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Friday, April 6, 2012

Mockingjay - The Hunger Games Book 3

I have so much to say about Mockingjay that I'm not quite sure where to start.  I have already shared some of my reservations or misgivings about this series in my post on The Hunger Games and I have raved about how much I liked Catching Fire.  So, what do I share about Mockingjay?  I supposed I shall start by summarizing and go from there.

***SPOILER ALERT*** In this post I am assuming 1) that you have already read these books and 2) that you have already read my previous posts on this series. If you haven't read the book, consider yourself warned, if you haven't read my previous posts, go here.

Mockingjay picks up a few days after Catching Fire ended.  Katniss is with her mom and sister in District 13, but she is still very distraught.  Peeta is in the hands of the Capitol.  The president of district 13 wants her to become the face of the rebellion, but Katniss is unsure if she supports it.  She doesn't like the Capitol, but the rebels did lie to her and leave Peeta in the arena to be captured.  That doesn't really endear them to her.  Then she sees Peeta on Capitol TV telling the rebels to stop fighting and give up.  Katniss knows that he is saying this because he is being forced to, but
the rebels disagree.  So, after thinking and talking with Gale, Katniss decides to be the face of the rebellion on the conditions that 1) Peeta and the other people who have been captured by the Capitol be granted immunity and not punished for anything they do that might harm the rebellion and 2) she gets to kill President Snow.
Now Katniss is the face of the rebellion and the rebels take her all over and film her for propaganda shorts.  Then, one day Peeta is shown on Capitol TV again, this time looking very sick and he warns the rebels that they are about to be attacked.  While hiding out in the bomb shelter Katniss comes to the realization that the Capitol is torturing Peeta not for information, but to hurt her.  Once she realizes this, she has a total breakdown.  The rebel leaders realize that the only way that she is going to be functional is if they rescue Peeta.  So in a daring mission they do - but things don't turn out quite how everyone planned.  They rescue him and a couple other people all right, but the Capitol did something called hijacking to Peeta's brain.  The result - when he sees Katniss for the first time, he tries to kill her.  This is where the story starts to turn a little uglier and I started to be irritated with it.  Because what does Katniss do when this happens?  She totally writes him off as not Peeta anymore and a crazy man.  So she doesn't visit him, talk to him, nothing.  She takes a mission off in another district to get away.
And so the war continues.  The rebels take all the districts except the Capitol, which they are preparing to invade.  Katniss, Gale and a couple of other people are picked to be the pretty party of the war, given jobs on the outskirts of the city away from the real danger and followed around by a camera crew.  After a few days Peeta shows up.  He is doing a lot better than before, having spent over a month in intense rehab, but he's still not the same Peeta who was in love with Katniss.  Over the course of the next few days the rest of the group tries to help him remember things by playing a game called "real or not real" where Peeta states something that he thinks happened and asks "real or not real?" and the others answer accordingly.
After a few days of this the group starts out on a mission, but it turns out to be more dangerous than they anticipated and they end up losing several of their people, including their leader.  The leader, realizing that he was dying, transfers the responsibility of leading the group over to Katniss, who decides to lead them into the city in an attempt to assassinate President Snow.  However, the Capitol knows that the group is still alive and they end up having losing almost all of their men in the attempt to get through.  In the end, five people make it into the city alive: Katniss, Peeta, Gale and two other minor characters.  These five people make it pretty far and then decide to split up.  Katniss and Gale go one way, with Peets trailing them by a few yards and the other two characters go another.  Gale and Katniss end up losing Peeta when the Rebels attack, Gale gets captured and Katniss makes her way to the president's mansion.  There, in front of the president's mansion is a group of children guarded by peacekeepers that the president is using as a shield.  The rebels are getting closer and closer, but they leave that area alone because they refuse to harm children.  Then overhead flies a plane with the Capitol's insignia on it and it drops toy and candies down on the children.  But like everything else in this story, these things are not as they appear.  They are actually bombs.  Half of the bombs go off, leaving many children dead and wounded.  The rebels wait a few minutes to make sure there are no more bombs and then their medics rush in to take care of the children.  One of the first to get there is Prim, Katniss' thirteen year old sister and pretty much her only reason for living.  Katniss sees Prim and rushes over, right as the second round of bombs goes off, killing many people and injuring Katniss.
  When Katniss wakes up, the war is over.  The rebels won.  Her mom is taking care of sick and injured, Gale is off in another district helping clean up, Peeta is in rehab (or so we assume) and Prim is dead.  Katniss loses her mind to grief and spends her days wandering around aimlessly.  One day she finds herself in the room where they are keeping President Snow.  He tells her something that she doesn't want to believe, but he reminds her that they promised not to lie to each other.  President Snow tells Katniss that he was not the one who sent the bombs.  It was President Coin, the leader of the rebels.  After mulling it over, Katniss realizes that it makes sense.  President Coin has never liked Katniss, and the bombs that went off had a striking resemblance to the bombs that Gale helped to invent in District 13.  When Katniss realizes this, she realizes two things.  One, she will never be able to look at Gale in the same way again and two, it isn't President Snow that she wants dead.
After President Snow is tried and sentenced to death at the hand of Katniss, the rebels stage a huge execution, but instead of killing Snow, Katniss kills Coin.  Katniss is then whisked away into solitary for weeks while a trial is held.  She is finally acquitted on account of her apparent insanity and sent back to District 12.  She leads a life of solitude dealing with her grief for several months before Peeta ends up coming home.  Eventually they get married and have two children and go on with their lives.  They never see Gale again, nor (based on what was said, is it safe to assume) Katniss' mother.  That is where the book ends.

