After emerging from the Hunger Games arena as victor (again) Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the fabled District 13. President Snow is livid with her and revolution is brewing throughout Panem. District 13’s President Coin has a plan, though and, once again, Katniss is expected to be a part of it. But the Girl on Fire is starting to burn out, and not everything is as it seems. Or as it should be. Will President Snow destroy Panem to quell the revolution? Or worse, will he get to Katniss’ loved one’s first? And in the end, who is it, really, who has won?
Katniss Everdeen has survived the 75th annual Hunger Games. Unbeknownst to her, the other players (former Hunger Games victors) were doing everything in their power to make her the winner. This, to continue the revolution and make her The Mockingjay, the revolution’s symbol. Initially, there is no Peeta (he has been captured by President Snow and is being tortured). This time, there is Gale. This time Katniss, ever the struggle between Good and Evil, must struggle on her own. And this time, this reader, was disappointed.
Underground, in District 13, we are struck almost immediately, with the sameness of the of District 12 under President Snow and are wondering what the Revolution is really about. President Coin, the leader of District 13 and the default leader of the Revolution, is strangely similar to President Snow. In some ways, District 13 is even more controlling than the capital. As such, while Katniss fights against President Snow – that is, against tyranny and for freedom – we wonder if she isn’t being duped. As readers, we wonder if we aren’t being duped. Who, exactly, are we cheering for?
And this is where I struggle with this book. Up until now, good has been good and evil clearly defined. And now, while the Revolutionaries believe they are fighting for freedom and Good, what they are actually fighting for is the exchange of one evil system for another.
Sadly, Katniss is entwined in this questionable battle. She is often motivated by revenge and “the promise to kill Snow.” and at one time, in the heart of a battle for the Capital center, notes that “people shoot reflexively and I’m no exception…Killing whoever comes into our path.” (341) It is here that I am particularly shocked out of the narrative of the story and am confronted with Collin’s anti-war sentiment and, perhaps, her misunderstanding of war and the way it is fought. Does she believe soldiers to raid towns and kill indiscriminately? I’m not convinced she doesn’t. And I was yanked out of the story to question whether it is so, or not.
I am left, then, not only with an unconvincing climax, but a disappointing heroine. A heroine that gives into revenge and destruction. And in the end – in the future – Katniss has a hard time finding the Joy in counting the Good. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Could be.
But maybe, just maybe, it is because in a post-apocalyptic society, still scrubbed of any definitive and knowable Goodness, Truth, or Beauty, there really isn’t any Joy.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Peeta remains good – though he is (literally) tortured into a false darkness. Katniss is not always the heroine in this book. While she has her redeeming moments, she is often motivated by hate to revenge.
- Violence – This novel has at its center, war. There are battle scenes in which we see immoral acts of killing (even for war), the wounded, the dead, and the battlefield.
- Sexual Content – We learn about Finnick that President Snow “sold his body. Tales of strange sexual appetites…charges of incest.” (170-1), Katniss “finds comfort in Peeta’s arms and…his lips.” (388)
- Language – None.
- Consumerism – The Capital remains the epitome of consumerism. It is in this novel that the “Panem et Circenses” quote is revealed, and charged.
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – Haymitch remains a drunk.
- Religion – There is still no God in Panem.