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Segullah Book Club: Mockingjay Discussion

By Angela Hallstrom

Today is the day! Our inaugural Segullah Book Club Discussion. We’ll be discussing four books a year here on the blog, and we’re kicking things off with a novel that’s had readers buzzing since its release in August: Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay.

Mockingjay is the final book in the Hunger Games series, a trilogy of novels aimed at teen readers that has found crossover success with adults. The Hunger Games novels explore a dystopian future where a powerful central government (the Capitol) keeps each outlying “district” in line by hosting The Hunger Games, a yearly event where one adolescent boy and one adolescent girl from each district are chosen by lottery to fight to the death. The series’ protagonist, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, volunteers for the games to take the place of her 12-year-old sister.

The trilogy is full of action—and violence—but many readers have been drawn in by the books’ vivid characters and powerful anti-war themes. The last book, Mockingjay, has elicited particularly divided opinions, especially regarding the level of violence depicted in a book intended for teens, and the trilogy’s ultimate resolution.

So, after that intro, I think we’re ready to discuss Mockingjay. A reminder that all commenters must abide by Segullah’s commenting guidelines. This is particularly important advice when it comes to discussing a book’s “appropriateness”—feel free to share your opinions on the subject, but disparaging others’ readers righteousness or calling other parents on the carpet if they choose to let their kids read the novel is entirely inappropriate. In short, please remember that we’re more interested in intelligent opinion sharing than smug aspersion casting. (If you’re in the mood to cast aspersions, I’m sure there are LOTS of other opportunities awaiting in the bloggernacle! But I won’t link to any, cause that’s just snarky.)

To get us started, I have three questions you might want to consider responding to in the comments. (You don’t necessarily have to answer these questions, but they might be a good jumping-off point.)

1. Mockingjay is a young adult novel intended for readers age twelve and up, but the book is very violent. School Library Journal calls the novel “ruthless” in its depiction of the horrors of war, and many readers have been stunned and disturbed by the book. Did you (or would you) let your adolescent child read Mockingjay? Why or why not? As an adult reader, did you find the level of violence in the novel gratuitous or necessary to developing the theme of the consequences of war?

2. Many readers feel that Mockingjay is a departure from books 1 and 2 of The Hunger Games series and were surprised by both the events in this book and its overall tone. Did you feel this way? Why or why not?

3. What about that ending? Did you agree with the way the main characters developed through to the end of the series? The resolution of the Peeta/Gale/Katniss triangle? In the end, was the novel satisfying thematically as well as emotionally?

A quick reminder to keep each individual comment as concise as you can: comments that are longer than two or three paragraphs probably get skimmed more than they get read (although *I* promise to read every one). If you have something to say about each question, consider dedicating an individual comment to each one. Also, I’m planning to jump in with my own opinions, but I want you all to get the ball rolling first. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

About Angela Hallstrom

(Advisory Board) grew up in Utah, then moved to Minnesota, then came back to Utah, then packed up her husband and four kids and moved to Minnesota--again!-- in the summer of 2010. Although she loves the Land of 10,000 Lakes, she dearly misses Slurpees, Sunday dinners at her Mom's house, and eating a whole entire Cafe Rio pork salad while lunching with her Utah-based Segullah sisters. And yes, she finds it telling that everything she misses about her hometown is somehow related to food. She has an BA in English from BYU, an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University, and has taught writing to high school and college students.

46 thoughts on “Segullah Book Club: Mockingjay Discussion”

  1. I was not happy, all in all, with Mockingjay as a book in its category. The author took the cheap way out and collapsed the novel. On the other hand, it definitely does things to the movie deal that was in progress.

    My initial blogging about it is here:

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/2010/08/girl-whose-fire-went-out.html

    But my daughter picked these up at school, as marketed to middle school children. The series end put her off of the author, whose other series, I am told, come to similar shipwrecks in the end.

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  2. The same thing is true of the series. If you telegraphed the ending, you could have sold a tenth of what the series sold, if that many. Which creates all of the issues that are showing up in the reviews. The kids are upset, some of the adults who usually don't read this genre love it, others who read it by accident or because their kids were reading it have mixed feelings, some people who only read a few chapters are taking pot-shots at the, err, so-called illiterate posters who don't like the way it ends. Topping it all off, the book is rushed just a bit at the end, misses telegraphing or foreshadowing as it should in places and just is not YA Fantasy.

    Anyway, I'm glad to know how the series ends because it gives me a heads up if it has a YA Fantasy ending, and I should count on several years of watching the movies with my youngest or whether it is going to derail. If the last book had come out after the first movie I'd have felt a lot less happy.

    From my comments on the thread about the movie and how the book has derailed it.

