1st Thursday [5]: Hungering for More from the Mockingjay

Mockingjay

{potential spoilers reside within}

While on a work assignment, my current book has been condemned to the bottom of a pile, so this month I will share with you my thoughts on a previous read, The Hunger Games series.  I had a different experience with each, as I saw the original movie before reading the book, read the second book shortly before seeing the movie, and read the last book long before the movie(s) came out. While I praised the heroism of the young Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, I felt rather disappointed with her (and her writer Suzanne Collins) in Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

While I try to keep in mind the YA nature of this series, I can’t help but wonder why we can’t expect even more from the young heroine than she gives us. Yes, she is just a girl, but at what point does the girl grow up? I was continuously frustrated by her inability to accept her new role after surviving her first Games. I understand it is a life she never wanted, and attention she would never have asked for, but where were the people around her to say, “Suck it up, girl. We need you.”? Haymitch the drunk was the only one who seemed determined to motivate her. Not her mom. Not her sister. Not Gale. Not Plutarch. Even the District 13 president was predisposed to Katniss’ failure.

My main concern with the first book was the anticipation of shared outrage with other readers who claimed that the movie got it wrong by making Rue black.  I did not see the change as in any way detrimental to the story, and actually found it to be completely irrelevant. Score one for the movie, for me. I did enjoy reading directly from Katniss’ perspective, especially at the reaping, as her worst fears were thrust upon her sister:

She reaches in, digs her hand deep into the ball, and pulls out a slip of paper. The crowd draws in a collective breath and then you can hear a pin drop, and I’m feeling nauseous and so desperately hoping that it’s not me, that it’s not me, that it’s not me.

Effie Trinket crosses back to the podium, smooths the slip of paper, and reads out the name in a clear voice. And it’s not me.

It’s Primrose Everdeen.

Book two is where I began to lose faith in the hero. Her aversion to teaming up with anyone of significace in the new arena did not make sense to me. At some point I wanted someone to tell her why it was important.  But I guess she was just too fragile a flower.  I wish the movie had revealed the story behind Haymitch’s Hunger Games victory, as the book did, because it made him easier to understand, and more likable, for me. It would have been very easy to do, and would have given him due credit for discovering the force fields.

Book three was just a mess for me. I could not comprehend Katniss’ absence from key moments in the story, including her own trial in District 13. Fortunately that was left out of the movie. I had a hard time with the all-powerful Capitol’s inability to defend itself, and its reliance on CGI hobgoblins instead of more armed hovercraft. The death of another Everdeen at the end threw the entire saga into question for me. What was the point of Katniss volunteering? Couldn’t the fight have come from outside the arena? Surely the people of the twelve districts were already angry enough. Maybe a sober Haymitch could have inspired them! And finally, the love story that felt factory-assembled just didn’t do it for me. The one we expected in the beginning just fizzled out with barely a mention. Is the moral of the story that the Hunger Games really were good for something?

Overall, I thought the books could have been better had they not been written to fit a certain format (three novels, three sections each, nine chapters each section). Today I have a hard time differentiating between this series and the Divergent trilogy.

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