Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mockingjay: Book Review

WARNING: The following contains lots of SPOILERS. Only continue if you have read the Hunger Games trilogy.

Continued from my Hunger Games review followed by my Catching Fire review

And now for the controversial grand finale! Mockingjay was my initial purpose of writing all these Hunger Game reviews. Almost everyone I have talked to expressed to me that they hated the ending of this series. Of course I never let them tell me why, but after finishing it, I didn't hate the ending and now I plan on defending it along with the rest of the series by giving my thoughts on it.

Up to this point in the series, the perspective of first person present has worked beautifully and is rather ingenious. This is where it starts to fail. The Hunger Games is the beginning of everything, Catching Fire is where the rebellion picks up, and Mockingjay is full out war. Katniss is chosen by the lead of the rebellion to be the face of the war. The Mockingjay. After some debate in her mind, she accepts the role. With this, the main goal of the rebellion leaders is not to put a 17 year old girl at the head of the army. They want to keep her alive and so she is protected. I think this adds to the realistic part of things. Katniss is not a soldier. Sure she is trained with a bow and has survival experience from the Hunger Games, but she is not a perfect choice for the leader of the army and immediately putting her in that position would be poor writing. However, given the style of the first person present, we are stuck inside the confines of Katniss's mind and the consequence for this book is actually a rather boring first three-fourths of the book. Not only is she hidden in the underground living quarters of District 13, but she is a complete mess. Suzanne Collins actually does a fantastic job of putting us in the mind of a 17 year old girl who has gone through quite the traumatic experience in the past couple of years. The Hunger Games have really set her back emotionally and mentally. Not only did she spend several weeks inside of a stadium fighting for her life, worrying every second of that about being killed, but she has to worry about dangers to all of her family and friends. To add to that, she has two guys that are in love with her and she has no idea what to do about it. Given all that circumstance, yes, Collins does a very good job of giving us the emotions and feelings of someone who just went through that and in one aspect it is very interesting. In another aspect, being inside the mind of a 17 year girl who is going through all of this is not really the place I want to be. So thus for most of the book, all of the action and conflict that are being held away from Katniss is also being held from us as readers. We get most of the intense action and story line from second hand sources instead of experiencing it ourselves and that is not what I want from an epic finale.

Keeping in mind this previously mentioned thought, let's go off on a quick tangent to talk about this Mockingjay movie. I'm interested to see what they plan on doing with this. First off they are splitting it into two movies. This could be extremely bad or it could be fantastic. It all depends on the point of view. If they decide to go strictly with the book and follow Katniss the whole time, the last half of the second Mockingjay movie will be good, but the first movie will be completely awful and boring. However, if they choose to not focus solely on Katniss, this could be great. The book can't show us all of the action that is happening around the land because it is confined to Katniss's head. But the movie can. It can veer away from Katniss while she is whining, complaining, and suffering underground in 13 and show us the war. For example, there is a point in the book where a group of people go to rescue the captured Peeta. We don't see anything in the book. We just get the report of what happened when they return. However, in the movie we can travel with that group and watch them first hand as they rescue Peeta and that will be a lot more interesting. Moral of the story, the storyline of the final book is actually a really good one, but the perspective that it is forced to follow holds it back a lot in this one whereas it made it really interesting in the first two.

Let's now fast forward to the ending. After much drudgery in the first three-fourths of the book, the finale comes about with Katniss finally training as a soldier and going out with a special group to attack the capital. What happens is a total non-happy, non-fairy tale ending. It was heart wrenching and awful. After I finished, I sat and just pondered about the book for at least an hour digesting what I had just read. After much pondering, I decided that I really liked the ending. This is a book that initially seems like your run of the mill fictional story, but in fact it is quite unique in that it takes a surprisingly realistic approach. Think about it. This is a war. Are wars happy? No. Specifically this is a civil war against a tyrannical leader and that tyrannical leader only cares about staying in power and doesn't really care too much about the welfare of the people under him. Is one 17 year old girl going to march into that capital and save the world with a perfectly happy ending, no harm done? In a fairy tale story, of course. That's what the readers want. Realistically, though? No. And Katniss doesn't save the day. Well, not in this instance anyways. She ends up running on a goose chase through the capitol, watching a bunch of her good friends in her group get killed. It ends up with her being stranded on her own, almost making it to the capitol, but watching her sister get blown up right in front of her, while she catches on fire and almost burns to death herself. The capitol was defeated, but not by a 17 year old girl that started to go mentally insane.

Second part of the great ending was actually sort of a fairy tale ending, but tied up a theme that had been present since Catching Fire. That theme was remembering who the enemy was. After the capital was taken over and President Snow was taken into custody and the newly elected President Coin comes up with a revenge plan to make the Capital people do a Hunger Games with their kids. Earlier we learned how President Snow came to power and what we can see here is President Coin doing the same thing without people realizing it. When Katniss is granted her wish to execute President Snow, she shocks everyone, the reader included, when at last second she decides to aim slightly higher with her bow and murder President Coin. This here is the fairy tale ending coming in a way that no one expected it. By murdering Coin, Katniss has just saved the land from years more of dictatorship and is the cause of bringing back a normal government and this is actually quite genius.

Last but not least, the last part of the ending that I will talk about is the resolution with the relationships. The love triangle ends with Katniss being with Peeta and not Gale. I was surprisingly perfectly fine with this, even though I was a Gale fan for most of the series. Why was I fine with this? Mainly it was because Katniss couldn't be with Gale after what happened with her sister. He was one of the masterminds behind the plan to attack the Capital in the way that they did that caused the death of Prim. Sure, Gale wasn't directly responsible for the death of Prim, but in Katniss' mind, with her strong personality, this was something that she couldn't forgive and if she had, it would've been out of character and would've ensued in a poor ending. In the end I was still a fan of Gale, even if Katniss wasn't, but I determined that he deserved someone better. After Katniss' shocking murder of Coin, which seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back for her mentally, she went completely insane and was even suicidal. While being in the mind of someone in that mental state can be frustrating at times, I also appreciated it because it was very realistic. Someone who went through all that she went through would definitely feel and act that way, which is something most fictional books don't portray with their hero. But Katniss gets better and it is because of one person, Peeta. After her trial, the send her back to District 12 to start that rebuilding it and while she is almost a vegetable for a long time, she eventually gets out of it and that is because she has Peeta by her side. For most of the book, their love story is an act. While Peeta loves Katniss, Katniss doesn't feel the same. Does she love him in the end? Is it real? Yes, it is. It just took her a very long time to realize it.

To wrap things up, the moral of the whole series is presented in the final paragraphs before the epilogue. It states the following: "What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow light that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good." Yes, life is rough at times. And while we all may not have gone through everything that Katniss went through, we all have our struggles. And while it is perfectly normal to be scared, angry, sad, and depressed at times because of all that has happened to us, life does go on. And life does get better. This is the message that Suzanne Collins is teaching through the Hunger Games. Quite honestly, I feel that it is beautiful.

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