Literary Post-mortem: Mockingjay

Finished reading the third and final book in the Hunger Games series in the wee hours of yesterday morning and was in tears.

Had to re-read the last paragraph because it was so perfect. I bow down at the greatness that is Suzanne Collins.

I never imagined that I’d ever read an action novel, but I kind of did with this third installment. There’s always been a fair amount of adrenaline and action in the previous books but it all reached a whole new level in Mockingjay.

To say what happened without saying what happened,  I’ll say this:

I was not prepared for all the things that happened. This book picks up right where Catching Fire left off. So I still had the same indignant feels where Peeta was concerned.

For a long while Katniss goes on living a semi – normal life while preparing for what’s to come. For me she became someone I couldn’t look up to anymore. I don’t know if this has to do with her now being a flawed person, a real person. Who’s irrational, unforgiving and selfish. Which in retrospect was actually endearing and made everything all the more believable.

Even though she may have ‘shrunk’ somewhat for me because of the above she also grew a little. She finally found the words to describe what she felt for the men in her life and the words she used to describe her feelings were nothing short of beautiful. Because she knows what she feels she can find it in her to finally make a decision on who she loves and who she wants.

While the drama was a little extra, it was necessary and like I said very plausible for the most part. The narrative about war and freedom required it actually. Reading all the prep that went into training soldiers, the sacrifices that people had to make made me realise that I am nowhere ready for such fundamental change in my life. I do feel that change is needed in the world, but the magnitude of sacrifice required just never clicked. Perhaps it’s not even sacrifice as such but giving up small comforts for total and unequivocal freedom.

By the end of Mockingjay a lot has been lost but tremendous gains have also been won, both in the personal and political realm. Even though things have gone tits up, it does bring Katniss closer to the man she loves loves (<—-not an error). The epilogue reminded me of Harry Potter – both how it ended and how reading those books made me feel.

The Hunger Games trilogy felt like going back in time, to being that girl I was in high school who stopped living in this world for a few days and being right there at Hogwarts, or rather Panem.

In short, it was brilliant.

BOOK REVIEW: Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Photo: Provided
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

This is the second book in the Hunger Games series and boy does it deliver.

I imagined that The Hunger Games was some sick, fantasy story – which it is, but it is also a whole lot more. My general attitude led to me opting to watch the movie instead of reading the book I thought was some dodge teenage craze.

I loved the movie and have watched it several times over. I have loved Josh Huctherson since his movie Little Manhattan and have been hoping to see more of him ever since. And now here he is all grown up, playing the role of Peeta Mellark, the young man who is besotted with Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence). Katniss is the heroine, the alpha female of the novels and movies.

Sometimes it can be good to watch the movie before reading the book, because in this case I believe the characters were perfectly cast. I might have cast the ‘wrong’ people in my mind’s eye and would have been left disappointed when I saw the people cast in the movie.

For a bit of background:

In the first Hunger Games book/movie Katniss and Peeta’s names are drawn during the reaping, which means that they have to represent their district at that years Hunger Games. A little like soldiers being drafted for war. In the games one girl and one boy from each district are picked to enter an illusory arena in which they fight to the death – the last one left alive being the victor of the games.

Things get a little complicated when Peeta declares his undying love for Katniss (which to me was super romantic) just before they enter the arena. Halfway through the games it is decided that to win a pair from a district need to be alive. Katniss then finds Peeta and as they are the only way of keeping one another alive they team up. Katniss pretends to be in love with him for the cameras. Long story short, they win and have to carry on with their charade of being lovers.

Cut to the second book, Catching Fire. It begins with showing us how life has progressed in the past few weeks after the games. They are both well to do and can afford to give their families everything they need and want.

It is evident that some of the love we saw between Katniss and Peeta in the games has since dissipated. They kiss and hold hands when the cameras are on, and this disgusts Katniss. Because she is actually in love with her best friend Gale, who she now has to pretend is her cousin.

Katniss and Peeta have to lead very particular lives because the Capitol is watching them. The president of the Capitol pays Katniss a visit to force her to make her relationship with Peeta more believable, especially when they go on their Victor’s tour through all the districts. Peeta can feel her coldness all the time and pleads for them just to be friends, at least.

On the tour it becomes evident that they have become symbols of defiance throughout the districts. This brings the two together and leads to an actual bond being formed. Things take a turn for the worse when both are forced to go back to the Hunger Games for the 75th anniversary of the games.  A twist that no one could have expected. In the arena a number of daunting and shocking things happen – but amidst all of the life threatening dangers, the two fall in love. Peeta becomes her rock, not Gale.

I’ve given way too much away but I couldn’t help myself. I could hardly stop myself from reading the book at all hours of the day and night. I was truly captivated from the first word in the first paragraph, to the last word in the last paragraph.

I love the metaphors about how cruel and calculated the powers that be can be and in fact are. I also love the powerful way in which in the people in the districts choose to risk their lives to try and rid themselves of the shackles of their oppression. But most of all, I love that Katniss finally gives Peeta a chance. That she finally sees the man he is and can be with her by his side. In other words, it was an amazing read and I cannot wait to start the third book.