I have finally reached the end of “The Hunger Games” trilogy. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were revelatory in the richness of the stories compared to the movies and Mockingjay was no exception. The movie adaptation of Mockingjay left so little impression that I had forgotten it was split into two movies. Having read the entire series I find myself a little surprised that it was ever adapted for the screen. Much of the books are dark and depressing as we watch Katniss deal with PTSD and in the final volume have multiple breakdowns, things which didn’t come across nearly as well in the movies and perhaps for good reason. It would have been traumatic for the viewer to watch Katniss in severe distress for so long. Reading it from her perspective was heart wrenching enough.
Once again we find Katniss in a situation where she should be theoretically safe, within the compound that is District 13. Even among allies there are still those who want to manipulate her to their own ends, be it as the Mockingjay or a martyr to rally the cause around. Broken from the last Games, the loss of Peeta, and discovering that, once again, she has been played as an unknowing game piece has left Katniss a shell of her former self, barely making it through the motions.
Her relationship with Gale becomes ever more strained as she comes to understand that they have vastly different view points regarding tactics and the value of life. Watching the strategy of the rebels and the history of abuses from the Capitol has Katniss questioning if humans even deserve to be the highest life form on the planet. When the ultimate betrayal occurs, due to the use of one of Gale’s trapping tactics, it is clear that their relationship is irreparable.
Once Peeta is rescued, Katniss again assumes that things will get better, only to have that hope destroyed by the brain hijacking. Beyond how that crushes Katniss, Peeta’s fate is one that is particularly cruel. The night before their first Hunger Games Peeta and Katniss are talking on the roof and he says,
I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only … I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.”
And that is exactly what the Capitol has done, turned him into a monster that he is not.
But Peeta and Katniss aren’t the only winning tributes to be tormented by the Capitol. We learn of the treatment of Finnick and Annie, Haymitch, and Joanna and can only assume what was done to the other tributes. There is no such thing as “winning” the Hunger Games and the tributes forever remain in an arena of the Capitol’s devising.
The ending of the book is bittersweet. With the deaths of President Snow and presumptive President Coin one would hope that Katniss would finally find peace but by this time she is so damaged it is doubtful she will ever truly be whole. Time, Peeta’s unwavering love, and the meaning found in her work recording everyone lost seems to restore some harmony to her life but her spark will be forever dimmed.