Sunday 6 January 2013

Hunger Games Closure

So I just finished reading the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and I need closure. When you feel the need to write a blog post for something like that, it's safe to say the book could've done a better job at wrapping things up. Spoiler tags alert: if you haven't read Mockingjay this post might be a little revealing, but I'll focus on my issues with the direction of the writing rather than plot specifics.

Phew, so where to begin. Having taken a peek online to validate my misgivings, it seems like there's more than a little dissent over the ending of Suzanne Collins's bestselling trilogy. There seem to be two main sides to the argument: Firstly the negative one, which argues that the book was overly bleak and unsatisfying. Secondly the positive one, which maintains that the bleak and unsatisfying conclusion was the entire point of the novel.
Now, I kind of agree with both those arguments. Yes, the ending was unsatisfying. Yes, it did hammer home a message and make you understand how a survivor of horrible traumas might feel.

Here's my issue: You don't start a series as an action-adventure teen love triangle romp with a dark side, and then end it as a depressing statement on trauma and the human psyche. This strikes me as the idea of a Young Adult series "growing up with its readers" taken to the extreme. I went into Mockingjay expecting a continuation and conclusion to the wonderfully gripping series I'd gotten invested in over the first two books. What I got was a story that punched me in the face with its message.

This isn't to say that the message in Mockingjay isn't a stirring one. I actually think in terms of depressing realism it did a better job of reaching my feeling-places than most books I've read (despite being a little heavy on the melodrama), but it was very jarring and unwelcome for someone who expected more of what they'd read in the first two books.

It's a compounding issue on top of a lot of other flaws with this novel though. The winning Hunger Games formula is notably absent, and the attempts to rekindle it feel very contrived. I have no issue with re-using the same successful ideas in a story (Harry Potter and the previous Hunger Games books did it wonderfully), or alternately going in a completely different direction to try something new with the same characters and setting, but Mockingjay painfully half-and-halfs it. There's just enough of a difference to make it feel like a new kind of story, but there are enough throwbacks to keep you from entirely escaping the mindset of the previous two novels.

I could go on about lots of things - the complexity of the story interacting badly with the limited viewpoint of the protagonist, the strange and forced direction of the characterisation, the wonky pacing, the lack of focus... (dot dot dot)
I don't want to rant too much though, I just needed some closure. I feel like too many books have been doing this to me recently, where they drag me off to this jarring emotional place and then don't bother to set me down on my feet again at the end.
I don't mind dark and depressing books that are intended to make a point. I mind when fun, enjoyable stories decide to make a point at the expense of everything they used to hook you in in the first place.

Blargh, there we go. I've splurged a bunch of emotions all over my blog in the early hours of the morning. I'm going to go and watch mind-numbing youtube videos now to remind me that stories are still allowed to be fun sometimes.


  1. I absolutely LOVED the first book, enjoyed the second, and spent three long hours hacking up fur balls of disgust over the third book. I really don't know what she was thinking with this one. If felt as if she was trying too hard to be different...

    1. I like to give her the benefit of the doubt that there *was* some sort of meaning and intent in what she was doing, but yeah, it went off the deep end in terms of being "different". It just seemed all wrong for a series like the Hunger Games.