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  3. Even though my youngest brother came back from Iraq with PTSD and TBI, (post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury,) I fully expected Katniss to go into the third book guns, er, arrows, blazing and lead the overthrow of the capitol. I spent Mockingjay feeling quite ashamed that I hadn’t already learned the lesson that wars damage the young men and women who fight them.
    Then another brother, who is finishing his PhD in psychology, is in the army, and who counsels soldiers with PTSD/TBI, pointed out that the book inaccurately portrays these afflictions. If that’s what Collins was aiming to show us, Katniss would have run away in battle or been completely ineffective, not snapped out of her stupor and saved the day.
    That glaring error, plus the strong feeling that Collins got tired of the whole thing and started wrapping up the project 100 pages before the final page, left me feeling terribly disappointed.
    I learned the lesson I was supposed to learn, I’m glad Katniss ended up with Peeta, but I wish Collins had spent more time on Mockingjay, solicited more input pre-publication, even taken a break from it, so she could have got it right.
    I already let my 12-year-old read The Hunger Games series, and I’ll probably read the first volumes again many times, but I’ll skip book 3.
    Here’s a pre-publication interview explaining her upbringing and views on war that I found enlightening: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/885800-312/the_last_battle_with_mockingjay.html.csp

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  4. Stephen, it is interesting to contemplate how "Hollywood" will manage these books, particularly the ending. The violence is jarring enough on the page, but I can't imagine how it will be handled on the screen. And Mockingjay certainly does not have a Hollywood ending. I wonder if they will tweak it?

    And Stephanie, such interesting insights on PTSD and the way Katniss is portrayed in Mockingjay. I am no expert on PTSD, but I do know a bit about how to structure a story, and my main problem was that Collins stripped Katniss of her agency in this book. In the previous two books, Katniss was actively making choices. In this one, she seemed like a pawn (both a pawn for the military in the story itself, and a pawn in Collins' hands as she maneuvered her to make her point about war being hell). I felt Collins point about the awfulness of war keenly, but I wonder if the point could have been MORE powerful if Katniss had been allowed to remain a hero, an agent in her own tale?

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  5. I would, and did, let my 15 yr old daughter read this book. The argument of all violence being unworthy of reading doesn't hold water with me. Of course the BoM is a great example of violence we read regularly.

    Stephanie I appreciate your perspective on PTSD, but this is a YA novel, not non-fiction for adults. I feel the author did portray some of the effects of war and violence on the characters, enough so that I think it makes good discussion material for youth. It brings up difficult issues of how to live in a flawed society, what we can and should do about it, and how our morals get tied up in those choices. It continued a conversation between my daughter and I about Cat's Cradle (by Vonnegut) that was required reading for her English class.

    I appreciated that each of the books in this series had a different feel about them. It seems more congruent with the author changing and feeling differently about the story she is telling.

    The ending.. it was a lot of action in the last 100 pages so it did have that hurried/wrap it up kind of feeling. Not totally satisfied with it, but it wasn't what I expected and I could see some connection to earlier events so I won't trash it.

    Overall I really appreciated Katniss – how she did things she didn't think she could do, even succeeding amidst her own serious doubts.

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  6. I loved the first two, as did my 13 year old daughter, and we were both sorely disappointed with this–in fact, it ruined the series for us. Besides points mentioned above, my main complaint is that the first two books engaged the imagination–the dresses, the arena, their world–it truly was a clever fantasy. That was all missing in the last book.

    I issue a challenge–someone out there, please write an alternate ending!

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  7. I haven't read the last book because I'm only #159 on the waiting list at the library. However, I thought the author took the easy way out in the series in general.

    The author set up an impossible situation and then never had to really deal with the ramifications of making her main character into a killer. In both of the first two books, every person Katniss killed was either an accident or it was right after the person proved how evil and cold-blooded they were.

    While she explored in Katniss's thoughts and plans what she would do when she had to kill someone she liked or someone weak or kind-hearted, Katniss never had to face that situation and so never really had to make a real moral choice about what to do. She WAS a killer, in that people died because of her in the games, but the author seemed to justify that by painting the individuals Katniss killed into horrible people, so we can still easily like and cheer on Katniss.

    I felt like Katniss is a very weak character because the author avoids placing Katniss in a situation where she would have to take a stand. Katniss never really acts; she is always acted upon and things just tend to conveniently work out for her benefit. I would much rather have her placed in a situation where she really has to stand up and say, "THIS is the right thing to do. I will not kill. I will put my weapon down instead."

    I guess it could be argued that she did take a stand with the flowers on the dead girl's body, the possible joint suicide with the berries, and the speech while on the tour in the second book, but to me, those seem too easy and contrived.

    I was surprised to hear that my local middle school is reading the first book for an English class. While it's a fascinating story, I just don't see it as a classic.

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  8. Just want to mention that my 14-year-old son (an avid reader of YA fantasy) loved the first two books and couldn't wait to read the third one. He bought it as soon as it came out, devoured it in two days, then came to me visibly upset after he finished it. He was disturbed by the violence in the last 100 pages, and he was upset with the way the novel ended. And he said, "I wish I'd never read it."

    Interesting. My 12-year-old daughter, on the other hand, also read the book (even though my son and I warned her she'd be disturbed) because her best friend said it was the best book she'd ever read. My daughter claimed to love it and said she wasn't disturbed. I don't know how much of it she actually understood, however. And I think she skimmed over most of the violence. And of course she set out to prove us wrong. =)

    I was disappointed in the ending–it felt rushed, and, like Angela, I felt that Collins used Katniss to push an agenda. I did like that Katniss ended up with Peeta, however–I was rooting for him all along.

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  9. Whether or not I let my hypothetic child read Mockingbird truly depends on the maturity of said child. In general, I think I would discourage most children under 13 from reading the book. Before 16, I'd probably advice against reading the book but allow my child to read it if he or she wishes and then attempt to have some dicussion about the book's themes.

