by K.A. Lewis
This post has moved from the realm of timely to overdue; it is high time to tie up our thoughts about Mockingjay and The Hunger Games series. (Mockingjay spoilers ahead, so stop here if you are still a-readin'.)
First, how did you like it? Were you surprised/disappointed/satisfied by the ending? I found myself so happy that Katniss, Peeta, and Gale survived that my initial reaction was joy and relief. There was discussion at the Book Club Meeting last week about the smallish attention to detail payed to Katniss and Peeta's reunion in the finale, like it was an afterthought. It is an ending that extends the novel's focus from that of a relationship in war time, to the horrors of war and how it affects relationships. Another popular idea at the meeting was that the evolution of Peeta's love for Katniss to its final form turned it from teenage girl-on-a-pedestal ardor into something more lasting and sustainable; in the end Peeta and Katniss find real love (idea credit: Yuliya). They can rebuild their devastatingly damaged lives together as partners: equals, each with a intimate understanding of the other's weakness, strength and pain.
Concerning those who didn't survive, my fellow book clubbers and I were most disappointed about Finnick. It wasn't just that he didn't get the happy ending we hoped for him, it was that we lost him so quickly, without incident or time to mourn. He was too rad a character to meet such a swift end. Prim's sacrifice, in contrast, was probably inevitable. The entire horrid adventure began in an attempt to save her, and as the story came full circle the futility of this singular mission was sure to be realized. The loss of Prim and questions surrounding it were fundamental in Katniss' terminal break of faith with President Coin as well as recognition of the impassible divide between her values and Rebel Gale's. I'm not sure she would have achieved the understanding or courage to assassinate President Coin if she wasn't so emotionally destitute, a triumphant act that led to my very favorite scene: desperate Peeta putting himself between her biting mouth and the poisonous nightlock capsules because he just can't stand to let her die, even in light of a bleak and unknown future. That is when I knew Dear Brave Peeta was back.
In the end, I found Mockingjay and the rest of the series such a clever execution of timeless themes (war, oppression, love, etc.) that I think it is worthwhile as a story of ideas in addition to entertainment. Yes, The Hunger Games is like methamphetamine for readers: while under the influence one is likely to neglect the demands of daily life in favor of the drug ... you just gotta have One More Hit. But amid the relentless onslaught of cliffhangers, war games, and propaganda machines are simple human dilemmas, from the personal (e.g. loyalty) to the public (e.g. poverty). I enjoyed the Hunger Games series very much, and believe I will still recommend it in 10 years as a novel of substance, especially because that content is delivered in my very favorite form: just like crack.