About the Book
- Suzanne Collins
- Boy-Girl Romance
- Science Fiction
- Cis Girl
Hello everyone! A few weeks ago, I finally acted on a recommendation that Sarah had been pushing for many, many months. I read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. I then swiftly moved on to read the next two in the trilogy. That would suggest that I liked the books, and… I did! I liked them very much actually. However, there were issues that Sarah and her fellow FYAers left out when promoting the virtues of these books. I feel that the Hunger Games books (deservedly) get a ton of credit out there in the Internet, so I feel I can openly talk about some of the things I didn’t like quite as much. Particularly the ending of Mockingjay. Oh, and if anyone has come along to this post and not yet read The Hunger Games, please do not read this, and go and read The Hunger Games. Then come back and see if you agree with me!
Oh, and there are one or two rude words. I’m sorry. Katniss Everdeen brings out the sailor in me. I’m still talking about swearing here, not about weird sailor-infused fantasies focused on fictional characters.
First of all, I didn’t particularly hate the ending in and of itself. I kind of hate the entire damn series, really. Not entirely of course, but I have pretty strong feelings about it. The ending, however, remains a bit of a problem for me. There’s also the issue of the love triangle. Now, I gather that FYA readers love themselves a good love triangle. Swoonworthiness is an important aspect of any good FYA review after all. However, they drive me nuts. The complete insanity of the Twilight series normally distracts me from how annoying that central love triangle is, but I think that I should save my comments on the New Moon film for another day. When it comes to the Hunger Games, you are going to have to deal with the love triangle, whether you like it or not, and that provided a lot of frustration for me.
As I said though, I got through the trilogy pretty quickly and directly from one book to the next. There was so much about these stories that I liked. I really like that Collins made a huge effort to show that war sucks and there are no winners, and so on and so on. It was pretty bleak. President Coin is exposed as someone who is evil and can’t be trusted. But then, the surprise assassination of Coin didn’t really feel all that compelling, because we don’t know an awful lot about Coin. I wanted to know more about President Snow, and really his demise was pretty anti-climactic. I guess the tale of the book is that everything is broken in the future, unless you settle down with a blonde guy with a stupid name and have his babies. But more about that in just a sec.
Deciding to put the central character of a series written ENTIRELY in the first person into a mostly catatonic state for the climax of the whole series was just a wee bit frustrating. Just a bit. There was so much left hanging, and I feel like it wasn’t entirely part of a masterplan. Cinna, although personally I really could have done without the gay BFF character, gets a pretty terrible and ignominious exit from the entire series. Right up until the end, I was pretty convinced she was going to come across a tortured and beaten Cinna, or an Avox Cinna, or something. Seems like if Snow was that ruthless he would have milked it. I mean, I was struggling not to skip through the parts of the book that dealt with what a sartorial genius Cinna is, or how dignified and quiet and special he was, but even I got to the end of the book and thought “But where’s Cinna? Is that REALLY how she got rid of that character?”
Also, the massacre that takes out Prim (and really, these names were SO STUPID. I know an English footballer recently named his son Trendy, but come on) makes bugger all sense. Why would Snow bomb capitol children in any scenario? It seemed at that point in the war it was all over, exactly whose spirit was left to break? It was stupid. Also, at that point in the series, I was so sick of Katniss’ shit I really wanted everyone she cared about to die in front of her, so it didn’t carry a lot of emotional weight for me. I was fascinated by the idea that the leaders of District 13 were actually a bunch of bastards all along but I don’t think that was drawn out very well, AT ALL. Also, Plutarch basically becomes a huge ass right at the end and he isn’t even around to give any evidence of his assholeishness. We’re just expected to take it for granted that he was a ruthless bad guy all along.
UGH. I really like what she tried to do but I think she made a mess of it really. I’m not saying I wanted a happy ending, but it seems that for a lot of these ideas, she probably needed a couple more books. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize I wanted the story to go on. Clearly, that’s a good thing, and a testament to Collins’ work here. Now, in real life, people move on. She felt she had told the story she wanted to tell. She was ready to move on to other projects. I respect that. I would never tell an author what to do with his or her story. I am allowed however to go online and complain about it. That’s how the Internet works. Everything just kind of funnels into an ending and it all feels rather sudden. I just don’t feel that sensation of payback that I was looking forward to. The few paragraphs we had with Snow at the beginning of Catching Fire portrayed a deliciously evil figure. I wanted more of that guy! Then, I wanted our hero to knock him OUT!
So. The love story. First off, I was obviously never going to like it. I’m not trying to be sexist here, and I hope I’m not being sexist. The love triangle was CLEARLY aimed at teenage girls, because I remember trying to court girls who thought exactly like this, for years, going into my twenties. “You’re great and so wonderful, but I just don’t know!!! Why can’t we be friends so you can do everything I want and make me feel like a princess?” Screw Katniss and her shit. At one point in Mockingjay, SHE ACTUALLY CLEARLY STATES THAT SHE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO KISS EITHER GUY AND IT’S NONE OF ANYONE’S BUSINESS. YES IT IS. IT IS THE BUSINESS OF THE DUDES YOU ARE KISSING.
