To Kill a Mockingjay, a/k/a I Know Why the Caged Mockingjay Sings, a/k/a The Big Mockingjay Spoiler Post (but those altered titles are just wordplay, and should not be construed to mean anything)

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I loved Mockingjay.  Here’s why, copied directly (with a little editing) from my facebook conversation with my sister Lili and my mom:

Although the book was full of surprises for me, I was also happy that my vision of where I thought the story should go actually meshed very well with Collins’. For example, I’ve always been completely, unwaveringly sure that Peeta was the right one for Katniss. His hijacking was a fabulous plot twist, though, to force Katniss to realize that and to choose him and make an effort to win him, and for him to break out of the pathetic puppy role. It IS horrible how much he and Katniss are broken by all they do and go through, but that’s very much the point of the book and it would be unrealistic/unsatisfying if they just hopped up unscathed and became the next presidents of the Republic. (I did wonder if the plot would go that way, but I like the actual ending better.)I was very afraid that the hanging song was foreshadowing a Romeo-and-Juliet tragic ending for Katniss and Peeta. But I always thought either they would both die or both survive. I wasn’t sure about Gale surviving, but thought it would be a better plot if he did, so again, that satisfied me.

I also thought that the ending would be much better/stronger if Katniss did not kill Snow, and I predicted/hoped it would go that way.

Also, you’ve missed a little nuance in the scene where they vote about a new Hunger Games. All through the book there have been hints that Coin is evil–perhaps as evil as Snow–and when Coin suggests a new Hunger Games, that’s when Katniss realizes her suspicions are dead on, and Coin is destined to become just as terrible a tyrant. I believe it’s right then that Katniss makes the decision to kill Coin. She votes in favor of the new Hunger Games to keep Coin from being suspicious. That’s what it meant when she said that she hoped Haymitch knew her as well as she thinks he does. And I think he does know her that well, guesses her plan, and that’s why he votes with her.

I was also pretty sure Katniss would do something other than killing Snow and change the course of the event, but the swiftness and tidyness of it was very satisfying.

So she kills Coin to be sure there WON’T be any more Hunger Games.

[In the following part I’m responding to a review by Lili’s friend that Lili had linked to.]

I don’t think that readers or fans owe anything to the author or story, but I have to admit that I think that readers who were disappointed missed the point. So I guess it’s not so much that I think the reader should “give the author a chance to tell the story he meant to tell” as that, as a reader I want to figure out what story the author meant to tell, and, if it’s a story that resonates with me and interests me, I want to engage with it. I want both to be surprised by the details of how the story unfolds, and also make accurate predictions about the overall themes and story arc. Collins satisfies both of those desires for me. I guess that means she both imagines things I wouldn’t have (which keeps me interested in the story) but also has very similar morality and sense of story to mine–both attributes I look for in an author.I also disagree with your friend that the romance is only peripheral. I think the romance, or at least the expression and depiction of the romance, take a back seat to the action BECAUSE Katniss’ life, and the lives of all those she loves, are manipulated and abused, and all her genuine emotions are stolen from her to the point where she’s afraid to experience or express them. Also, Collins is very subtle/tasteful about depictions of romance–very modest, actually. But the romance is _absolutely_ core to the story. And in my view, it triumphs.

I think the romance is subtle and constantly being pushed aside and damaged by events, (like a dandelion that keeps getting mowed . . . yeesh, lookit me bein’ all cute) but it’s also THE connecting thread for everything, and Katniss’ being freed to experience it genuinely would be the only happy ending.  That’s why I so feared a tragic Romeo/Juliet ending–because, as the hanging song suggests, that would be the simplest and most obvious way for Peeta and Katniss to be freed.

Another thing about the vote with Coin: Haymitch’s response is “I’m with Katniss.” Not that he’s in favor of a Hunger Games, but that he trusts there’s a reason for her vote (and possibly has even guessed what it is).

Another thought: This might not even be intentional in the book, but I was thinking how at every turn Katniss has been used as a pawn in the Games, and she only finally ends the Games by killing the Queen (Coin).


That’s everything I said on Facebook. Mom and Lili, I opted not to include your parts of the conversation, but feel free to include them in the comments.

I also really like what my blog-friend (and Lili’s real-life friend) Jenny said at her blog, which you can find here.

I could probably go on at much greater length about this book, but one final thought for now is that I think Katniss finally daring to have children is an absolutely perfect epilogue.

