Book Review: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins


Recommended. Violence isn’t glorified in this violent ending to the trilogy.

A few of my students told me that they didn’t like the ending to the Hunger Games trilogy, and, I’ll admit, it’s definitely not a “they rode happily into the sunset and lived happily ever after.” Though I think Collins’ ending is excellent, it leaves us with a deep sadness. Why?

I think, first, that we’re just sad to see these characters go. Collins is a master of characterization, and, by the time Mockingjay ends, she’s got us so involved with Panem’s people that it’s painful to say goodbye. Especially, after spending so much time in Katniss’s present-tense telling of her story, and after seeing so much of her emotional struggles, leaving Collins’ protagonist feels like parting from a close friend.

But even more than that, the manner in which we leave the Capitol and its districts is gut-wrenching. Finnick, who we’ve come to love, whose marriage we delight in, gets his throat ripped out by vicious muttations; Prim, who Kat relentlessly sought to protect, who dreamed of becoming a doctor, is burnt alive. Haymitch still abuses alcohol to cope with his pain. Boggs’ legs are blown off. Gale and Kat, the first couple we meet in the story, part ways in heartbreak, and Gale seems to move on quickly, whether readers are ready or not.

And, worst of all, our heroes are broken. Kat, innocent and fiery when we first meet her, is a shattered shell, spending long portions of Mockingjay (and of the Epilogue) dealing with a post-traumatic stress that we experience firsthand. And that lovable, indefatigueable Peeta, impossibly good, admirably faithful, cannot ever fully escape his Capitol hijacking; rather than living happily ever after, we’re told that he has to clench his fists at times to avoid killing his love.

There are no glorious victor parades, no shining reunions–there’s hardly anyone left alive TO reunite with. After all of the violence of the rebellion is through, we have a vague sense of mass graves, rather than celebrations, filling the liberated countryside. Instead of the eternal glory that we have vaguely imagined in Katniss’ future since Book One, our heroine’s public life ends with a criminal trial that leaves her “sentenced” to live back in melancholy District 12.

So: why call this depressing ending excellent? Two basic reasons:

First, it’s realistic. The non-stop action and violence of the Hunger Games and the rebellion has lifelong implications for the heroes. They don’t magically recover. Instead, the violence that they’ve experienced and participated in has left them irretrievably stained, as violence always does to its participants.

Second, Katniss ends up with Peeta. It’s depressing to see them in the final pages, so broken, so incapable of the free romance that they played at previously, so scarred by the countless twists in their relationship that have happened since the Games. Yet, they at least do end up together, and Katniss at last realizes (finally) Peeta’s worth.