Spoiler Space

So I'm reading Mockingjay now, and I'm figuring I'll want to say spoilery things verrry soon so feel free to do the same in the comments section below if you want. Which is where I'll put mine. Having trouble finding such discussions and this seems easiest. After all, the talktalktalk after is part of what makes communal reading experiences fun.

(Lovers, haters, skeptics and fools alike are welcome, as long as rules of polite conduct are observed.)

53 thoughts on “Spoiler Space”

  1. There’s also something similar going on in the comments at a post on Roger Sutton’s blog. So far, mostly Roger and me though. Having finished it an hour ago I’m eager to discuss it!

  2. I finished the book around midnight last night and I wrote a spoiler-free blog post about it here:
    I’m still kind of stunned by the book. One part of me is so wounded, which I kind of love in a sick sort of way. It’s such a rare and wonderful thing to be so taken by characters that you’ll follow them through hell and back, knowing you’re just going to end up broken-hearted alongside them. And another part of me is intellectualizing the story. Dissecting it and trying to get at the heart of it. To see the bigger picture and learn the lessons, because there are lessons in there.
    I keep thinking about the scene where Katniss votes in support of Coin’s plan for retribution. There is very little exposition on her state of mind here, or her reasons for voting for the new Hunger Games. When she voted yes, I thought, HUH?! But then to see how she exacted her revenge, her decision made sense. Through most of the book, Katniss was still being played. It’s only at the point she lets the arrow fly at Coin instead of Snow that — I think — she stopped being a pawn to everyone else’s games. Unfortunately, it took losing Prim to get her to that point. But even though it’s such a painful ending, it makes sense. At that point she had nothing left to lose.
    I’m just typing out loud here. I’m still trying to sort my thoughts, and most of them are clouded by emotion. Which just goes to show was an incredible journey these books are, right?

  3. One thing that I love about the book is how Collins twists the reader’s desires.
    You want them to find a new home in District 13? OK. New home in District 13… BUT…it’s full of its own troubles.
    You want Peeta back? OK. But he’s broken beyond repair.
    You want Gale instead of Peeta? OK. But the price for his brilliance is Prim’s life.
    GAH. Twist that knife a little more, Ms. Collins!

  4. I agree with Amy’s point above — everything in the book is so contingent. Despite the craziness of the Games in the first two books, there were moments of real happiness, and in this book I think every happy moment is colored by loss. But I like that; I was glad to see that Collins didn’t pull punches in terms of how terribly damaged all the main characters would be by the end of the series (Katniss and Peeta in particular). I think this version of traumatized people in love worked better for me than the similar plotline at the end of Graceling, but that might be because Mockingjay has so many more other plot threads being wrapped up at the same time.
    I wasn’t wild about the epilogue — structurally, in that I think the real/not real moment is a great ending, but also in terms of characterization. I’m not sure I buy Katniss being willing to risk having children, no matter how much Peeta wanted them. But I get that the notion of continuity and the repetition of human experience is important to Collins’s overall message.

  5. I wound up giving in and writing a spoiler post of my own because I just had too many thoughts to put in comments elsewhere.
    At that moment where Katniss agreed to Coin’s one-more-hunger-games plan, I was hoping like anything she was doing that as a prelude to taking her out, and was terrified I’d be wrong and relieved to be right.

