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Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

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Mockingjay (part III of The Hunger Games Trilogy)

Mockingjay  - Suzanne  Collins Let me just start by saying I had little emotional investment in this series. I didn't like most of the characters and while I found Katniss relateable in certain ways, I never found her to be a strong or active heroine. There were two factors that made the first two books enjoyable for me:Pacing: Wow. The Hunger Games (and to a slightly lesser extent, Catching Fire) have some of the most skillful pacing I've ever encountered. It has a heroine-like addictive quality to it that made the books difficult to put down.Genre: I've read very little dystopian science fiction (and am now reminded why). I like experiencing new genres both as a reader and a writer. It's exhilarating. Even without emotional investment I was chomping at the bit to get Mockingjay, because MOAR NEW GENRE plz thx. Therefore my intense, dare I say passionate, distaste for Mockingjay has absolutely nothing to do with it not turning out the way I expected or hoped. Make of that what you will. There are a number of factors that contributed to how I feel about Mockingjay. I suppose I'll start at the top.1. Pacing: Where did it go? Where did my lovely, lovely pacing go? Mockingjay was a slog from start to finish. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for it to pick up. I saw so many people talking about shocking revelations and horrifying incidents and I waited for a long time for those to occur. Of course, even when said horrifying things happened they didn't move me, but that was for different reasons. Suffice it to say, I feel like Mockingjay wasn't even written by the same person. That quality that kept me turning pages just went bye-bye. I suppose I should be grateful, because it seems to have cut down on the stylistic sentence fragments, but those were easier to deal with than this mess.2. Katniss: Oh, she is truly vile in this book. As I said before, I never viewed Katniss as a strong, active heroine because she wasn't. She volunteers to go into the arena for Prim, then promptly resigns herself to death. She does what she needs to survive, but nothing more. Though at one point she questions whether her trick with the berries was some kind of subconscious rebellion against the Capitol, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that it wasn't--it was just her surviving. And I was okay with that, because I can relate to being a survivor, and because not being a perfect, go-get-em protagonist allows for room to grow. I even was okay in the second book, where she passively allows herself to be bullied and victimized by the Capitol, because she's going to decide she's had enough of that in the third book, right?Only...not really. She chooses to be the Mockingjay out of yet more resignation. Her behavior--when she isn't passed out in the hospital wing with drugs being pumped through her veins, which is an alarming amount of time--is bratty, insubordinate, thoughtless and selfish. She ignores the schedules given to her in District 13 without thought that this district has survived for almost a century by adhering to those schedules, that she might potentially endanger someone with her behavior. She never stops to think about what consequences others might reap from her actions until it's much too late. She's completely self-absorbed; everything revolves around her. Her constant angst about it all being her fault is bull (except for at the end there) because this stuff would have happened anyway. The "I started this fight and look at all the horrible things that happened" bit is impossible to swallow because no, she did not. She has been nothing more than a convenient tool in a conflict that began a long time ago and was going to reach fruition whether she was involved or not. And then there's the appalling way she treats her love interests. I was already a bit bothered by her treatment of Peeta in Catching Fire. She constantly took advantage of the comfort he offered even though her thoughts were often on Gale and she had admitted that her feelings for Peeta in the first book were all a part of her game for survival. Even though she knew Peeta was madly in love with her, she did not stop to think, even once, what it might be costing him to comfort her all the time. To be there for her even though he was certain she would choose Gale. Not once. In Mockingjay, Gale is the recipient of this treatment. She leans on him, takes advantage of his presence, toys with his emotions and doesn't ever stop to think how it might feel for him. Sure, as someone who loves her, Gale should and would offer her comfort, should be there to support her. But she doesn't even think, NOT ONCE, about what that might cost him. Nice. If Katniss were male and Peeta and Gale female, many readers would be appalled by her behavior. But because she's a girl, no one bats an eyelash. 3. Research: Or should I say, complete and utter lack thereof? It drove me fairly nuts in the first book. It feels so lazy, that Collins would build a story around the premise of combat and then do absolutely no research on the matter. She constantly uses the term "arrow sheath" rather than quiver (really dumb, because a sheath is meant to be tight, good luck getting your arrows out of that). She has no concept of long-range combat (hint: the big guy with the sword DIES at the hands of the quicksilver girl who can jump from tree to tree like a monkey and hit any target with her slingshot) and Katniss' abilities with a bow, while not impossible, are utterly unrealistic. She would never have time to learn how to always hit squirrels and rabbits in the eye with her arrows because she's supposed to be desperate to feed her family. I could be here all night listing examples, but I'll try to rein it in.Most of Catching Fire was a reprieve from this, but Mockingjay ups the ante, making it almost unbearable. Bows and arrows, without advanced technology, that allow the wielder to accurately hit targets at upwards of 100 meters? Not happening. Tridents you can throw and have come back to you without the aid of wire or person? Only with the Force, Luke. (And why the hell would you throw a trident, they're not made for throwing.) An arrow packed with enough explosives to blow the tail off a plane? Good luck actually shooting that mofo. Hovercraft and surface-to-surface (not land-to-land) missiles? Not so low technology as all that, Ms. Collins. All this got my mind working on other issues the series has and do you know what? The Mockingjay is a completely impossible concept. Jays and mockingbirds can't breed (and no, genetic engineering would only make that worse). Even if for some bizarre reason mockingbird females chose to breed with jabberjays (why would they? breeding is about survival of the species) nothing would come of it. Or if it