When I finished Mockingjay, my son asked me if I was happy. “Yes. And no,” I said. And why? “I got what I wanted, but it’s so dark.”
Collins’ vision of government and power mirrors that of our current culture and particularly of the young people about whom she is writing. Katniss remains as suspicious and wary as she seems to have been since the death of her father and the end of her childhood and, as before, this approach serves her well. The bad guys are bad, but the good guys might be, also. Like the early Harry Potter novels, it becomes harder to tell who’s on which side and if there are clear-cut sides. Everyone’s motives are complex, including Katniss’. Gale’s anger smolders and flames as he works with Betee to design weapons that play on emotions as part of the trap. Peeta calls for a cease-fire and is branded a traitor, then broken on Panem television.
The frustrations I had with Catching Fire as Katniss’ love triangle with Gale and Peeta intensified were allayed after Katniss overhears a conversation between Gale and Peeta about whom she will choose when the rebellion is over. Gale says she will need whomever will help her survive and, for once, she stands up for her emotions, even if only in her own head. She blames them both, Gale for saying it, Peeta for not refuting it and then thinks, “especially when every emotion I have has been taken and exploited by the Capitol or the rebels. At the moment, the choice would be simple. I can survive just fine without either of them.”
Survival in body is one thing; in heart and mind is another, as Katniss learned after surviving the Games.
All of the novel’s skepticism boils down to relying on one’s self and love as the trilogy comes full circle. The Hunger Games end with the subtle quenching of hunger of the most basic kind. Love is real and small acts of kindness fight the darkness. But the darkness is there.
And so I close the cover, happy, and unhappy. Reassured, and disturbed. And hungry for more.