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20 Responses to To Kill a Mockingjay, a/k/a I Know Why the Caged Mockingjay Sings, a/k/a The Big Mockingjay Spoiler Post (but those altered titles are just wordplay, and should not be construed to mean anything)

  1. Annette says:

    GREAT post! I agree with everything–and love the Coin/Queen analogy. I didn’t notice Haymitch’s phrasing, but you’re right–they always communicated and understood one another in a subtle way, and this was no exception.

  2. Elizabeth Keele says:

    Zina – a great post. I also loved the ending and would have been disappointed with a fairytale happily ever-after world. War is horrible and leaves lasting affects; to glorify war would have don’t been in tune with the authors intent. I also feel that the courage to rise above the horrors of war/life is a powerful message of this incredible book. Love, service and duty are more powerful than hate, anger and lust.

  3. Jen says:

    I agree about the epilogue!

    Alex read the section where they discuss another Hunger Games twice, to make sure he understood, and I was glad he did, because he sensibly reassured me about it being a strategy thing.

    Also, I was SO glad that one of the love interests didn’t die. I thought that would have cheapened her choice in the end.

  4. Lili says:

    Okay! Here’s my ridiculously long part of the conversation. (Also with a bit of editing from the original conversation–we wrote it all in such haste the first time)

    *DO NOT READ YET IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS*
    (I apologize for how ridiculously long this is. Longest comment I’ve ever left, right here).

    ……

    I loved it! I really did!

    I also thought it was BRUTAL.

    It wasn’t obvious to me who she should be with (though Peeta really did grow on me in book 2 because he’s just so dang steadfast and good, but he’s the nice boy that the heroine so often overlooks (both in books and in real life) because all he can promise is steadfastness and stability and loyalty(and then when he’s hijacked and that’s taken away!?)…

    I had a feeling before I started book 3 that whereas we got a lot of Peeta and very little of Gale in book 2 (and therefore I think that by the end of book 2 most readers were on team Peeta, simply for the fact that we didn’t get a lot of Gale), the opposite might be true for much of 3–that Gale might get a lot more “air” time to thicken the drama/dilemma of the love triangle.

    I really couldn’t see how Katniss was going to ever make up her mind… I thought one of them (Gale or Peeta) was going to have to die…as everyone started to get knocked off, I realized that nobody in the story is safe, and confronted the possibility that Gale and Peeta could _both_ die, but I couldn’t see how that could end the story with any glimmer of hope for happiness in Katniss–or the readers!)

    …until the parachute went off. Prim’s death completely caught me off guard… and as soon as the parachute went off I had to finish my lunch break (she ends every chapter as a cliffhanger, it’s so not fair!)

    With 40 pages to go and the rest of my work shift to stew over it, I could see that there was still so much that needed to happen, and I couldn’t see how it possibly could all squeeze in, except that I know Collins to be a master of concise (such a breath of fresh air compared to, say, Stephanie Meyer)

    Anyway, she totally got the ending right. And while it may have been a bit of exposition or moralistic at the very end when she explains why Katniss needs Peeta to survive, she’s right on about the dandelion of spring, and Gale’s own actions/character development lets you let go completely of him as a soulmate for Katniss. But I like that they were both spared, because it makes Katniss choose not by default just because Peeta is the only one still alive, if that makes sense.

    Katniss is a very imperfect hero, (I was mad at her for voting for a final hunger games. Couldn’t fathom it. Were there really only those 2 options–kill all capitalists or host a 2nd hunger games? Is this why she killed Coin? Because she saw the trap so clearly?), but she is also a real, growing, learning being, especially once she’s able to look back and process all she was forced to go through.

    Oh. And I also correctly predicted that Peeta would be put in Katniss and Gale’s unit, and I hoped that it would be a means of further recovery from mind-lock.

    …..

    All through the book, I wanted Katniss to be there for Peeta through his highjacking recovery, and when/if he came back, because I knew that Peeta was the kind of man who would have remained at Katniss’ side no matter what. So I was glad when Haymitch said essentially the same thing to Katniss.

    …..

    (In response to Zina saying I’d missed the point at the vote that Coin was evil)

    Okay, that’s awesome. I did get it, then. (I think… but what about the part where she says Haymitch and I get to see just how alike we really are? _Is_ he like her? That’s that part that kinda threw me off… that and how hard it must have been for Peeta to hear Katniss’ decision). But I also flew through the book, so I didn’t take a lot of time to be sure, but I actually did get that sense about Coin all along, and I’d written to you that I did properly predict that she would kill Coin instead of Snow, but I must have deleted it in my typing frenzy.

    Haha. okay. I wrote that before I even read what you wrote about Haymitch. Awesome.