    The level of violence in the Hunger Games triology and its intended age level is what prevents me from keeping it on my bookshelves. I consider every book that I keep to be a reccomendation for that book, and I don't want that hypothetic 10 year old picking this book up to read. (That said, I don't really expect a 10 year old to pick up something like "Brave New World" off my bookshelves. First, it has a boring cover. Second, it's above a YA reading level.) Mockingjay solidified this decision for its violence and for the fact that the Capital used Finnick as a sex slave.

    I liked the first book, but never felt that it's characters and plot had been fully developed. I felt like second book was just a lazy rehash of the first book – especially when the details I wanted to know of Katniss's return to "real life" were rushed in an attempt to create a plot which looked very similar to the first book. I was already prepared for the second book to be afflicted with flat characters and rushed plot.

    I was particularly disappointed that Katniss never really felt affected by the violence. Oh, she moped around and was depressed for a few paragraphs or spent several pages injured, but it never really felt like the violence shook her, changed her opinions, or affected her in any way other than as an inconvenience.

    Peeta felt like a flat, sterotypical "boy next door" who generally seemed to need everyone else protecting him. Gale was also flat and was really nothing more than the guy who could go into battle and hold his own. Sure, they both supposedly had a thing for Katniss, but their affections didn't seem to have much merit beyond, "Well, she's the heroine of this story, so of course I like her." I wish there'd been more emotional development on the parts of all three characters. As it was, it felt like "insert yourself as Katniss," "ok, insert the kind -souled boy you're interested in as Peeta," "ok, now insert the tough boy you're interested in as Gail." For me, there was no emotional content there.

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  10. The books are very violent but I don't necessarily think that excludes them from being YA books or being appropriate for 12 and up. I think it's important that the decision to allow children to read them takes into account the individual child. As a parent I think it's important to also be familiar with the book so that the more disturbing parts can be discussed.

    My 12 year old, 15 year old and 18 year old have all read the books. We have all enjoyed them. We have had great discussions about them.

    What was really interesting to me in the third book was the development of Gale as a character in ways that he was different from Peeta. After the second book much of the talk was about who would Katniss end up with, Gale or Peeta. The first two books did nothing with Gale. We didn't know who he was. In Mockingjay it becomes very clear that the two boys view the world very differently. Gale is very cold and calculated. His character development showed right from the start that he wasn't the guy for Katniss.

    Even though it may never be a classic. It is an engaging story with a lot to talk about. I can see it being used in English classes for that reason.

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  11. Regarding Jendoop's comments about PTSD/TBI – I think accuracy matters even more for young adults that it does for us grown-ups. We have learned to be skeptical and double-check facts, kids usually haven't.
    I felt that the whole point of Mockingjay, and maybe the series, was to show the effects of war on its participants. If Collins wanted to climb up on a soapbox for a three-book series, she needed to have her facts straight. I know this was a fiction, but I don't find that an acceptable excuse.

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  12. I actually really enjoyed Mockingjay. For the whole series, I would say the second was my least favorite. In Catching Fire, it seemed that Katniss was motivated by her fear alone, and most of her actions were meant to keep a revolution from happening. The character of Katniss seemed incongruous to me, at times; she would be all fire and indignation in one scene, and in the next she would be back to figuring out how to undo the damage she had done. She never really makes a stand—but simply performs compulsive acts of heroism and then spends pages and pages apologizing for them. It felt disingenuous to me.

    The third book felt as if Katniss took back some of her power. She was more of an agent—less of a pawn of other people. She knew things, she was in on the plans. But what bothered me is that she was still a slave not to others, but to her own emotions. She rarely chose to overcome them, to be brave despite them. Sure, every character can have moments of weakness. But Katniss's moments of strength were so few and far between that her character was compromised and diluted instead of fortified and dynamic.

    I understand that Collins was trying to portray the horrific psychological and emotional consequences of war, but in doing so, she very much undermined her character and her story. Collins spend so much time trying to point out how wars are horrible and wreak havoc on those who fight them, that I was never allowed to value Katniss's few acts of true agency. We were never allowed to see Katniss stand up for a principle or idea, only against harm to those few people she cared about.

    As for the violence and other things, I think this is something that young adults 14+ can handle. I think it will open them up to the consideration of many ideas and issues. Even with Finnick's being a sex slave, these things happen in life. Human trafficking happens. Perhaps we should be careful at what age our youth become aware of these things, but ignorance is not the answer.

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  13. Supposedly this series is meant to express Collins' thoughts about the devastating effects of war on children as well as the glamorization of violence in our society. However, I wonder how many children read these books and take away from them that anti-war and anti-violence message. My concern is that many children read these books, especially the first two, precisely because the violence is glamorous and exciting. (This is my same beef with the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series–supposedly anti-violence against women and yet exploits violence against women for all its worth.)

    I can see why children would be disappointed in Mockingjay. There is no feel-good ending. My daughters were very disturbed by what happens to Peeta. I thought there were significant problems with character development and plot in the whole series but this is already mentioned in other comments.

    I think it's impossible to slap an age limit on books. It depends on the child. Everyone is different. I have never told my daughters they can't read a certain book. However, I have insisted on discussing certain books with them if they decide to go ahead and read them.

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  14. I liked most of Mockingjay–up until the very end. To me (as with, it seems, some of the other commentors), it seemed that Collins took the easy way out–I wasn't thrilled with the fact that Katniss missed most of the major action at the very end (she only found out about it after the fact). And I was quite disappointed with the way the author resolved the purported love triangle. I wanted to at least see some sort of discussion/confrontation between Katniss and both Peeta and Gale–instead, all we get is Peeta showing up after Katniss returned home. To me, it seemed an extension of the passivity that other readers have criticized in Katniss–did she actually make a conscious choice, or did circumstances make that choice for her?

