a year of getting back in touch.

act one: me
act two: you
act three: everything else

Monday, February 20, 2012


A good book has no ending. - R.D. Cummings

***SPOILER DISCLAIMER: This post discusses details of end of The Hunger Games series.***

Well, I've officially finished my second book for the week, and I honestly wish I hadn't. I was weary of reading the last thirty pages because I knew no matter how the book ended I wouldn't be satisfied, but I had no idea the level of disappointment I would be faced with. I thought the execution of Snow would be anticlimactic and that I would be frustrated with whatever choice she made concerning her love interests, but to my surprise there was nothing much to be frustrated with. Which makes me even more irate!

How can someone who created such captivating characters and drew us into such intricate sequences of action, who invented this future world of a desensitized society discovering the heat of passion, whether for the battle field or for love or for freedom, just cut the story short with such a sorry excuse for an ending? Especially the ending of the love saga?

While the beginning of the third book moved rather slowly, this was expected. In all three books it takes a few chapters to pick up, and sometimes they are excruciatingly hard to get through do to horribly written dialogue or poor syntax. Whenever there is a lack of action it is generally slow going in my opinion. But for the most part I enjoyed where the story was going. I was interested and engaged. I was moved by the fight and I was attached to many of the central characters. And then it started falling apart.

Killing off Finnick was the first mistake, or at least killing him off in such a quick, impersonal manner. He had become integral to the story, as the only one who really understood Katniss's pain, especially with the whole Peeta ordeal. As lectors we had come to love Finnick, especially in his love of Annie, and the way his death was orchestrated did not give us enough time to really understand, let alone mourn. It seemed like an attempt to add depth to the plot, to bring a level of seriousness to the story without having to kill off either Peeta or Gale. Her pathetic recompense was to briefly mention in the epilogue that Annie later gave birth to his child, even though there was no mention of this anywhere else in the story. Maybe if we had known of the pregnancy earlier his death would have seemed more tragic and evoked something nearer to the reaction his character deserved.

The second mistake was Prim's death and the subsequent hazy piecing together of what happened. It is obvious that Primrose Everdeen was the true symbol of the revolution. It was her name being chosen for the reaping in book one that initiated Katniss's fierce fight for freedom. It was her youth, a symbol of the children of the outlying districts and the generations to come that would suffer under the oppressive hand of the Capitol that drove the districts to revolt. It was her remaining alive that carried Katniss through every sequence of the series. Snow's use of roses throughout the books was no coincidence. So what is the point of killing her off? Is it supposed to symbolize that the revolution was dead? That it had failed? Surely they could have killed off some other character to help Katniss see that her own revolutionary forces could have staged the attacks. It's not as if she listened or wholeheartedly believed anything the leaders said or did anyway.

But let's suppose Prim's death stays in the story in this fashion. The following sequence of Katniss going through a haze and having everything explained to her is confusing and frustrating within a story that at one time carried such intense sequences of action. Yet nothing compares to the cop-out that is the consequences of Coin's execution. We all fear the repercussions of her actions, even if it may have been justified, but then we quickly lose interest when excruciating hours of waiting for her punishment become days and the days turn into months. Our boredom turns to confusion and disbelief when she is simply liberated, sent home without the slightest reprimand. It does not feel like the end of a revolution. It feels like Suzanne Collins has a deadline for her third book and is running out of ideas, running out of ways to tie together all the ends she has left loose.

It is more than just a handful of loose ends we are left with. Why does Peeta suffer from such crippling hallucinations from the hijacking if he is to recover fully with no explanation later on? Why does Katniss's mother disappear from the picture? Why does interest in Haymitch dissipate after we are taken back to the Victor's Village? Why is Gale so far away, and why do we not get the pleasure of at least one more painful encounter with them? Has her love for him honestly faded so quickly? How is it possible that the saga that was the love triangle is so clearly sidestepped? Katniss just decides to settle for Peeta? There is no battle to make the right choice? No struggle? Why kill off other important characters so mercilessly, but keep both Gale and Peeta alive for such an undeserving and anticlimactic ending? And why in the world spend a few sentences bringing Katniss and Peeta's children into a world that clearly hasn't improved much since her own childhood? It felt like a cheap attempt at the last chapter of the Harry Potter series, which quite frankly made me more sad than anything else.

