Katniss spent the entire book complaining about Gale’s tactics because she thought he was becoming too much like the enemy, and then she turns around and votes for the final Hunger Games. Seriously? Then there’s the babies ever after. I hate babies ever after. Babies do not make everything all better. Quite frankly, Peeta and Katniss are both suffering from terrible PTSD, it’s probably something they are never going to get over, considering none of the victors ever had before, and I’m supposed to believe they are adequately equipped to raise children? Then there’s Annie. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of her story was. At first I imagined it was supposed to be the bright spot love brings into your life, but then Finnick died, so I was all, well, maybe the point is that you can’t expect that happiness from love to last forever. Then again, there’s a turn around at the end where Peeta and Katniss get to live happily ever after, with PTSD and children, so I guess that idea is out too. But then to end the book with Annie having a child? Annie? I sincerely hope Katniss’ mother is going to stick around to help out, because pretending that a baby can cure her mental issues is a huge insult to people who actually have problems. In reality, she’s likely going to forget the baby is there on occasion and ignore it, but it’s supposed to be a bitter-sweet ending for a character without characterization because a part of Finnick will forever be with her. Bleh.
Is there a bright spot to Mockingjay? Yes, Johanna, for the twenty pages she’s in and because she was thankfully spared the indignity of being killed for “shock value”.