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  15. I have a hard time swallowing comments that say Collins dropped the ball in the final book.

    The Katniss in Collins' first two books was an impassioned, fiery, idealistic young woman — someone who faced unbelievable challenges with moxie. Readers who wanted her to stay that way wanted a flat character.

    Mockingjay reveals a new phase of Katniss, a new realm of weakness for her. In the first two books she was motivated by the idea that that if she could accomplish A, B, and C, then she could change the world. When the third book begins, she has accomplished A, B, and C and the world is not yet changed. There are more problems and more complications and Katniss, idealistic Katniss, isn't ready for them.

    And just like real life funks, Katniss' period of dissilusionment was not overcome quickly. It took an entire book. By the time she achieves clarity and regains her moxie, it looks different than it did before. Her actions are still bold, but they are accompanied with a somber, maturity she didn't have before. She's changed. She's a dynamic character. Collins did not drop the ball.

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  16. Interesting thoughts Samantha. I wish I felt the same. I can appreciate what you are saying, and I wish Katniss' character was enough for me to enjoy the third book, but based strictly on my personal reader response, Mockingjay was a huge disappointment. It didn't capture my attention, it did a poor job of suspending my disbelief and the violent end was so over-the-top, it lost authenticity for me.

    I hope someone does take the challenge to re-write it. There was such potential–what a loss.

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  17. One last comment about the ending. I felt like the way Katniss ended up with Peeta was completely unsatisfying. It felt dictated by circumstance, rather than being Katniss' choice. How that bothers me! There wasn't enough character development for me to believe that Gale and Katniss couldn't have been compatible. Just because he utters a few angry words in the first book, and designs that bomb in the third? Weak. It wasn't enough. Wish his character had been better developed. An ending where Katniss really had to choose between the two would have been more interesting to me.

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  18. The whole series was about how she came to choose Peeta over Gail. In the last book, towards the end Peeta and Gail are talking about Katniss while they think she is sleeping (when they are in the fuzzy underwear shop basement). Gail tells Peeta that Katniss will choose the one she can't live without.

    That was forshadowing and pointing out how all the events in the books showed Katniss what kind of men they are and how she interacted with their dynamics. When Katniss was in the Hunger Games and couldn't be with Gail she thrived and won. When Peeta was captured he was all Katniss thought about, she couldn't live without him.

    I like the reality of the personal struggles. The parent child bond is difficult between teens and their parents, esp. when they realize their parents aren't perfect – Katniss was no different. It is not easy to choose a companion. It is not easy to then to make that relationship work. I wonder if the hate Peeta had for Katniss after his brainwashing is similar to how divorces feel to those involved in them.

    As for Katniss being an inconsistent character- I think that showed her teenage side. Who wasn't confused about who they are and life at 17? Who isn't just a little confused now?

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  19. Thanks for all the great comments so far. Just a couple of things:

    -Melissa M., my 14 year old son did the same as yours: devoured the book, but was quite disturbed by the last 100 pages. He called the book "dark." And, yes, it IS dark, because the consequences of war are dark. Terrible things happen. People lose their lives, their minds, their souls. But it is a lot for a young person to take in. That said, I don't regret that he read it. In fact, it gave us a lot to talk about. But I would be careful in recommending the book. There are some adults I wouldn't recommend this book to, because I don't think they could stomach it.

    -Janell (and others), I agree that both Peeta and Gale seemed a little flat at times, but Peeta was more developed for me as a character than Gale ever was. Probably because we spent more time with him on the page. And although I thought Katniss should probably end up with Peeta, by the end of the story they were both so damaged, and their decision to be together felt so tacked on, that it was hard for me to celebrate.

    -And, yes, I understand that the damage to all the main characters is the point of the novel. War damages people, sometimes irreparably. But, in the case of this novel, I felt that Collins tipped into didacticism, letting her moral point of view overwhelm the story. I have a tough time with didactic fiction, be it novels with a religious slant sold to the Mormon market or a novel like this one. Even if I agree with the moral a didactic work is trying to illustrate–as I do with Mockinjay–I also think that when an author keeps her eye trained on a theme or a moral rather than a character or a story, a novel suffers for it.

    And Elyssa, Samantha and others: I think there are a lot of things to like about this novel. Collins is a fine writer in many respects. I'm glad you shared your point of view.

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  20. "But, in the case of this novel, I felt that Collins tipped into didacticism, letting her moral point of view overwhelm the story. I have a tough time with didactic fiction, be it novels with a religious slant sold to the Mormon market or a novel like this one. Even if I agree with the moral a didactic work is trying to illustrate–as I do with Mockinjay–I also think that when an author keeps her eye trained on a theme or a moral rather than a character or a story, a novel suffers for it."

    How nice of you to sum up my main issue with the novel so succinctly, Angela! 😉

    Amen.

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  21. I volunteer with book groups in my son's sixth-grade class. Part of the process is that each student has to write questions about the book for group discussion.

    Earlier this year we read The Westing Game, and yesterday we were given copies of The Egypt Game. One of the students said that we should read The Hunger Games next, to which another student responded, "There wouldn't be a lot questions." I promptly interjected that I could think of a lot of questions! I think this trilogy can make for some excellent discussion.

