Why "Mockingjay" of The Hunger Games Trilogy Disappointed
Embarking on "The Hunger Games" Trilogy
I am not your traditional reader of The Hunger Games Trilogy. I watched The Hunger Games movie long after everyone else and stayed thinking about the movie for days. The first movie made me think, "I should read the book."
About a month or two later after I had watched The Hunger Games movie, trailers for Catching Fire were just coming out and I began to get excited for the second movie. I saw the movie as soon as I was able and after seeing Catching Fire I thought, "I have to read the books!"
And so began my search for obtaining The Hunger Games Trilogy from whatever ethical, no-cost source I could find. My search was not in vain, as one of my friends lent me The Hunger Games and I was eventually able to get a hold of a copy of Catching Fire and Mockingjay from the library (despite the high demand for the titles and the library's initial denial of my requests).
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, while not without their flaws, did not disappoint for the most part. The stories, themes, characters, character development, ideas, etc. were good and the story had so much promise and potential.
But then "Mockingjay" happened.
While I am disappointed with some of Suzanne Collins' literary choices as an author, I am more disappointed with her follow through as a writer.
In reading Mockingjay, the book reads as if Suzanne Collins was unfocused and not as dedicated to the third and final book in the trilogy as she was to the first two. Her efforts were unevenly distributed throughout the book, and she struggled to maintain the integrity of the story while combating her desire to finish the series. It is clear that Collins still wanted the story to say something and for it to have some meaning and be real, but that she lacked the motivation and discipline (or possibly time?) to finish strong.
"Mockingjay" Fails on Two Levels
The first level that Mockingjay fails is on the "rules of writing" level. An author has certain responsibilities when writing--even when writing a Young Adult book. Character arcs and character development, tone, theme and idea building, plot, pacing, etc. all have to be brought together and followed through. It is more than ok to bring in new ideas and to turn the story in a new direction but it has to be done by maintaining and building upon what was previously established--otherwise there is no point or flow in bringing them together. There were also issues with rushed, choppy, and incomplete writing, as well as bad pacing and plot.
The second level that Mockingjay fails is on the story level. There are so many problems with the actual story in Mockingjay that to list them all would require their own article. However, to address some of the problems with the story: the integrity of the core characters was not maintained; new characters that do not matter were brought in, not developed, then killed off or not followed up with; outrageous and random plot elements were everywhere; the story had no balance and altered between Katniss' altered PTSD and drugged state, and "war and propaganda are everywhere-keep running because everyone needs to die." Reading page after page in Mockingjay, one holds on to the hope that the story will redeem itself somewhere and at the end of the book one is left with, "WTHeck did I just read?"
So Much Promise--Wasted.
The ending of The Hunger Games Trilogy would not have been so upsetting if the story had not held so much potential and promise, and if the failure of the last book did not appear to be attributed to a lack of focus and effort. I find that incredibly frustrating. It is one thing to lack the ability, but another thing altogether to quit trying. It appears that at one point, Collins made the decision that finishing the series was enough and that finishing strong did not matter. Ultimately, that is why Mockingjay disappointed.
It is disappointing for me to see that in anything that holds potential and promise, but it bothered me with this series in particular because it was the first thing that caught my eye and got me inspired in a long time. I love things that work on levels, that integrate elements, that speak, that make me think, that challenge ideas and encourage discussion, and that bring things together in a strong way and The Hunger Games did that. I became invested in the characters, the ideas, how it spoke, and what it said and the story could have been so much. But then the story fell short in what it could have been, and not only did it fall short in what it could have been, but it fell short because it was not given the investment that it should have been given.
There were some things in Mockingjay that could definitely have been built upon and incorporated to make a strong ending to the series while still making the argument and development that Collins wanted to make and there are things that the book does right. But somehow, it is still comes up short.
Were you disappointed with Mockingjay?
Goodbye to the Mockingjay
The more I analyze the trilogy, the more Mockingjay fits and the more I think of the story, the more accepting of Mockingjay I become. As time passes, it becomes easier to let go of what the book could have been and harder to remember all the possibilities it had. And possibly, one day Mockingjay will grow on me.
Or maybe, like Katniss, I have just come to accept that it could have been different, it could have been better, it could have been worse, and it is the way it is.