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Unexpected Direction, but Perfection (Potential spoilers, but pretty vague),
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This review is from: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) (Hardcover)
This was a brilliant conclusion to the trilogy. I can only compare it to "Ender's Game" - and that is extremely high praise, indeed.
When I first closed the book last night, I felt shattered, empty, and drained.
And that was the point, I think. I'm glad I waited to review the book because I'm not sure what my review would have been.
For the first two books, I think most of us readers have all been laboring under the assumption that Katniss Everdeen would eventually choose one of the two terrific men in her life: Gale, her childhood companion or Peeta, the one who accompanied her to the Hunger Games twice. She'd pick one of them and live happily ever after with him, surrounded by friends and family. Somehow, along the way, Katniss would get rid of the awful President Snow and stop the evil Hunger Games. How one teenage girl would do all that, we weren't too sure, but we all had faith and hope that she would.
"Mockingjay" relentlessly strips aside those feelings of faith and hope - much as District 13 must have done to Katniss. Katniss realizes that she is just as much a pawn for District 13 as she ever was for the Colony and that evil can exist in places outside of the Colony.
And that's when the reader realizes that this will be a very different journey. And that maybe the first two books were a setup for a very different ride. That, at its heart, this wasn't a story about Katniss making her romantic decisions set against a backdrop of war.
This is a story of war. And what it means to be a volunteer and yet still be a pawn. We have an entirely volunteer military now that is spread entirely too thin for the tasks we ask of it. The burden we place upon it is great. And at the end of the day, when the personal war is over for each of them, each is left alone to pick up the pieces as best he/she can.
For some, like Peeta, it means hanging onto the back of a chair until the voices in his head stop and he's safe to be around again. Each copes in the best way he can. We ask - no, demand - incredible things of our men and women in arms, and then relegate them to the sidelines afterwards because we don't want to be reminded of the things they did in battle. What do you do with people who are trained to kill when they come back home? And what if there's no real home to come back to - if, heaven forbid, the war is fought in your own home? We need our soldiers when we need them, but they make us uncomfortable when the fighting stops.
All of that is bigger than a love story - than Peeta or Gale. And yet, Katniss' war does come to an end. And she does have to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out where to go at the end. So she does make a choice. But compared to the tragedy of everything that comes before it, it doesn't seem "enough". And I think that's the point. That once you've been to hell and lost so much, your life will never be the same. Katniss will never be the same. For a large part of this book, we see Katniss acting in a way that we can only see as being combat-stress or PTSD-related - running and hiding in closets. This isn't our Katniss, this isn't our warrior girl.
But this is what makes it so much more realistic, I think. Some may see this as a failing in plot - that Katniss is suddenly acting out of character. But as someone who has been around very strong soldiers returning home from deployments, this story, more than the other two, made Katniss come alive for me in a much more believable way.
I realize many out there will hate the epilogue and find it trite. At first, I did too. But in retrospect, it really was perfect. Katniss gave her life already - back when she volunteered for Prim in "The Hunger Games". It's just that she actually physically kept living.
The HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers", has a quote that sums this up perfectly. When Captain Spiers says, "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it."
But how do you go from that, to living again in society? You really don't. So I'm not sure Katniss ever really did - live again. She just ... kept going. And there's not really much to celebrate in that. Seeing someone keep going, despite being asked - no, demanded - to do unconscionably horrifying things, and then being relegated to the fringes of society, and then to keep going - to pick up the pieces and keep on going, there is something fine and admirable and infinitely sad and pure and noble about that. But the fact is, it should never happen in the first place.
And that was the point, I think.
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Showing 1-10 of 340 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 24, 2010 2:45:30 PM PDT
W. Westphal says:
I disagree. The ending was very happy. 3/4 of the characters didn't die,and the Capitol was taking down.
Posted on Aug 25, 2010 7:16:54 AM PDT
Carly Cornish says:
Posted on Aug 25, 2010 7:44:28 AM PDT
You know, I was one of the people who was dissatisfied when I closed the book last night, but your reasoning is making me reconsider my initial opinion. I will keep this review in mind for my re-read in a couple of weeks.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010 8:24:55 AM PDT
Thank you, Lorryl! I have to tell that, initially, I was very agitated by my reaction to the book and wasn't sure what I thought. I didn't think I liked it either. I wanted more for Katniss. I wasn't really sure what that should be, but I wanted her to be happier. Living in the charred remains of her bombed out village, with only one person by her side for 15 years - and he was emotionally devastated himself - was just was so heartbreaking for our Katniss.