  6. I have many complicated thoughts about these books, so much so that I wish I was in grad school and could justify taking time off from other things to write a real essay about them.
    First off, I think this book is much stronger than the second book. I might have even said it was better than Hunger Games, if not for the second half of the last chapter and the epilogue.
    I love the brutality of this book, and have always loved what Collins is exploring with Katniss as the reluctant–even accidental–hero. The first half of the book has some really masterful moments where we begin to see her deal with this in a direct way for the first time, and where we witness the attempts to control her be unsuccessful. I do think that the thread is carried through that Katniss is a “true” or unconscious hero–at the end, she kills Coin because it’s the right thing to do… but also because it’s revenge. And despite all her guilt about the deaths on her hands, up until this book she has really committed very little direct violence that caused death herself. Especially that we would see as being in morally gray territory. (Not like when she kills the civilian in this book.) (In fact, this is one of the things that I hear people who really don’t like the books complain about most often. The pulled punches in HG with Katniss and violent actions.)
    And yet… it still felt like there was a beat missing where Katniss chooses to act for others for entirely unselfish reasons. Where she realized she had to be the Mockingjay for them–not for Peeta, not for herself–because of what she started, regardless of whether she chose to start it or did it on purpose. I know, the hospital sequence could be that, but again, I wanted more of a moment where her unconscious heroism became a fully conscious act. But perhaps Collins just didn’t see that as being in Katniss’s true nature. (There is a satisfying thing about having her kill Coin, rather than having her give a speech about how they can’t return to the Hunger Games even for revenge, etc.)
    In some ways, Gale does seem to know Katniss best. It’s kind of like that John Hodgman episode of This American Life–the Flight vs. Invisibility segment. Gale and Peeta are really choices in how Katniss sees herself: will she choose to be who she really is, or who Peeta sees her as? Of course, in a book at least partly about heroism, it has to be the better nature. (Although, c’mon, did anyone ever really think she’d end up with Gale?) Part of her arc over the series, for me, is her being indecisive while the reader sees how deep her feelings for Peeta lie. Just as she’s indecisive about her role in the larger world. And I thought that actually the romantic entanglements were the part of this book that worked best for me. Gale was fascinatingly drawn–and, again, as Collins explores the nature of heroism, is really the guy we would see as The Hero in most of our culture. Clever and deadly and hot. He’s the guy in the action movie… whose morality we rarely think about. I really, really liked that Collins had Katniss finally deal with her own emotions openly.
    That said, much as I admired a great deal of this book, the “happy” ending felt like a betrayal to all that had gone before, for me. I’d have accepted Peeta and the primroses, and filled in less bleakness as a reader. (By the way, interesting that Collins, like Rowling, felt the need to tack on a prologue–perhaps so no one could convince her to go back to these particular characters. Though I suppose there could be a book in the children. Gah.)
    And I still wish we’d gotten to see more of the other districts in this series, especially in book two. Although their tributes represent them, given what we learn about how 13 is run, I would have liked to see more of them up close in book two.
    But I have to say, as nervous as two made me about the series, three cements its place in the popular lexicon. These books will be around for a long time, and they are certainly full of things to talk about. But now I have to go to work!
    p.s. I would totally have accepted a heroic death for Katniss as the end of the book, and it was SO set up I feel a little like the gun from act one never went off. But I’m happy with the ending except for the “happy” parts.

  7. Okay, so maybe I could be a bit more generous and live with the “Real, not real” ending without the prologue. I also loved the messed upness of the characters, the toll their experiences had taken on them. We so rarely see that damage, except in a shorthanded way. And it was well done.

  8. Yes!
    I’m definitely curious about the reaction of the Team Gale people. And as someone who didn’t really see these books as being much about the love triangle previously, I have to say that three really legitimizes that reading of X vs. Y. But does it in a way that makes it integral to the story, and much more complicated a choice for the people who want to see it that way.

  9. Oh, and three things I really loved:
    1) Buttercup.
    2) That if Cinna had to really be dead, his presence still was woven throughout the whole book.
    3) That Haymitch got rehabilitated back to a good guy.

  10. I am glad to hear that you thought it was better than Catching Fire. Book 2 made me very nervous. I felt like she threw all that and the kitchen sink at the ending and but off entirely too much to close the series. I was unsure she could accurately tackle such an expanded scope. But Book 3 was very satisfying for me. I too loved Haymitch’s rehabilitation, and also that for Finnick. I would have loved even more backstory on the price various victors paid over the years. Just as I might have loved more time, or at least glimpses of “old Peeta” because I always enjoyed spending time with him. But, what is the saying? “that which is not on the page does not exist in the world of this book?”

  11. I wondered if Scholastic didn’t say to Collins that the book was too grim and that without an epilogue fans would be utterly destroyed so Collins wrote the epilogue as an appeasement. I definitely felt it was out of place in the story.
    I think that you made a great insight when you said that the boys were choices in how Katniss wanted to be perceived and she was driven, quite a bit, by guilt.
    It was too grim for me. I’ve read war memoirs with more hope.

  12. I agree with all of this–I, too, missed Peeta’s warmth in this book. I understand why the choice was made, but it did make for an overall grimmer story.

  13. I had the exact same thought. Of course, if Collins can’t say “No way,” who can? The prologue felt very Hollywood.
    The grimness struck me as appropriate for the anti-war points the author has admitted to wanting to make here… but it just made the ending much more jarring. And yes, very bleak. The fact that she ultimately isn’t even able to save her sister’s life, despite all her sacrifices. Rough.

