Okay if you live in a cave and haven't heard of The Hunger Games and especially if you haven't read Catching Fire than don't bother reading this. Go read those instead.
You guys. It's been almost a year since Catching Fire came out and I, like a million other salivating Americans, have been on the verge of anxiety over the conclusion of this story. Seriously - like, I thought about it all the time. I made up all these different scenarios of what could happen, and what SHOULD happen, and I kind of feel like a Twilight Fan Girl in that regard. I became emotionally attached okay? Don't judge me.
Obviously after so many months longing for some kind of conclusion to this the Worst Cliffhanger Ever That Haunts My Dreams, my expectations might have been just kind of high. Really, haven't I learned my lesson about that by now?
So after having JUST finished it, here is what I think:
I think I want to grab my mom's new carving knives and STAB THIS BOOK REPEATEDLY. And then maybe stab myself repeatedly. Because I just realized how much of a sucker I am for a happy ending a la City of Glass where the characters are beat-up and bloodied and traumatized but they heal emotionally and physically and gain back their hope and the world is bright once more.
Not to say that Mockingjay has a sad ending, because it's not, it's just a SAD BOOK. Seriously -- start to finish it is one big ball of bleakness and despair and misery, blended with some backstabbing and power vacuums and gore of the Grand Theft Auto variety. And considering the storyline of the previous two that is saying something.
Mockingjay opens about a month after Catching Fire ended. Some beloved characters are dead. And everyone else is so messed up by this point that you almost WANT them to die, just so that their misery ends. Talk about Baggage. Baggage, of course, is totally understandable and realistc. Look, it's not like I was expecting rainbows and unicorns and Magical Therapists. But honestly? This was too much for me, all of the sadness. I grew to love these characters, and the ones that survived were such train wrecks that I felt like I didn't even know them anymore. And honestly, it hurt me.
Okay I can't help it, I need to rant for a sec - so SPOLIERS AHEAD YA'LL! Just close your eyes and scroll to the bottom or something if you don't want any Big Secrets revealed.
So, at the end of the last one I cried. Because Peeta was my favorite, and Katniss was so powerless. I figured that Collins probably wouldn't kill off Peeta, but more than likely he'd be tortured and probably brainwashed and maybe Katniss would have to go through another Games to get him back or something. Then, with any luck, she would finally (in a fit of rage) yell at him that she does in fact love him and that he needs to snap out of whatever funk he's in, and he would because he loves her so, and then they would merrily snag the President and toss him off a cliff and make it back home by dinner.
I guess I was kind of right about the brainwashing. Except it was Ten. Times. Worse. and we don't really see again the Peeta we knew and loved. Katniss is either insane with despair or completely void of emotion. A couple of her breakdowns were actually freaky, and a few others made me weep because really - how much can a 17 year old girl take?
I've always rooted for her and Peeta. He brings such a great balance to her, which I guess she comes to recognize, so yes I was glad she ends up with Peeta, despite his occasionally losing his mind and trying to kill her. Which put a major damper on their relationship, because what happens when the Steady character becomes unsteady? I feel like I can't forgive Collins for damaging him so badly.
So the love triangle fizzled, though my heart hurts a little for Gale. I'm just glad Collins didn't kill either of them off in an attempt to solve the Love Triangle Crisis -- such a cop out. BUT. Katniss never becomes good at showing Peeta how much she cares about him. We only know because of the way she seems to die inside when she thinks he's dead/being tortured/damaged beyond repair. Somehow I needed more from her on that. More communication. As a sign of maturing and learning Love Life Lessons.
And killing Prim? REALLY? That seemed cheap and low. Did Katniss really need MORE reasons for joining ranks of the Living Dead? Since she was already so destroyed at that point it seemed unnecessary to the story. I guess Collins wanted her to be just as crazytown as Peeta. And did anyone feel good about that ending? A few quick paragraphs dedicated to their Scarred Ever After? FOR REAL?! After all we've been through with them! I guess it's happy that they love each other, but it certainly doesn't feel that way. I want to feel that connection again, like the couple of heated moments they had in #2. I don't feel real closure with them. I'm not convinced that she or Peeta ever found peace. Maybe they aren't supposed to. But I don't like leaving the heroine, the fighter and survivor, broken.
Also. I have questions. Oh so many questions . . . What happened on the Peeta Rescue Mission? Did his brain hijack just wear off over time or did Beetee find some kind of cure? What was Gale's family doing the whole time and why were they never mentioned other than that they were alive? Why did Finnick's life flash before Katniss' eyes when he was killed? Why did Katniss agree with Hunger Games v2.0? How was that strategic? Why don't I write these things down as I read them so that I don't forget them when I review the book? I swear.
** END OF SPOILERS**
You can come back now.
So. About a third of the way through I was like, Why does this all seem so weird? And then I realized it's because it feels TOTALLY different than the first two books. There are a variety of "important" secondary characters who come into the picture for like a second so we never get to know them. The pace seems slow and maddening because there seems to be no real objective. The settings are hastily described, as though Collins is rushing through the story so fast that she doesn't have time to describe situations that don't make much sense. Unless they're hospital scenes, because about half of the book takes place in a sterilized room. The characters, probably because they're all emotionally and mentally shredded, often act in ways that don't align with what they would normally do or say. Half the time Katniss is so out of it that I had no idea how much time was actually passing. The plot seemed directionless. The Big Showdown I was expecting was a more of a Major Letdown, which turned into a lot of the What Just Happened moments.
Ugh this is making me exhausted all over again. All day I've been emotionally drained from this roller coaster. I probably should have let more time lapse before writing this. Obviously I'm still wounded. And confused. Now that I think about it, there were a truckload of What Just Happened moments where I had to re-read but still didn't get it. Although it might have something to do with me being in such a rush to see What Happens that I kind of gloss over some details. Hm. Obviously I need to do another read of it. That usually helps. Or maybe Collins can take more time doing revisions.
You probably think I hated it after all that. Actually I did like it (unless I was hating it), but I was so sure that I would LOVE it. I was so sure I would close the book thinking, I can't start a new book because I want the taste of this one to stay a while longer. Instead I was like, Where's the Prozac when you need it? But I guess it did what it was set out to do - finish a war. And wars have steep costs which, in real life, aren't ever healed. I just usually expect more hopefulness in my YA lit, but there I go with my expectations again.
My recommendation is to read it (sans expectations of it being the same calibar as the first two), but find a way to stimulate some endorphins before, during and after. Trust me, if you love these characters like I do, you'll need all the Happy you can get.