    One of the questions in the original post was about the love triangle. I have to say that I was "Team Peeta" from the start, so I am happy that things resolved that way. I think that it was a realistic resolution, with Katniss coming to see what she needed in her life – and Gayle likely also making correct conclusions about himself (although we as readers didn't see that). I was touched by the last lines of the book – and the epilogue (which many people seem to have disliked) was perfect for me, leaving the feeling of hope for the future that I need from a dystopian novel.

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  22. I don't know if I would have been happy with an alternate ending or not. She'd been through such horrendous events that it made sense to me that she was not coping very well all the time. I'm glad that she and Peeta ended up together but I liked Gale too. She had to choose someone. I think if she'd ended up with Gale I'd have been fine with that too. Life is like that sometimes either choice would be good but you have to choose anyway. I'm glad they eventually had children, to me it was an indication that she was working through it all. My teenage son read the first book and was disturbed, not so much by the violence but the fact that she had to be naked in front of men who were getting her ready for the games. We talked about it and I pointed out that this was a device to illustrate Katniss' powerlessness, even over her own body and that he was right to be disturbed by it. He agreed.

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  23. Our ward book club (which is fabulous) discussed Mockingjay in October. Then my husband and I hosted a dinner party for 5 other couples and had a co-ed Mockingjay dinner party. Whether or not we liked the book, I'd say we definitely got $8.45 worth of entertainment out of it!

    I was surprised by the level of violence in the third book; particularly with all the deaths towards the end that don't even seem to matter; Boggs, Finnick, and the finally (and heartbreakingly) Prim. I agree that to much of the book didn't seem well enough developed.

    There were also things that I quite liked about the book. I loved that Peeta came back "hijacked"–that was a possibility I had not considered. I thought that Finnick's revelations were fascinating. I had never considered what the long term implications of winning really were for Katniss; I held on to the hope that if she won (and if she won again) she would get to live happily ever after. Instead, we saw that no one ever truly "won" the Hunger Games. Not Haymitch, not Finnick, and not Katniss.

    One of our dinner party guests is a political science professor at a nearby university. He had a lot to say about the politics of the books, particularly that rebelling regimes are usually not innocent and pure either, and that they also commit horrible acts. (Snow vs. Coin)

    I actually (and I seem to be in the minority here) didn't mind the ending. When I reread the book I saw lots of little clues showing that she & Gale were headed in different directions. I liked that she ended up all alone, and really had to grow into a relationship with Peeta again.

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  24. By the way, my now 20yo- and 14yo-daughters have read the entire trilogy. In fact, it was my then 12yo who convinced me to read The Hunger Games myself.

    I think that kids can do a pretty good job of self-selecting material that they are ready to read – especially when they know that they have adults with whom they can discuss their concerns. (Kudos to Ana for her discussion with her son!)

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  25. I actually had this discussion on another blog recently, and I feel my comments there are relative here, so, here they are! My apologies if they don't fit perfectly:

    I loved the series. Here's why:

    1. It's post-apocalyptic fiction ala. 1984, Brave New World, Farenheit 451, Uglies/Pretties/Specials.
    2. Because of #1, it shows us, once again, the ravages of war, "Big Brother", corrupt government/leaders opressing/repressing society.
    3. It shows us that war really, truly, and utterly damages people for life.
    4. These adventures have a very strong female protagonist. I love that. She's not your typical brooding teenager (like Twilight's Bella). And if she does brood, she has good reason to!
    5. The ending of the third book, for me, was perfect because it shows us that after war and carnage there are no "happy endings."
    6. It's another warning of how wealth, power, obsession with image, and war can destroy everything we love.
    7. It's also a very startling (although subtle) jab at society's obsession with competitive Reality Television. Survivor, anyone? Granted nobody is dying, but still…

    More stuff:

    A. Gale was the one who called in the troops that killed all of the children, including Katniss' sister. The betrayal and loss of her sister (which was the entire reason she volunteered for the Hunger Games in the first place) went too deep. There was no way she could ever trust him again. Yeah, it would be nice if she could have had "the best friend," but it would have been too easy. Life isn't that easy.
    B. The violence is intense. I know. It's pretty hard to read sometimes and I'm not saying it "good" or "wonderful" or "fun to read" because it's not. But I think it points out to what I was saying before: A very realistic view of war/carnage that may very well exist today.
    For example:
    *Any war (Vietnam, Iraq, WWII)
    *Rwanda
    *Serbia/Croatia
    *Killing Fields in Cambodia
    *Russia (Stalin)

    As for the past:
    *Gladiators
    *Imperialism (of any kind –Britain, France, USA, etc.)
    *Any Empire (Persia, Roman, Alexander the Great, Atilla the Hun)
    *Slavery in the United States

    So, even though these books are not ones that leave most of us feeling "good" or "enriched" (as you said), they certainly made me think –and think hard. Plus, her characters were so well written!

    I don't think I'd let my kids read them until they are older, though. But heck! If I read 1984 when I was 14, then why not The Hunger Games, eh?

    P.S. This will sound elitist of me, but I think a very good grasp of history and modern society (not just in our country –but our world as a whole) definitely changes the point of view when reading it. It's like when people try to hold others to the same living standards.