  14. The book worked for me, though I wouldn’t say “I loved it!” with a big smiley face. It was too intense and charged for that. It was thought-provoking and grim and complicated. I think the epilogue (you mean epilogue, Gwenda, right? not prologue?) was unnecessary, but I can see why Collins did it. I’m most interested in the critique of reality television that is carried through all three books. It comes to full flower in MOCKINGJAY with the embedded camera crew that follows Katniss. It reminded me instantly of those embedded journalists who went to Iraq the first time. Does anybody remember those? I was transfixed by that on TV at the time — transfixed and slightly horrified by my fascination. Same here.

  15. It WAS necessary, wasn’t it, to have Katniss fully appreciate who Peeta “was” and to force her to finally work for his love rather than take it for granted. Otherwise, had he remained her constant, faithful, selfless adorer, their relationship would have been so unbalanced. But just as in many books, although I logically understand it, the fangirl inside of me missed him just the same. Just as with Deathly Hallows–I understood why the kids had to venture beyond the walls of Hogwarts, but the whole time, I kept missing being at school.

  16. There is definitely a fascinating commentary on invented/shaped personas/reality vs. real person/reality. (And, er, yes, epilogue!)

  17. Oh, also, because I can never stop myself from recommending stuff. Have you read Geoff Ryman’s Air and Mira Grant’s Feed yet? I bet you’d find them both really interesting. (Air is one of my fave books ever, and one of the best SF novels of the last couple of decades.)

  18. So glad you led me here, Gwenda. I so agree with this point:
    “And yet… it still felt like there was a beat missing where Katniss chooses to act for others for entirely unselfish reasons.”
    I would hope that in the final book of a series, especially one with a decisive battle, that the protagonist has developed in some way. I get that she’s a reluctant heroine, but I wish there could have been a little less of the coy, “What? What can *I* do? I’m just a girl from District 12” and a little more, “I have no idea what the heck I’m doing, but I’m doing it.” We did get that when she led the special forces to the Capitol, actually, and I liked that, but I would have liked to have seen it in her attitude earlier, or had it highlighted more as a moment of growth.
    I’m not sure I totally agree with Malinda that this installment offered a critique of reality TV. While I agree that that was the most brilliant aspect of HG, in MOCKINGJAY, I wondered, where’s the satire? Collins seemed to be taking it for granted that in order to be successful, the revolution must be televised.
    Criticisms aside, I must care about this series, because it’s all I seem to want to talk about today on the internets!

  19. Agree that it was fun to see the backstory of Finnick, but I couldn’t believe we didn’t hear more about Madge’s aunt, the one who had the Mockingjay pin in the first place! That was the detail I felt sure would be revealed in book 3! Gah!

  20. (Although, c’mon, did anyone ever really think she’d end up with Gale?)
    I think I was hoping for some sort of “it’s complicated” ending–either both or neither or … something other than a clean decision.

  21. This actually breaks my heart more the more I think about it.
    And fascinates me as a writer, because somehow I got it into my head that Prim was the one character who was untouchable. I find myself admiring rather than hating the story for making that not so, in the end.

  22. On the other hand, the cat survives, where so many other fictional cats have fallen under far gentler circumstances. 🙂

  23. You know, while I had mixed feelings about the epilogue … I actually kind of liked “there are worse games to play” as a closing line better than the real/not real ending, for all that they both play off of things in all the books and not just this one.

  24. I think her ending up with Peeta is something that is as set up as her realizing she’s a hero–in that choice to go with her better nature. What’s odd to me is that the one is played out (for me) in a satisfying way, but the other isn’t. And the other was the most important thing in making the whole trilogy solidify for this reader.
    I’m having more and more problems with the ending the more it rattles around. I’m okay with Prim’s death, because I do think that makes the point about the brutality of the world and the futility of it, and it should have been Katniss’s way into realizing why her being a symbol is important and something to embrace, to change that. And killing Coin ALMOST gets there, but it’s missing the interior element, and the aftermath doesn’t hang together well, imo.
    I mean, Katniss is way more beloved than Coin by the people of the districts (probably even than the people of 13)–wouldn’t they see this as another act of rebellion? Want to know why she did it? Surely some of them would not be so quick to believe she’d gone mad. I don’t quite believe the way we’re told things have been handled off-page after her final act.

