Here be spoilers.
No, seriously, I’m going to talk about my thoughts and feelings on the entire Hunger Games series and the ending of Mockingjay in particular so if you’re one of those people who’s waiting for the next two films to find out what happens then I have two pieces of advice:
1. Don’t. Go and read the books, they’re guaranteed to be so much better and you’ll get a much richer experience.
2. Stop reading this post. Now.
And so to business. I’ve just finished re-reading the trilogy for the third time and I actually read Mockingjay twice just to confirm my thoughts. I’ve mentioned before how much I like this series but it seems that the more I read it, the better it gets. I read it in June 2013 and mentioned in this post that I found it even better than the first time and I found the same this year. So I wanted to devote some blog-space to discussing why.
It seems to be a pretty common opinion that the first book is the best and that the series declines from there onwards and I generally agree. It feels to me almost like book number 1 was written as a stand-alone novel with two unplanned sequels tagged on the end which is something I think spoiled my enjoyment the first time round. In fact even having read them and enjoyed them I think I’d still be pretty happy if books 2 and 3 had never existed. The bittersweet ending of The Hunger Games has a quality of 1984 to it, a reminder that things don’t always end happily ever after.
The first time I read the series I definitely felt that the sequels were a bit flat and almost cobbled together in comparison and I found the grand finale to be unspeakably disappointing. I felt like the whole series had been building up to a dramatic climax and in the end Collins just had Katniss get knocked out and wake up once it was all over. I hate, hate, hate that kind of cop-out ending which seems to suggest the author ran out of ideas and doesn’t know what to do with the suspense they’ve built up over the length of the novel.
I think this kind of view is natural when you’re reading it for the first time – you’ve spent three books getting to know Katniss and to root for her and view her as the saviour of Panem so when she fails to deliver there’s a natural disappointment.
But reading it this time (and maybe because I knew what was coming) I felt differently. Because realistically, how could we expect Katniss to be the hero we expect her to be? Apart from the fact that she’s only 17, a fact that is easy to forget given the maturity and world-weariness of her narrative, by the end of book 3 she’s completely broken. Entirely understandable given all that she’s been through but hardly hero material.
She blunders through the Capitol with only the bare bones of a plan and a single aim – to kill President Snow but if she had, by some miracle, succeeded would that act really have ended the war? I’m not convinced that it would. Snow must have had some kind of deputy who would have stepped into his place, used her actions to prove that the Mockingjay was deranged and potentially destroyed the rebels campaign completely. And who among us would have accepted that Katniss was able to reach and murder the president in his fortress when she had such a tenuous grip on reality never mind her own location?
So on reflection, given the very real picture of Katniss’ “mental disorientation” Collins had painted I think that the ending on Mockingjay was spot-on, I’m still not completely convinced about Coin, I’m not quite sure that her death was necessary but I preferred Paylor so I’m not complaining.
One of the other things that I know a lot of people are unhappy about is the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle so I’m going to share some of my thoughts on that as well.
First of all, I have no doubt that if she’d never had to go to the games, Katniss and Gale would have ended up together one way or another although whether they would have had children I doubt.
But things didn’t turn out that way and is it really any wonder? Even if we forget the fact that Katniss did have history, of a sort, with Peeta can we just consider everything that the two of them went through together. At the age of 16, when none of us are particularly stable hormonally speaking, they were thrown together, forced to demonstrate a deep an abiding love for each other (real or not) and put through a hell which they both only survived because of the other one. Now even if there weren’t some kind of feelings there before all of that, it’s hardly surprising that there would be after. And maybe Katniss did come out of the arena feeling confused about her feelings towards Peeta but she hadn’t exactly had time to think things through and sort fantasy from reality had she? In the most intense of situations she’d been forced to enact a romantic attachment and coming out of that arena she should have been given space to process her feelings, the events of the Games and what she wanted to happen next but she wasn’t. Instead she was thrown back into Peeta’s arms for the Victory Tour and the Quarter Quell and confronted with the realisation that Snow was going to insist on them having a Forever After (Happy presumable optional).
So of course she was confused and then we can add in the fact that she was somewhat preoccupied with her post-traumatic stress and the fact that her entire world was teetering on the edge of extinction and why exactly are we so surprised that her romantic liaisons weren’t exactly straightforward?? In actual fact all she really seemed to want was to be left alone whereas it was the rest of the world who wanted her to have nothing else on her mind but picking a potential husband. I think this point is proved perfectly by the fact that she’s so surprised when Coin suggests that Gale should be presented as Katniss’ lover in the propos. All she wants is someone she trusts standing by her side, supporting her. Which is all anyone in her position would want. So can we stop with the love triangle nonsense please?!
I think one of the reasons that this has become such an issue is down to the films. In the books we get insight into all the intricacies of Katniss’ thought processes, we get the true nature of her history with Peeta which is skated over in the films as well as her clear confusion over Gale’s romantic feelings. Katniss’ inner voice is something which is seriously missing from the films, without it I feel like they’re quite flat, lacking a layer and texture which make Katniss a real person in the books and making me quite nervous about film 3 (UK release date: 21st November!). In the final book Katniss does a lot of sitting and staring at dust specks or generally hiding from the world which I don’t think will really work on film. I’ve seen films that do take that tack and they’re as boring as hell (Three Colours Blue, avoid, avoid!). In the book we actually hear her inner pain rather than imagining it as she stares into space on screen so I’m worried about how it’s going to translate. However, given the trailers that have been released so far I’m still pretty excited to see how it works out!
I seem to have gone on for a lot longer than I intended but if you’ve stuck with me this long I’d love to hear your thoughts on The Hunger Games!