The Girl on Fire going through fire: a Mockingjay review

Mockingjay coverI finished Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay the week it went out. Mockingjay is the third and final book in Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, which follows Katniss Everdeen in the dystopian country of Panem. The Capitol forces the twelve Districts to obedience, and one way they do this is to force each of the districts to send a boy and a girl each year to take part in the Hunger Games: a fight to the death in an arena filled with horrors (as if having 23 other people hunting you for sport isn’t horror enough).

The verdict

The book is gripping and well-written, and I found myself nodding emphatically at some phrases and events that happen in delight at just how Collins pieced together the story and brought her characters to life. However, the epic scale of the war going on, and everything that is happening all around Katniss, soon detracted from the book. I enjoyed the first part immensely; the latter half, I felt I was just barreling along to get to the next scene, and the next scene, and the next scene.

The things that I loved about Katniss changed, necessary changes for the story, but this–along with the limitations of the first person narrative–detracted from my enjoyment of the latter half of the book. So many things happened, especially in the latter part of the book, that I felt more and more distanced away from the characters. I also felt that some story threads didn’t end right: I don’t have a problem with endings that don’t go the way I would like them to be, but if it’s right, I still enjoy the ending. These didn’t feel right.

Mockingjay certainly won’t be my favorite book of the series: I think that the first book, The Hunger Games is still the best book of the series, hands down. I always finish what I started, though, and Mockingjay does deliver well.

So what exactly went on?

There were two things that harmed the latter half of the book for me: Katniss, and Gale. Yes, separate, not together: I agree it was right that Katniss should have ended with Peeta. But that’s about it in terms of what was right about the ending.

Katniss did not feel like Katniss when I needed her to be Katniss. Who is the Girl on Fire? Brave and courageous, maybe reckless; someone who did things, who made things happen, who didn’t roll over and play dead. But where was she, in the last part of the book?

  • She was fainting in the middle of action.
  • She was being prodded along the wave of the war, doing this and doing that.
  • She was almost completely zoned out in the end. In the end! Where we needed her!
  • We had to come to terms with her choosing Peeta when we only had Peeta with us for half the book, and the real Peeta for only an eighth of the book.

I mentioned earlier that the first person perspective of the book harmed the ending for me. I understand why Katniss was zoned out and unable to Get Things Done. But coupled with her numerous fainting/zoned-out moments in the rest of the book, us having zombie!Katniss during the ending just didn’t help things along for me. How do I associate wife!Katniss with Girl-on-Fire!Katniss? There is nothing to bridge the two together; they are very different people. “Reader, I married him” endings are tricky, and this just failed to end the book with the right note for me.

Second, Gale Hawthorne. Oh, Gale. It’s alright that you didn’t get the girl, you can have me instead because you are awesome as you are, anyway. I didn’t agree with some of the things Gale did and pushed for in the book: his take-no-prisoners attitude was certainly troubling. But it was war, and nobody is perfect–I like my heroes and heroines that way. Did it mean he was a abhorrence? Not at all.

But the way Gale’s storyline ended–could you have emasculated him even more?

Gale said that the only thing he had going for him was his ability to keep Katniss’s family alive. He doesn’t get the girl, but he doesn’t get even that? Not one shred of dignity left? If it’s to be a “lesson” against having “fire, kindled with rage and hatred”, it was ill done. Making harsh decisions during wartime does not make you a monster.

Also, he was given such a high profile throughout Mockingjay; he has a lot of page-time, and he really shines clear and bright through the pages. And then, in the end, what do we have of him? A cop-out of an ending. A brief cameo of his emasculation. And then a gossipy mention by Greasy Sae about him “in a fancy job”. There is nothing else. I could almost see the scorn dripping from the pages. He wasn’t even given death: death was too good for him, he should have a “fancy job”.

I agree that Katniss and Peeta together was the right ending. If both boys had to live, then Peeta was the right man for the job. But Gale being written off the way he was, and Peeta not being Peeta for most of the book, coupled with the less-personal feel of the latter half of the book just dragged the book down for me in the “like” factor.

(Disclaimer: I like Peeta. I think he is a dear, sweet boy. I was distraught about his hijacking, and if he had ended up not reclaiming his right mind, I would have been just as indignant about his storyline as I am about Gale’s storyline.)

What about you? Did the book end on a high note for you, or did you feel as I do?

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