And that's when I realized that was the point. It's a rather extreme illustration to think that our veterans come home to their own District 12, but it is rather apt. At best, they might have a welcome home ceremony, at the end of a 15-month deployment, but I've noticed over the last 8 years that those are becoming increasingly sparse affairs. And for the men and women who have completed multiple deployments, the soul-costs (which are often more debilitating than the physical) are increasingly devastating.
But she and her partner did carry on, despite being all alone to do it. And when the voices in his head became too much, he just hung on to the back of the chair until he was safe to be around again. Tragic, yes - but he'd found a way to cope. And there's hope in that.
And there's hope in the generations that follow. If we remember the mistakes we made in the past, but look to the future, there's hope. And Suzanne Collins left us with two very clear indicators that Katniss felt great hope in the future and was at last at peace with herself, with her partner, and with her world.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010 8:43:28 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 31, 2013 8:43:33 AM PDT]
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010 9:27:28 AM PDT
Hey, M. Weber, all cents (and sense!) are welcome here!
At first, when I finished the book, I thought this totally took the series out of the YA category. But then I thought, why?
The first two books were about teenagers being chosen at random to fight to the death for entertainment and societal punishment for previous generations' "crimes". Why is that any more palatable than showing the aftereffects of war on a combat veteran?
Why does the fact that Katniss is not superhuman, but merely human, make her any less beautiful?
Personally, I felt that Peeta bordered on being "too-good" in the first two books. I wouldn't have wished psychological warfare on him. But when he started coming back to himself - and showed some anger toward Katniss (not when he was wrapping his hands around her throat, mind you), and questioning whether she'd been acting the whole time or if any of it had been real, I was pleased. It was about time!
On another thread somewhere - I think on Ilana's (which I think you'd agree with a lot and is a great thread) - she says that she missed seeing the girl on fire. But the problem with being on fire is that you burn out. Once you start with that metaphor, it seems so obvious that this is where Suzanne Collins was going to take us.
She's been "robbing us" of our beloved friends all along - Rue in "The Hunger Games", Cinna, Mag, and countless civilians in District 12 in "Catching Fire", that the death toll in "Mockingjay" shouldn't come as a surprise.
Unless you mean the one that, ultimately, rendered this whole series pointless - the whole reason why Katniss volunteered in the first place. That's irony, right there. And it's cold and bitter and tragic and Alanis Morissette wrote a great song about it. There's really no winner in war. There's no victor. War makes victims of us all. And that was the point all along. Even if "The Hunger Games" had been the only book, there still wouldn't really have been a "winner", would there? Really? Standing on a pile of dead bodies makes losers of everyone.
I agree that this was a very different book than the first two. And I can see why there will be those that don't like it. But I think it was a logical progression.
For me, it made Katniss all the more developed, actually. It made her love for Peeta more evident.
She still was The Girl on Fire when she needed to be. She still changed the world - even if no one ever knew why she acted the way she did and she was branded a criminal for it. If someone had the power to remove Hitler or Stalin, that would be good, right? But how would we know that, if someone acted BEFORE they came to power? We really wouldn't, would we? Even if the killer was a global folk-hero, you still can't go around assassinating people. And yet...
Posted on Aug 25, 2010 11:30:07 AM PDT
A.R. Bovey - I absolutely agree with your review of the book. You put it more eloquently than I ever could have. Thank you.
Posted on Aug 25, 2010 12:02:56 PM PDT
great review--this summarizes a lot of my own feelings about the book. It was painful to see beloved characters suffer the physical and psychological trauma that they do, especially at the hands of the District 13 politicians. but it was actually believable that events would turn out as they do, and that the characters would react as they do. I agree her depiction of war gives readers a view of what our armed forces are feeling today, and that is an amazing, rare, and valuable perspective to give to young adults.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010 12:25:00 PM PDT
Lana and Bogey, thank you very much.
Posted on Aug 25, 2010 12:29:02 PM PDT
Whitney Blair Lewis says:
I felt the same way you did after I read this book! I felt so empty, drained, and sad. But I felt that it was the perfect way to end it because it was realistic. Yes it would have been nice to have everybody live and for everyone to have their own happy ending but if that were the case then I wouldn't have spent two hours just thinking about the book after I had finished it. Katniss did say in the book that she was "broken" that there was no putting her back together and that is what happened to her. Realisticly would a teenage girl be sunshine and rainbows after killing people and watching everyone around her die? No. She would be mental and would have done exactly how it was written in the book. There was only one thing that pissed me off. Why did Gale not visit her? If they were such great friends shouldn't he of at least had the decency to visit or even maybe write? I think ending up with Peeta is what she needed because he helped her to heal in some way, Gale would have only fed the fire and hate within her.