A friend once asked me my opinion of Silence of the Lambs
. "It's a brilliant movie. I will never watch it again," I told him. I feel much the same about Mockingjay
, Susan Collins' final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy.Mockingjay
is even more brutal than the previous two books, and that is saying quite a bit. But while The Hunger Games
and Catching Fire
had a hopeful narrative running through it, there is no such ray of hope here.
After being run through the area--twice--I was looking forward to Katniss gaining her independence and striking back at her oppressors. Instead, I got a tale of the viciousness of war, and how it affects those caught up in it.
And there is where my difficulty lies. I applaud Collins' intentions, and I can't say that her message wasn't delivered well. But there is such a thing as overkill (no pun intended).
Let's go down the roster, shall we?
*Finnick Odair: Having had a mental breakdown since the last book, wanders around in his underwear in a kind of fugue state. Recovers enough sense of self to find and marry hometown sweetheart, only to be sent out on a mission and decapitated horribly.
*Johanna Mason: Survived the arena in Catching Fire
Has a mental breakdown during a training exercise and becomes a drug addict.
*Peeta Mellark: Captured in the last book. Survived torture by the Capitol only to be brainwashed into an assassin. Prone to murderous rages. Recovers some stability by the end of Mockingjay
, but still has flashbacks.
*Primrose Everdeen: Katniss' sister. Survives both previous installments only to be killed in a massive bomb strike that murders several other children.
Katniss Everdeen: Our heroine. Having survived both arenas, is now an emotional wasteland. Never achieves true agency, as she's manipulated by the rebellion she serves. Has several bouts of PTSD, watches comrades die, kills others in the line of duty. Nearly becomes a drug addict, and starves herself. Sees her little sister, Primrose, die in front of her eyes(this last is especially cruel, given Katniss entered the Games in order to protect Prim). Finally achieves some peace at the end of the book. Possibly.
Toss in a few random deaths, and the torture of minor characters, and Mockingjay
becomes a horror show. I hear the books have been optioned for film rights, and I can't imagine how these could be made without an R rating.
An epilogue attempts to show Peeta and Katniss healing, but it's just too little, too late. I wanted to see more of the reconstruction after the war. There's a feeling that the newly elected President might be a good one, given the few conversations she's had with Katniss. And there are some signs of infrastructure revival. Aside from that, very little effort is made to depict the aftermath. I know we're meant to see Katniss' two children as a sign of rebirth for her, but even that didn't hit the right note for me.
For all this, I can't say it's a bad book. Mockingjay
is fast paced and gripping, and Collins does get her point across. It's just not the story I wanted to read. There is such a thing as the story being overwhelmed by the message.
I hear you, Ms. Collins: War is hell. I just wish you'd showed humanity's strength and beauty as well.