  25. This I think could have been hit harder in the text, because there is a beautiful simplicity to what it says about the entire journey and the world.

  26. The ending was botched (see above). I keep finding things about it that didn’t work–it’s not brutal enough. And it’s not political enough. After Coin’s death. Katniss never fully wakes up and takes the reigns (and it is an interesting choice on Collins’ part to keep her damaged and not thinking clearly or as strong as normal throughout much of the book).
    There’s critique there, I believe, but it’s more subtle than in the first book. When can propaganda be good? Can you really manufacture honesty? When you use the techniques of your oppressors, don’t you become just like them?

  27. re: When you use the techniques of your oppressors, don’t you become just like them? — I felt like Katniss realized this with regard to Gale, but I was puzzled because I never felt like she was bothered by her own participation in the broadcasts. She doesn’t even seem disgusted that she’s being styled for Snow’s execution!

  28. Hi!
    Awesome discussion — and I actually really liked the epilogue. It’s the first one that’s worked for me in a book in a long while. I particularly liked the transformation of the song — to me, at least, it seemed like “The Hanging Tree” was being transformed into something purely lovely.
    And I thought that the joy at the end was fragile, but real, just like the children. There just had to be children (imo).
    (BTW, if anybody’s interested, I’ve got a tune for “The Hanging Tree” on my blog — I’d love to know if anybody likes it)

  29. I’m not sure where satire would fit in, in this case? But I’ve just blogged a bit more about my thoughts on the whole TV thing in MOCKINGJAY on my website, http://www.malindalo.com. I think it’s not only about reality TV, but also about propaganda, as Gwenda notes.

  30. You know, I could easily picture Katniss as someone unwilling to have children of her own but prone to taking in strays and protecting them.
    But that may be going well beyond the scope of the story into supposings.

  31. Exactly! I have a whole new level of appreciation for just how hard it is to keep fictional cats alive!
    There are just so many ways they can die. Including … by editorial revision letter. :-))

  32. Yes. The more I think about it, the more central it is.
    It sort of puts the ending in perspective, too. No one was ever going to win, not really.

  33. Just finished the book about twenty minutes ago. I think the ending bothered me less than it did you, Gwenda, because with how dark the book got along the way I was braced for something much more brutal. I could have done without the epilogue, yeah, but I don’t think I would have believed a political ending. The thing with Katniss, as I see it, is that she’s basically built for one thing: to be an action hero in defense of the people she loves. She agonizes over decisions, but when she’s put into situations where she has to act (or react), she almost always does the correct thing. That’s why it doesn’t work to hand her a script or give her a photo op, and it’s why she’d be a terrible politician. But perhaps I’m not understanding what you mean when you say you feel the ending wasn’t political enough, Gwenda–I’m reading it as you wanting Katniss to become more politicized, but that could be a misread.
    I was struck by the way the “Real/Not Real” game played into the obsession with appearances that Collins has been hammering at since Book One. I actually thought that might become more of a crisis trigger with Peeta near the end–there were other, smaller red herrings like that throughout, but I was probably being hyper-analytical with the plot as I read.
    Primarily, I’m struck by what a step up this is from Catching Fire, where it felt like the punches were being pulled left and right. I didn’t feel like Collins held much of anything back in this book. I saw Prim’s fate coming, but I was still upset by it, and even though the book was crowded with characters the fate of people like Castor still affected me. Things like the treatment of Katniss’s style team. I mean, holy crap. I really wonder if Collins didn’t hold back some of these things until the last book for fear of losing readers along the way; at this point, if you want to know what happens, you’ve got to wade through the blood.
    I have more thoughts, but I’m headed out to dinner, so I’ll check back later.