    For example! When we were in China, I noticed that the "oppressed people under Communistic rule" were extremely gracious, kind, funny, and personable. And I LOVED China! But I asked somebody how they like China (she had gone a few years back) and all she could say was:
    "It makes you realize how lucky we are to have freedom!"

    I was like, What?? That's all? Yes, our country rocks, but it's NOT THE ONLY ONE. And people don't always know what they are missing –to hold them to the same standards and/or way of thinking is just ignorant. So, I guess what I'm saying is that although these books were hard to read, we have to imagine if there was a society that was truly like this. We can't hold their actions up to our idea of what behavior should be. Even if it is only fiction.

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  26. Ending a wildly popular series is no easy task, and I’ve had a lot of different responses to different series I’ve read. Sometimes I feel like a series gets a pretty pink bow tied on it that leaves me thinking, “What do you mean, happily ever after? What about _____?” Sometimes I feel like an author goes for shock value, and leaves the reader feeling betrayed because they didn’t maintain the integrity of the world they created. In that context, Mockingjay’s ending satisfied me because when I got to the end, I felt like she had stayed true to the characters and true to the world she had created. In my mind, it fit.

    Would I have loved Katniss to become superwoman and lead the revolution with blazes of glory? Of course. Who doesn’t love a kick-butt female protagonist? But she’s never been that kind of person. Katniss’s bravery had always been motivated by a desire to protect those she loves. So why wouldn’t she go catatonic when trying to do her part for the revolution ends with the deaths of hundreds of people from her home and Peeta getting tortured out of his mind? It stays true to form. And I would have loved for her to have some dramatic moment where she boldly chose to be with Peeta. But a major theme of the book is that living in a violent world makes it hard to develop the trust and hope needed to make love work. Given all she’s had to deal with, the fact she can let it gradually happen feels very hopeful and optimistic to me. And yes, it was very violent and dark, but where were the fluffy pink bunnies in the first two? It is a violent world, and the violence was less grating to me, actually, than the earlier ones because it was adults, rather than twelve year olds committing it, and it was for revolution, rather than simply for the entertainment of the Capitol.

    While I did feel like it missed the moments of beauty amid the ugliness that I loved so much about the first two, I felt satisfied when I got to the end because I did feel like Collins maintained the integrity of the world she created.

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  27. I agree with Samantha and Erin in that I thought the ending was fine. Of course it wasn't satisfying and revealed Katniss as very weak, but I thought that's what Collins was trying to say all along–that war destroys way more than it builds. I felt like Katniss did have a moment of triumph when she shoots Coin instead of Snow before she falls apart for the final time.

    If you think about it, what does Mockingjay mean? The rebels chose it, and Katniss, as their symbol of defiance, but the original mockingjay was still engineered by the capitol. I feel like Katniss, as Mockingjay, and the entire revolution were the same: engineered by the capitol but rebelling against their original purpose. It took years and years for the first mockingjays to go wild, and it would take years and years to get the last of the capitol out of the rebels. It just can't be a perfectly happy ending for Katniss.

    More of my review is on my blog: http://yourlibraryoflearning.blogspot.com/2010/10/recent-read-mockingjay-by-suzanne.html

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  28. Cheryl and ErinMadamLibrarian, excellent defenses of why the book works for you. I definitely agree, Cheryl, that the level of violence depicted was necessary in order to help readers understand the comprehensive brutality of war. I do think that it's an appropriate book for many teens; after all, it is through literature that we learn so much about the world around us, the good and the ugly. But I also think that some teens (and some adults) might not be able handle the book and that discretion in recommending it is warranted.

    And Erin, I also agree with you that Mockinjay was not going to be a book where the story ends with a nice pink bow. I, for one, never expected it to. My issues weren't so much that it didn't end "happily," but the way Katniss herself seemed so disconnected from the events around her. In my opinion, it wasn't Katniss's story; the protagonist wasn't in charge. I was also completely perplexed by why Katniss would ever choose to agree to hold another games. For the life of me, I can't understand how that choice is at all congruent with Katniss's character as it developed over the series, or why Collins insisted that she so completely betray herself. Again, it was an example of Katniss as a character serving Collins' theme, instead of Collins allowing the character she's created to serve the story.

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  29. I'm with Karla. I've loaned the book to a friend, so I can't pull up exactly how it was worded, but she says she wants to do it for Prim and then watches to see Haymitch's vote to see "how well he understood her," and his saying "he's with the Mockingjay" said to me that he knew what she was trying to do. But she does leave it ambigious, and maybe I'm reading it the way I want to.

    But I definitely agree that choosing to kill Coin is about the only case where Katniss acts, rather than reacts or is acted upon in the process of the novel, and that it is disappointing in a protagonist.

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  30. I was actually confused about that line where Katniss waits to see how well Haymitch understands her. I felt like as a reader, I should understand her as well as Haymitch, but I had no idea what I was expected to understand.

    Sorry, that was kinda convoluted. 🙂

    Thanks for the great discussion!

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  31. As I read this, I wondered just how much time Suzanne Collins spends thinking up gruesome ways to kill off her characters. Seriously, I don't think a single person dies the same way in all three books. And there's a lot of dying. In all three books.

    Like the first two books in the series, this was a gripping read. Refreshingly, unlike the previous books, there was a solid conclusion. But it just wasn't… satisfying. Maybe it was because the political climate still didn't feel great. Maybe because the main characters who remained were pretty messed up. Whatever the reason, I still was kinda depressed after finishing it.

