Haunting from Start to Finish
Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree
– “The Hanging Tree” from Mockingjay
I finally read the final book in the “Hunger Games” trilogy this week. I’ve heard a lot of excited press and speculation about Mockingjay ever since it was first announced months ago, but after reflecting on the ending for a few days, I can think of one word in response:
That’s my whole reaction summed up in one word. It was haunting from start to finish. Haunting in its darkness, haunting in its sorrow, its pain, and its loneliness. Most of all, it was haunting in its realism. Other reviewers may disagree with me, but I believe one-hundred percent that what happened in Suzanne Collins’ epic tale is possible. I even see echoes of it in my history books. At the heartbreaking climax, I instantly dredged up thoughts of World War II, September 11th, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. People lashing out through pain and heartache. People hungry for revenge. People wanting to bring an end to unimaginable suffering…with more suffering.
Written in a YA fiction book, it all seems so stupid and pointless. At times it’s easy to feel distant and superior, because despite all our faults, our society (speaking from the viewpoint of a born and bred American, here) has never sunken low enough to force innocent children to fight our grownup battles. But I feel Katniss’s hopelessness and heartache. It seems like we as a species will never learn, and the hardest battle of all is learning to accept that reality but continue to fight it anyway.
It’s hard to give a review of the content without giving anything away. A lot happens. Alliances constantly shift, doubt and imminent doom hover like a cloud over ever scene, and much blood is shed. Some of the deaths are really graphic—not necessarily because Collins’ makes an effort to be gory, but because the nature of the killings is so brutal and she describes them so effectively.
My one complaint is a trivial one—Katniss sulks and doubts too much. Seriously, I would say most of the book consists of Katniss doubting herself and her abilities and sulking over everything that’s already been lost, which is understandable. Realistically, I would expect nothing less. However, it makes horrible reading material. From my experience, we as a people don’t like looking our weaker selves in the mirror.
I accept that this character is grieving in a way I couldn’t possibly imagine, but the author doesn’t have to show every moment of it. Get on with that action. Do a fade to black moment or something. And the dog and pony show scenes annoyed me as well for the same reason. Yes, these were necessary. I just felt the buildup for the novel as a whole was too slow and I that it took longer than needed to get me riveted. Sometimes…some things are better left unsaid.
The tone of the epilogue is the epitome of bittersweet. My heart aches for all the characters, but I don’t think I would’ve been happy with it ending any other way. This is how war and politics work, folks. After everything covered in the three books, there would be no point trying to sugarcoat it. All in all, I give this book four out of five stars and a big box of Kleenex. You’re going to need it.
Sydnee is a freshman at Wayne State University pursuing a degree in Journalism. Her hobbies include painting and taking long afternoon naps. She is obsessed with hunky heroes, explosions, melodrama, and magic—all things that make a frequent appearance in her stories.