How does one end a well loved series? That’s a question that haunts television, movies, and of course books. It seems like it is often difficult to have a series end in a satisfying manner. I’ve been giving my thoughts on the Hunger Games series throughout the year, and now I’ll be looking to see how the trilogy ends. Is it an ending that satisfies or leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth?
Since this will be regarding the third book of a series this will contain spoilers from the first two books, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, so you’ve been warned. I’ll try to keep it light on the spoilers for this book, but can’t guarantee anything on that either.
The last book ended with a number of obligatory cliffhangers to make you anticipate the next book. Katniss and two of the other tributes of the 75th Hunger Games escape with the help of a still existing District 13, but three others are captured by the Capitol including Peeta. To make matters worse after Katniss wakes up from her injuries from that ordeal, Gale is there to let her know that District 12 has been bombed and destroyed, but he has managed to rescue her family.
So this sets up where the last book starts. Katniss finds herself in District 13, which lives underground. The new surroundings are quite foreign to Katniss as District 13 runs on a military like efficiency. Everyone is dressed similarly, has a set daily schedule, and only uses the basic necessities.
Now the plot of this book doesn’t revolve around a Hunger Games, but rather the war that is raging across the nation of Panem. With the Capitol leading one side and District 13 leading the other. What District 13 wants to do is find a way to unite the districts against the Capitol, and the best way to do that is to get Katniss to be the symbol (mascot?) of the rebellion.
So no problem right? The Capitol is evil and standing up against them should be no problem. Things aren’t quite that simple, the fact that Peeta has been captured by the Capitol and that the leadership of District 13 seems a little iffy makes Katniss unsure of what she should do.
So that’s the basic setup. The plot has a good amount of tension that makes you want to know what’s happening next. However, at that same time there are a number of things that are just kind of over the top. Some that spring to mind are bows and arrows that can take down hovercrafts and the whole last section of the book where the Capitol is revealed to be pretty much a Hunger Games arena.
A lot of the characters return for the final installment, so if they’ve survived the previous books they’re pretty much in this book. The thing is that there are a good number who haven’t survived. Even the ones that have been in previous books have undergone certain changes in Mockingjay. These aren’t changes that are against character necessarily, but rather changes that have come out of the circumstances in previous books. Let me give a few examples.
The first is Katniss. Just like with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Katniss is our guide to the world of Panem. I’ve always thought that this choice was largely a strong point, with some minor weaknesses. In Mockingjay, I think it starts to become a larger weakness, maybe not more than a strength, but up there.
With each book the conflict has escalated. In the first book it was just about surviving the Hunger Games so telling it from Katniss’ point of view made a lot of sense. With Catching Fire we have another Hunger Games, but there is also this whole alliance thing trying to break out of the arena and keep Katniss safe that she doesn’t know about.It makes her view point miss a good amount, but it’s still small enough to work well.
Now with Mockingjay there is no Hunger Games, the nation is at war and one person’s perspective on a whole war is going to be lacking. Plus add in the physical and emotional trauma that Katniss has sustained in the past two books and it leads to a character who is still strong, but unable to carry the whole load of a war (even if she was still physically and mentally unaffected by the previous two books). This also means that some parts and aspects of the war are just unknown to Katniss or only heard about later.
This may lead you to think that Katniss isn’t as strong as the previous books but I don’t think this is the case. I’ll admit to understanding this view since she spends a fair deal of the book wandering around some hospital or other building in a wounded or emotionally unstable state. I’d say though that it is more about one person coming up to their limits in terms of what the strength of one person can accomplish. So unless Suzanne Collins was wanting to turn Katniss into Rambo or something it seemed like a fairly natural progression to me.
Gale also has a shift in this book. In previous books he was more of an anti-authority, voice of the people character and really only seemed to trust Katniss. In this book we see him gravitating towards the authority of District 13 and putting quite a bit of distance between him and Katniss (which to be fair Katniss has contributed to over time). This makes sense as Gale is more anti-Capitol, but it seems to cause him to not see the flaws in the authority system he is embracing. It makes for an interesting shift, but made Gale an even more unlikable character in my mind.
Peeta also has a pretty drastic shift in this book. I won’t give too much away, but circumstances kind of change Peeta into a cold person, at least towards Katniss, for a good portion of this book. We see this kind of change in a few other characters like Finnick who removes his brash confident exterior for a more vulnerable and humble picture of himself at times. So we have development for a number of the characters that we’ve come to know.
We’re also introduced to a number of new characters some major, others minor. Since it is a Hunger Games book, there is also no guarantee that any of the characters are going to survive the book, whether they’re new blood or not. You’ll go through a number of characters in this one, some that you’ll miss and others that you won’t.
To me it also seems that the themes of this book have shifted just a bit like the characters themselves. The theme of survival is largely absent. However, the theme of corruption and abuse of power is all over the place. This has been seen throughout the trilogy through the Capitol, but Mockingjay adds another player to the corrupt and power hungry. That is the leader of District 13, President Coin.
So you have the whole rebellion against a corrupt Capitol going on through the book, but as you travel further on you have real questions about the morality and goodness of President Coin and District 13. It then becomes a struggle of who does one support if both options are corrupt. Positions of power and authority are not viewed favorably in these books.
In addition to the themes of corruption and abuse of power, you also have the theme of morality in war. What is morally acceptable and unacceptable in war? Is war even a time to be asking that question? These kind of questions are explored through the book. Katniss seems to think there should be morals and that certain lines shouldn’t be crossed, but sadly both the Capitol and even District 13 don’t seem to agree with her.
One last theme I’ll touch on that I mentioned earlier is the idea of the limits of one person. Katniss as the Mockingjay symbol for the revolution does more than most people would do for a war effort, but you constantly see Katniss run up against the limits of what she can do on her own throughout the book. While one person can have a more significant impact in a small arena battle, as the conflict spreads to all out war a person’s impact may be less noticeable.
This was another book that I read rather fast once I started getting into it. Like the other books it hooks you into the story and you want to see how it all ends. There are weaknesses that come from having Katniss being the only point of view that are stronger in this book. She misses some fairly significant moments because she’s not there to witness them. This fact also leads to some slower parts of the book.
The book just kind of seemed all over the place in some ways. It has slow parts and fast parts, but then has setting or circumstances that just make you scratch your head (which is what I was thinking about for the last quarter or so of the book while in the Capitol). The ending I found mostly satisfying. I didn’t like some of the parts about how it ended, but overall I don’t object too strongly. At the end of the day The Hunger Games is still the strongest book of the trilogy. The whole trilogy is still worth your time to read, but the follow up books never seemed to capture the focused story that the first book presented.