    Also, I hated that the author wrote the series in present tense–it made the delivery seem awkward and distracted me frequently.

    In summary: riveting book, strong characters, some gore, a bit of a downer.

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  32. I'm alright with Katniss being a character who primarily reacts or is acted upon because I think that's how a teenage pawn in a governmental game would be handled. The third book had a moment of triumph for Katniss's character when she makes the decision to kill Coin instead of snow – the pawn finally makes the move of a queen.

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  33. I'm sad I didn't see this post until after my bedtime–but there's always tomorrow.

    I can already see, though, that I agree with Janell's most recent comment. In fact I'd even made the same chess connection. 🙂

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  34. On the issue of Katniss voting yes on another Hunger Games–Karla and Erin, I can see where you're coming from. The idea that she says yes as a way to ensure she has a chance to kill Coin is definitely one way to interpret it. But there's not a whole lot on the page to help us *really* understand it, even after the fact. With a first person narrator like Katniss we should have more access to the psychological underpinnings beneath her actions. In my opinion, the motivations remain ambiguous, and given the trajectory of the book it's not out of the realm of possibility that Collins would allow Katniss to be completely corrupted, completely changed and willing to endorse the killing of children, as a way to show the horrifying effects of war. I kept waiting for clarity on this point—because certainly Katniss herself would have at least reflected on her own motivations—but it was left up in the air. This was really dissatisfying to me.

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  35. I agree with your #37, Angela. I was disappointed with Katniss' actions there, and even when some readers told me they thought she had done it to kill Coin, I wasn't convinced.

    Cheryl's comment in #25 quite nicely summarizes why I liked the series overall, even though I agree that it was too didactic. But it was trying to teach some things that teens need to hear and that they don't get everywhere. Yes, it was violent, horrifingly so, but the message was for teens.

    I never really liked Katniss throughout the series, so it maybe it wasn't so disappointing for me to have things turn out the way they did. I thought she was often a well-written character, but I just didn't like her.

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  36. okay, i'm going to expose myself here, and you will finally ALL KNOW the truth about my lack of intellectualism, but here goes.

    i can't recall a single book that i've read, and then tried to extrapolate deeper meaning or interpret what the author was REALLY trying to say. a book either moves me, inspires me, entertains me, or doesn't jive with me, but i've never read fiction in the way some people clearly do.

    for example, it never occurred to me that collins was trying to convey a personal belief or stance on anything. i read her series as an engaging work of fiction, and i thoroughly enjoyed every page of it. i was in awe of the creativity and the world she imagined. i thought it was fantastic.

    so reading everyone's input makes me feel like an alien from another universe, because i don't have any insights, brilliant comparisons, or critical opinions. maybe that is why book groups haven't ever really worked out for me ("i'm just there for the food") 😉

    that said, i do agree that when i'd let them read it depends on the specific kid. my 14 yr old hasn't read the twilight series (or seen the movies) yet. but i'd let her read this series. and as for twilight and hunger games, i loved them both.

    so now you know. anyone else swimming in the shallow end of the pool? ♥

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  37. Q1. I am too young of a mother to answer that.

    Q2. I loved the third book and did not feel it was a departure—violent adrenaline rushing nail-biters all. I thought Collins was so clever to construct a third "hunger games" even though it wasn't sponsored by the Capitol. Coin was the Snow figure for me in the third book all along. I felt that, while perhaps confusingly worded, her Haymitch/understanding the Mockingjay thing made sense on a second reading. Katniss would NEVER have approved another Hunger Games. Her compassion is one of her defining characteristics, and it is a huge climax that she must lose that compassion to finally cold-bloodedly murder Coin in the end (which partially answers question 3 for me.)

    q3. I loved the ending. I thought Collins was brilliant with the hijack thing. Peeta was always a little weak for me until the hijack thing. I feared through the series that Collins would kill G or P and make K's choice a copout. I thought the hijack twist was great. It showed Katniss who she truly couldn't live without.

    I was satisfied with the ending in the same way Madame Librarian was. It was like good dark chocolate. Not too sweet, not too bitter for me.

    PS. I also thought Prim's death was clever. Not that I wanted it, but Prim advised Katniss at a crucial point early in b3, which developed Prim into a more complex character than the previous flower to be protected, the "sage" who must die for the hero to reach the fullest apex of the journey (OB1, Yoda, Dumbledore).

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  38. THANK YOU Lindsay for bringing up the present tense. It drove me nuts. I could feel all my writing teachers I’ve ever had shaking their heads as I read.

    Blue, I think we all read in different ways. I'm a believer that good literature does more than even what the author intended–that it can grow and change depending on how we read it–but if that's not for you, that's fine. Don't worry about it.

    I think that Katniss voting yes to the new Hunger Games was the only way to make her attack on Coin a surprise, and you have to admit that when she shoots Coin is one of the biggest surprises in the whole series.

    When I read it the first time, I just assumed that Katniss' vote was her giving up on everybody and everything, but then she surprises us by making one more stand, one more big choice. I think the way Collins surprises us is what we all like about the series.

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  39. I despised Prim's death. Since the author hadn't killer her off earlier, I had had some hope that Prim would survive. Really, though, the manner in which Prim died was a necessary catalyst to push Katniss to take control.