Whatever passion I may have felt for this series throughout the second and beginning of the third book were replaced with revulsion and regret. If only this book had spent more time in the mind of its creator before being hastily put in ink. If only an editor had taken the necessary effort to fix the broken grammar and patch the holes. If only Collins had had the time or courage to finish the love story she started, with weapons or with words. If only.

I am honestly considering writing an alternative ending myself, but it would most likely necessitate so many changes in the rest of the text that I would basically be rewriting the whole series. If I am willing to put that much time and effort into creating a memorable story, my energy would be better spent working on something of my own. But that is a project for another month.

For now I cannot do much more than wallow in my disappointment. And possibly try to return these awful books to the bookstore.


  1. You're a little late to the Mockingjay bitchfest (my family has been arguing about this for a while too) but here are some of my thoughts. It's been a while since I have read this so I apologize if I am off on details.

    I see Prim's death as an emotional lever for a reaction which we never get. I assumed that Katniss would have been martyred (killed immediately after killing Coin) or that she is left so emotionally and mentally crippled she is essentially non-functional. Killing Coin is just a last hurrah before slipping into an introverted cycle of mental anguish and delusional schizofrenia, never to be herself again. I can even see suicide being an option (a nod to 'eating the berries' after killing Coin would have been interesting). This would fit well within what I considered to be one of the themes of the trilogy; There is no winner. This is seen again and again...the "eating the berries" solution and the resulting chaos...the deeply troubled lives of the previous Hunger Games winners...supporting and fighting a war for her own vengeful purposes and seeing all of her friends and family die..."liberating" the districts and ending up with the exact same problems (ruthless leader, more Hunger Games, etc.). This would resolve the love triangle (no one ends up happy) and the future of the districts (maybe shit isn't any better now?). Then again, I am one of the few people who loves a depressing ending.

    I understand some of the final decisions such as ending up with Peeta in the end because he is endlessly supportive and exactly what Katniss would need (though his recovery is not explained) and why Gale leaves (also not explained). I could easily see the guilt of (possibly) being involved with Prim's death as a barrier Gale could never overcome, which is why I think he chooses to leave. Especially since he promised to protect and look after Katniss's family in the earlier books. He loves her but his own guilt could never allow him to be with her, or maybe even see her.

    I think what we got was a weird compromise between a happy and sad ending, which failed to satisfy either way. People die, no one seems to care as much as they should, life goes on, nothing explained. And kids! Yay! Automatic happy ending.

    I thought the ending sucked too. I think one reviewer put this really well, "I could write more, but I can't believe I've wasted so much emotion on this already... uggg."

  2. I am aware that I am late to the whole Hunger Games obsession in general, and now, like the reviewer you mentioned, can't believed I wasted so much emotion (and lost so much sleep) reading something that ended so pathetically.

    While depressing endings leave you, well, depressed, in my opinion authors that are courageous enough to deny their readers the perfect happy ending they crave are ultimately better books. It's the whole Stranger than Fiction idea - the main character has to die (or succumb to some disagreeable fate) in order to make it a great book. I'm not saying there aren't ways to get around the death and still keep it great; Harold Crick didn't die and the movie was still great. Harry Potter sacrificed himself but somehow remained alive. But the characters were fully invested in sacrificing themselves for the greater good and that's why they were great; and why we were so relieved to have their lives spared.

    Katniss was never like this. She never had any real intention to kill herself with those berries back in the first book. She was playing a deadly game of chess - she knew the Gamemakers would never let them leave without a winner unless it was their own decision, in which case they would have blown them both to pieces immediately. She was putting the ball in their court, avoiding making any real decision (kill herself or Peeta?). Every step of the way she avoids confronting difficult decisions and acts purely out of interest for herself. Is this because Katniss as a character is weak or rather because Collins herself doesn't have the courage to face the darkest moments?

    Her killing herself at the end of the series would have tied together some loose ends and ultimately made it a better story, but still not a compelling enough reason to convince me to love her as a memorable and outstanding fictional character. Her death would have been yet another part of her own selfish devices, a way of escaping the difficult choices of life after the revolution, benefiting no one but herself - although I suppose it would have remained in character.

    In my opinion the whole series would have benefited if she had just swallowed the damn berries at the end of the first book. It would have spared a lot of poor trees and a lot of people money for a hardcover copy of a book they hate.

    You should be slightly exhausted at the end of a good book, but not in desperately frustrated exhaustion. Collins has lost herself a lector.