Sorry, but the two love interests are barely there. I’d describe their characters as cardboard but that’s being way, way too kind. There are several moments in this series where one of the guys just tells her that he will do whatever she wants, and he will wait for her, and she makes him angry but he will always be there no matter what, and she is a special snowflake and then she talks about the special connection she has with each of these characters and how much she cares about them but how they make her angry with the whole reasonably asking what the story is thing and she gets so upset because she should be able to do what she likes and Gale is the perfect man but he’s not as sensitive as Peeta and Peeta is wonderful but he doesn’t get her the way Gale does and then I almost break my Nook e-reader because I throw it across the room and make silent screaming prayers to Gods both Christian and pagan that this fictional character can become flesh and bone so that we can all gather together and kill her in the slowest and most painful method possible.
Far and away the weirdest and most annoying thing, is that despite the fact that we see TONS more of Peeta (what an awful fake name) throughout the series and in particular in the first book, he is no more believable or interesting than Gale. However, Gale completely fails to materialize as a real character. We’re told to take it on faith that they have a special bond after about eight pages in the first book, and we’re clearly meant to think of him as some kind of super handsome cool kid who still loves awkward Katniss, but when he should come into his own, particularly in the third book, he just completely fails to become interesting. I would say this was by design so that we would understand why she chooses Peeta, but it clearly isn’t, because she (Collins) decides the way to make us understand the Peeta decision is to turn Gale into a mildly psychopathic terrorist mastermind.
What the…? Seriously?
Then we have this baby thing, which isn’t even remotely a dilemma, at all. I mean, it makes sense that she wouldn’t want to have kids with the Hunger Games existing, but she’s 17 and she doesn’t even talk about sex (although I admit as a future parent I like that in a book with this audience – I will be a dad and not a mum, don’t forget, it’s my job to keep my little girls away from sex until they reach their late 20s or if possible, forever) but she’s obsessed with having babies. So the big rosy epilogue is that she has babies, and I wasn’t really angry, I’m just sitting there after three books and this is how the author decides to end it and all I can think of is: “Who gives a shit?”
Did anyone give a shit about her womb? Anyone? Who cares?
And finally, what THE EFF with suddenly having Hunger Games with children of capitol ringleaders, and why does Katniss agree? And why isn’t that addressed? And what exactly is it supposed to mean? Did it happen? Apart from the fact that it undermines every single damn thing that has happened in the book, what’s the story? Do the Hunger Games go on, or not?
I wanted to admire Collins for the ending, but I’m not convinced she meant it to work out the way it did. I really, really don’t think it was all masterminded. I think to a certain extent she said “eff this” and moved on. A fourth book could have helped. In fact, I would have been fine with a fourth and fifth entry. I feel like there was plenty to tell. I mean, we live in a world where Stephenie Meyer was actually re-writing one of her books from the perspective of the vampire. I would have been MUCH more interested in a book that focused on a young citizen of the capitol who got wrapped up in the revolution and learned what the world was really like in the districts. I also would have liked the ending to be drawn out some more, into a whole new book. Also, as much as I like grim endings and I admire storytelling that refuses to cop out, I just didn’t want these characters to live in a world where the bad guy was replaced by another bad guy. I like that it respects the reader, I like that the entire storyline is delivering a sophisticated message to young people about how power can be abused and the dangers of violence and propaganda, but I guess I wanted my happy ending. I know the happy ending is supposed to be Katniss having a baby with Peeta, but really, I consider that to be a few pages that some crazy person successfully sneaked into the printer when they were publishing the first run, and they decided to go with it.
It’s funny, but a lot of the reason I just refuse to acknowledge that weird “and then I learned to love the idea of having babies” ending comes down to why I liked the series in the first place. I didn’t even realize this until I watched Breaking Dawn: Part 1 last week. Bella Swan is awful. She’s just the worst. She’s willing to turn her back on her family for a guy she met in high school, she completely subjugates her will and her future to a controlling jerk. Katniss Everdeen is tough. She stands up for her sister. Sure, she has this incredibly infuriating love triangle that she goes on, and on and on and on and on about. Sure, she is beyond frustrating with her “why is everyone looking to me? All I did was publicly humiliate the evil police state and take a stand against oppression? WHY WON’T THEY LEAVE ME ALONE!” shtick. However, at the end of the day, she controls her life. She’s pretty badass, frankly. She lives in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable for women to be just as tough and successful as men. Women can be just as evil as men can be, too. The character who suffers the humiliation of becoming a sex object for the benefit of the powers that be is male. There’s a lot going on in these books that I really liked. I guess, just cut out the last few pages, remove the love triangle, and I’d have a large single volume book that would leave me crying out for a sequel. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Mockingjay is available now.
About the Contributor:
This post was written by John Harney.