did, the offspring would, at best, be a mule. And do NOT give me the "It's fiction" line because LA LA LA I'M NOT LISTENING.4. Message: Good lord, I felt like I was in a Loony Tunes episode. Turn the page: ANVIL. Turn the page: ANVIL. Turn the page: ANVIL. The story takes a backseat to the message--and when I say backseat, I mean of a bus, not a car. Characters were utterly murdered (in a literary sense) to spread the War is Bad, Mm'kay message.Only...that's not the real message of this story, is it? No, it's not. Because the rebels turn out to be just as horrible as the Capitol. This wasn't about a rebellion in the end, it was just about how much people suck. Yeah, war is horrible. Horrible things happen. I get it. But sometimes you have to fight. This wasn't a story about those times. Nothing changes; it just gets worse. Prim is saved in the first book only so we can travel a complete 360 and she dies and we're right back where we started from. The message of this story is "Nothing ever really changes, and trying to change it just hurts people". It's "It's better to allow yourself to be bullied, victimized, raped and beaten then risk that something bad might have to happen to someone else". There isn't hope at the end of this story. There's just two completely broken people who have clung to each other in co-dependent need, one of whom has allowed herself to PERSUADED to have children. Katniss did not decide on her own that she wanted children, that she had hope for the world they would live in. She let Peeta CONVINCE her to have children. It really drives it all home. This was never about hope. It's about resignation. We should just resign ourselves to the fact that the world is a horrible, horrible place and we can never change anything ever. If it's not, then ask yourself this: Why is it that Katniss never truly likes the idea of having children? Because if you take a good look at it, you'll see that she doesn't.Also, that long paragraph explaining what The Hanging Tree was supposed to mean? Yeah, so did not need that. I'm 24, not 4. It was already obvious (also, creepy and horrifying that someone would sing it to their children. At least Ring Around the Rosie is obscure).5. Missing Disclaimer: Yeah, I guess I got a defective copy or something. Mine is missing a very important disclaimer. But don't worry, Ms. Collins, I'll write it for you:"Disclaimer: What Katniss, Peeta, and many other characters in this book suffer from is called PTSD--Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a very serious problem that, if untreated, can lead the sufferer to end up in jail or even dead. However, it IS treatable. Many people have been helped with their PTSD and made a lot of progress in healing. Though it generally does not go away completely, people can lead full, happy lives even with it IF THEY ARE TREATED. Therefore, you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER resign yourself to being an empty shell of a person like Katniss, Peeta, etc., because healing is actually possible. And if you think you may be suffering from PTSD, you should see a doctor as soon as possible and have it treated."This, more than anything else about this wretched book, left me seething, foaming-at-the-mouth furious. People want this vile, cynical tripe taught in our classrooms!? Please, no. Yeah, I GET IT, war is awful. Really bad things happen during war. But the world presented in Mockingjay is bleak and horrid, full of nothing but the bad. Children should be informed about the bad--and the good. Hope is needed too, and there is none in Mockingjay, not even at the end. And you'll never convince me otherwise. PTSD is what eventually caught up to my father. He actually achieved both--committing suicide while in jail. And I've been through so much awful stuff since then, things you wouldn't even believe. But I haven't given up, haven't resigned myself. In school, the people who were supposed to protect me taught me to be a victim, but I learned that sometimes you must fight back, no matter what. Bad things NEVER stop happening if we don't try to stop them. In Mockingjay, all the bad stuff that happens is meaningless. None of the sacrifice means anything because nothing appears to be achieved. All we're left with is broken Katniss and broken Peeta, and a sense that none of it was worth it. It was never about rebellion or being free, it was always about Coin's ulterior motives. Why did we even bother then? What was the point? Killing poorly developed characters left and right to prove a point, to be profound or literary or edgy just gives me a headache. I wasn't expecting a happy ending full of rainbow and sunshines and fluffy goddamn unicorns. I WAS expecting an ending that made sense. Not a heroine I can't care about, who spends so much time passed out and missing the action because the author, who people think is so daring, is dead terrified of writing action scenes (she shouldn't feel too bad for that one; most writers are). Not a world devoid of all color. Not a complete and utter lack of understanding of the human condition disguised as profundity. I haven't hated a series ender this much since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.I'm going to go to the happy place in my head now, where Gale is no longer an excuse for Katniss to not have to make a real choice. Where he's fiery and passionate, perhaps a little extreme but good enough of heart to be the first to volunteer for a rescue mission to save his RIVAL in love. A rescue mission into the heart of the enemy stronghold. A place where Gale and Johanna meet up in District 2, fall madly in love, and make lots of awesome FTW babies together. Because they were some of the only characters in this whole bleak mess that I even liked at all and THEY don't strike me as the resigned type. ETA: I'm adding this in because, quite frankly, I'm seriously sick of the 'tude I'm seeing flying around from people defending this book. I'm sick of people blatantly ignoring what people are actually SAYING in the reviews and stubbornly insisting the "haters" just didn't like the book because it didn't have a fuzzy bunny fluffy kitty sparkly unicorn happy ending. I have seen numerous thoughtful, well-written, articulate reviews that express myriad reasons why the reviewer did not like the book. The vast majority of those reviewers state outright that they were not expecting a happy ending, yet that's being ignored. Who, exactly, is missing the point here really? Generally, I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I have a confession. These people yammering on about war and OMG!REALISM, etc. etc., remind me of the people complaining about the graphics in Diablo 3. "The grass is green! The sky is blue! Water makes rainbows!!! When you shed light on things, they have color! It's so UNREALISTIC! Everything should be gritty and gray!" Uh, yeah, sure.Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a fluffy sparkly rainbow-colored unicorn to attend to.