  34. Not quite–though I feel that’s definitely a fair reading of what I articulated above the morning after reading.
    I was glad to see the real unmediated, undisputed violence finally come, and like you, I definitely wondered if that was held back in the other books for readers’ (or the publishers’) benefit. To me, this book is saying no one wins in war, the way one acts in violent times does mean something about the ends achieved.
    (I’m going to steal from what I’ve said in comments elsewhere now, because I’m being lazy!)
    I think Collins set up some expectations about Katniss beginning to shoulder what was being asked of her in the previous books (and in interviews about them http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112119277 ).
    I must admit, I do find more issues the more I think about the book and I believe it’s because the ending wasn’t landed for me. (Though, I also think there was another way to play this out than without Katniss fuzzy-headed much of the time.)
    Really, I only ever wanted that last act of Katniss’ to be a conscious one, and not instinctive, because Collins is clearly a message writer–she doesn’t fear being didactic. I don’t ever expect Katniss to be politic, but to be clear emotionally and intellectually on what she’s doing and why? I don’t feel that’s too much to ask. Especially since Collins is extremely didactic and the book is a first person journey. And, partially because of that, I’m unclear what exactly to make of the ending we get because I’m not given full access to Katniss’s interior choice and whether it *really* *truly* is a choice and not her on autopilot. And, perhaps, that’s the whole point: finally, the author’s shielding Katniss, who has been put on display time and again, and none of us ever get to see her true self again. She becomes the private self.
    Except then there we are with her coming to terms with things in the aftermath.
    Muddled ending, to me.
    Yes, I agree that Katniss’ character is to act, but that’s it at the beginning as well and I’m not sure what purpose it serves to have it be unconscious action at the end. Where have we gone? We’ve already learned that Katniss can’t save her sister, not in this world, and yet . . . I want her to be conscious of that and not just loss.
    I’m also not sure I believe the logic of the killing of Coin choice–that the people of the other districts would want games with other peoples’ children, that they would believe Coin instead of the manufactured yet real hero they fought for. And to have a whole story about the problem with violence and then end it with violence seems… unstudied. Like it needed another draft.
    Basically, I see two endings that match the story that came before:
    1) Katniss dies as martyr, still not in control of her image but in control of her action. There is no reason why this couldn’t have happened in the story as is.
    2) Katniss uses her image to achieve what she wants, for a goal beyond herself. I do not believe the people of the districts would have gone for another games; this seems a grand miscalculation on Coin’s part as an outsider–one Katniss could manipulate (perhaps with Peeta’s help).
    Allowing Katniss to go back to her normal life says this story is about “people survive things” and that’s not what the rest of the story seems to be about to me. So, dangerous game, I guess, of being didactic, is that I want your logic to be clear and hold true and still be satisfying. And this didn’t quite. It could have Been Better.

  35. OK, I get you now, and I can’t disagree. It is problematic, at least in the Your-Character-Must-Change! framework, that Katniss is always reacting and never becomes proactive except in terms of violent action, i.e. deciding to go after Snow rather than returning to base when Boggs is killed. The trouble is that I don’t know that I would believe it if she did change; she’s been so stubborn throughout, and frankly, unwilling to learn except on her own terms, that it would ring false. The training sequence felt like an attempt to address this, but although it was sort of interesting ultimately it seemed like too little, too late. But I did see the martyr ending as a definite possibility–I actually wondered if they would just leave her in that cell at the end indefinitely; I could have respected that ending, although I wonder if that would have been too dark for YA, if there is such a thing. Your other ending I’m less sure about, although it does point up the fact that, with a little more distance, I’m seeing more things that seem like misfires; the vote by the Victors to reinstate the Games reads as, in essence, a defeat, and not a very convincing one. (Man, there is a LOT in this book.) Some things that have been mentioned upthread, though, I can buy because they seem consistent to me. For instance, maybe Katniss decides to be the Mockingjay in part for other people, but it seems to me that the real reason is she can’t bear to sit around any longer. It’s one of the places where the first person feels a bit unreliable to me. And the decision to shoot Coin instead of Snow seems consistent with Katniss’s rebellion-in-action way of handling everything, although I think you’re right that it creates some thematic contradictions.
    I know it’s pointless to think along these lines (and it could come across as a slam on YA, which I don’t intend), but I wonder how these books might have played out differently if they’d been more targeted for adults–if the ending might have been less hopeful, say, and Katniss less “right” about things. It seems to me, with the YA I’ve read, that a certain hopefulness is what distinguishes it from non-YA: things can and do get dark, but shutting the door entirely on things getting better isn’t something I’ve seen that I can recall. I’m curious as to whether you agree with this assessment, since you’re better read in YA than I am. Because I wonder if part of the reason I’m having a different reaction here is that I expect a certain amount of recovery in YA. Do you not necessarily expect that, or is it just that you’re not convinced in this case?
    Oh, and I agree about the cyanide! But I think either Gale or Peeta should have used it.

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