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  40. Drat, I forgot to come back and comment and now it's again past my bedtime. But I guess I already more-or-less had a Mockingjay book group discussion at my blog, which you can see here:

    http://tinyurl.com/33vzmav

    You have to highlight the post to read it, because I put it up when we were still in a spoiler time frame.

    There's some great stuff in the comments, especially my sister marymary's comment. I liked that she had noticed that Coin and Snow were "two sides of the same coin."

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  41. Well, now I've finally read all the comments but as usual I'm very late to the party and everyone's gone home. Oh, well, I might as well comment anyway, since I've taken the time to read.

    Wow, a lot of you didn't like quite a few things about the book. I agree with all those who did like it. 🙂

    Here's something my mom said about Gale in the conversation at my blog (by the way, I was amused that poor Gale's name got spelled as "Gail" and "Gayle" most of the time in the thread here):

    "I think Gale’s cynical assertion that Katniss would choose the one she couldn’t survive without is one of the biggest clues as to why she didn’t/shouldn’t choose him: he doesn’t know/*get*/understand her well enough. There are wholesome, appropriate aspects of *need* in love, and then there are the qualities that we characterize as neediness, codependence, overprotectiveness, etc., that finally destroy rather than build relationships.

    Words like love, need, and survive are unavoidably conflated with their perversions and counterfeits. Sorting through all that is one of the demands of maturity–and we know from the epilogue that Gale, tho’ his bravery, intellect, attractiveness, and commitment make him a useful member of society, doesn’t take on that task.

    Also, Gale’s statement seems self-protective in a way that can’t foster a deep intimate relationship."

    I agree with what my mom said, and ever since have noticed that most readers took Gale's assertion that Katniss will choose the one she needs at face value, without realizing what an unkind judgment of Katniss and, yes, cynical worldview it betrays.


    I agree completely that Katniss' "yes" vote for a new Hunger Games was absolutely a distraction and absolutely NOT because she was broken or had become corrupted–in fact, it, along with the subsequent assassination of Coin, is the climactic and pivotal moment of the trilogy, when Katniss *finally* acts on her own without being manipulated or used. The fact that Katniss/Collins don't later spell out exactly what Katniss' thought process had been is (in my opinion) typical of Collins' high respect for her readers and her characteristic efficiency–she simply doesn't tell us things she thinks we can figure out. And the reason she doesn't spell it out *before* the assassination is because it would ruin the surprise of that moment. I don't have a problem with that–I think Katniss is generally an unreliable narrator since she is so often plausibly uncertain of her emotions, and for me that device worked. Also, immediately after the fact you almost get the sense that Katniss is sick of thinking and talking about the whole thing, and I found that plausible, as well.

    I can't remember whether I expected Katniss to kill Coin, but I know I thought she shouldn't kill Snow. My sister pointed out that Coin's name is a wordplay, and that Coin even says to Katniss, of killing Snow, "I'll flip you for him." Coin is the flip side of Snow, the other side of the coin. I didn't want Katniss to kill Snow because, especially once he'd lost power, it would so clearly be a revenge killing rather than an unpleasant expedient. But it's dramatically satisfying and pleasingly complex that she does still end up an assassin, but for a good an necessary cause, in a Nephi/Laban kind of a way. Of course it's horrible that Katniss does have to participate in the game this way, but Collins effectively builds the story to where, when Coin has proven herself evil by devising a new Hunger Games, that (to go with the chess analogy again) the Queen must die to end the game. To me this twist also keeps the story from being purely an anti-war polemic, since the story also posits that, however unfortunately, sometimes we must actively respond to war and evil.

    Okay, that's all for now. I know you recommended sticking to two or three paragraphs. Apparently I'm not capable. 🙂

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  42. Sigh, and I'm not even capable of writing just one comment. One other thought:

    Based on the setup at the end of the 2nd book, I did expect Katniss to become the glorious leader of the revolution in the third book, but that seemed unsatisfying and predictable to me–I actually thought, "How will she fill a whole book just wrapping up the story of the revolution?" I thought the fact that the 3rd book instead describes yet another Hunger Games, OUTSIDE the box but with the same horrors (and where truly no one is safe) was very clever and artistic, and much more interesting.

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  43. There is a special beauty to this book, this conclusion, that left me speechless (Literally. I hyperventilated for five minutes after reading those last four words before the epilogue) The book is bleak and contains grizzly, uncomfortable elements, but Suzanne Collins handles these elements with such raw power and honesty that it illumiates the eventual silver lining with such sincerity, eloquence and tenderness that I was close to tears. What a perfect story, and the ending proves this.

    I would have liked a little more detail about how Peeta and Katniss fell in love again, but it's really just a frosting-kind of thing. The cake is perfect by itself. Katniss is now my favorite female heroine ever, because she's imperfect and awkward without being an anti-hero cliche. She struggles with issues of morality/ethics more than typical heroines to the point that it almost makes you uncomfortable to call her a heroine somtetimes. It's all about her trying to work out what's right and wrong from the gray area (and you're not always sure whether Katniss's selections are right, but she tries and that's what truly makes her heroic) And Peeta is as much as a hero as Katniss is, but in different ways. In alot of ways, he's the person you want Katniss to be (which is why they are so perfect together – they complement each other in such a way that they both satiates different needs within each other and inspires the other to be something better) I love him so much. Really. They're both such rich characters, they feel like a tangible presence.

    I loved every minute of it.

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