 This book is written first person from Katniss' perspective.  Because of this, we can't help but be drawn in to her emotions.  We can't help but feel for her as we watch her changing as she tries to cope with these circumstances that are beyond her control.  In the first two books, she makes decisions that we look at and think aren't the best, but we know that she is doing the best she can, and we doubt that we would do much better in her place.  But in this third book she goes crazy.  She goes from being cautious and only trusting three people (Gale, Peeta and Haymitch) to being paranoid and not trusting anyone.  This causes relationships to be strained and break and really caused me to stop empathizing with Katniss as much as I had before.  I still do, but I'm also a little irritated with her; I feel like she took things too far.  I understand being cautious, but when you turn your back on someone you've known for years whom has already saved your life and proven himself worthy of your trust, that is no longer caution.  That is extreme paranoia and a lack of ability to look outside oneself.
  I also really hated how the book was ended.  After we have been on this journey with Katniss, watching and feeling for her as she goes through all this pain and suffering, to end the book without showing any of the healing process is just awful.  We have watched Katniss change from a strong young woman into a broken shadow of a person and we have also watched as she has hurt others and broken relationships with others and we also know that for her to marry Peeta in the end and then give birth to children, there had to have been healing - but we don't get to see that healing process.  This left me feeling kind of depressed and very angry.  There HAD to have been healing, Katniss HAD to have regained at least some of her former strength or she would have eventually diminished until death took her and she never would have married.  It seems almost cruel of the author to show us in such depth and detail how completely broken and hopeless Katniss was and then to end the book with a very short shallow description of Katniss twenty years later after she has healed.
Another thing, we never do learn why the Capitol is bad in the first place.  I know, there are obvious reasons - the hunger games, the brutality of the police, the lack of freedom - but my question is why did District 13 rebel the first time?  And are the rebels really any better than the Capitol?  They seem just as brutal and manipulative as the people they are trying to overthrow to me.
Will these questions ever get answered?  That is something that I would like to know, because if they don't that is definitely a strike against the strength of the story.

Like I have said before, even though these books are written for children, the content really shouldn't be read until late high school.  The themes and darkness of these books is something that most people younger than a senior in high school wouldn't understand, thus it would desensitize them to the depth of how serious these ideas really are.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on the movie, the books and more.

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