    And yes, rereading the vote, it’s brilliantly written. Collins took a lot of care. And I love it that she doesn’t spoonfeed us everything that Katniss is thinking during the vote.

    It’s funny, the first time I read the scene with the vote, I saw clearly how evil Coin was, and that while she presented only two options, those were only only the “only two” options because _Coin_ made it that way, and I thought to myself, “Katniss has to kill Coin, she’s going to kill Coin instead.” But being the dopey rush-to-the-finish-line reader that I was, I still couldn’t understand her compliance-her vote for the games. Mostly because I was thinking of Peeta and Annie, and how they were right, and how could she do that to them?! Vote against them?! (what would Coin have done if Katniss had said no?! I daren’t guess). Duh. Katniss was still playing the games. She can explain it all to Peeta (and Haymitch) later.

    …..

    (Discussing a review that said the romance was secondary to the “war-is-hell” plot)

    Hmm… well, I know that _I_ was at least as interested in the romance as I was the rest of the plot(s)… I misquoted her. She said the romance was “secondary to the war-is-hell” theme. I guess what I inferred from it is just that so many readers wanted a lot more romantic action. But when a battle is raging and all the manipulation of her public life, like you say, Z, Katniss has SO MUCH to process that this is why it’s not _just_ a romance story.

    I’ve also been thinking a lot about what Gale said about how Katniss would choose the one she couldn’t survive without, and I’ve been trying to decide if she ever needed Gale, (it’s apparent to me now that she always did need Peeta–though I use the word “need” with caution…), and at what point she no longer needed Gale? If Katniss’ main life goal was keeping her family alive, Gale definitely helped for years… until his own invention resulted in Prim’s death. It’s not that Gale’s a bad guy–his courage and eagerness to fight and ngenuity did bring a swifter end to the war… (But I still have so much thinking to do on all this!)

    But anyway, I’ve kind of decided that Katniss would not have survived without Peeta (literally, as an 11 year old, and in the Hunger Games, and also in regards to finding meaning to life again and recovering after the war)…

    I’m not as sure about Gale? Was there ever a time when she _needed_ him? He definitely was a best friend for many years and provided company and etc etc…

    thoughts thoughts thoughts…

    …..

    (And yeah. Also that so much of the “romance” in her life was part of the game with the media/capitol, having Peeta thrust on her like that, and so many kisses with no time to sort out true feelings, etc etc…)

    Also, I find it interesting that it’s the hell Peeta goes through that proves him, makes him a real man and a much more interesting person… I think it’s who he becomes (and what they go through together) that Katniss falls in love with moreso than just the simple boy with the bread. Which brings it around to the purpose of life, the gospel perspective on the story, “opposition in all things” “prove them herewith” etc…

    I don’t think Katniss could choose before they’d all been proven. They were all too young before they were forced to grow up.

    (and I do agree with you on the romance being there all along in its own war-torn way, Z).

    The tragic Romeo and Juliet ending never occurred to me while reading the book, for which I am glad, it would’ve made me too nervous. I never thought Katniss would die, I just worried about the boys… and I SO wanted her to find true love in the end.

    (I think my great fear, especially after Prim died, was that she would have NOBODY left in the end. I dreaded that kind of ending…but that’s kind of Haymitch’s life for you…) 😦

    ……..

    • the MomB says:

      I think Gale’s cynical assertion that Katniss would choose the one she couldn’t survive without is one of the biggest clues as to why she didn’t/shouldn’t choose him: he doesn’t know/*get*/understand her well enough. There are wholesome, appropriate aspects of *need* in love, and then there are the qualities that we characterize as neediness, codependence, overprotectiveness (wow, how did that Deutsch-like word get in there?), etc., that finally destroy rather than build relationships.

      Words like love, need, and survive are unavoidably conflated with their perversions and counterfeits. Sorting through all that is one of the demands of maturity–and we know from the epilogue that Gale, tho’ his bravery, intellect, attractiveness, and commitment make him a useful member of society, doesn’t take on that task.

      Also, Gale’s statement seems self-protective in a way that can’t foster a deep intimate relationship.

  5. Jill M says:

    SPOILERS AHEAD
    Zina! I have been anxiously awaiting your thoughts!
    I loved the dandelion analogy! I had mixed feelings after I read the book. Lauren and I debated whether or not this one was more graphic and violent than the other two, because I thought it was and she thought they were all about the same. Maybe it felt more violent to me because in the first two more people are dying that you don’t really know, and in this one you have more likeable characters dying that you really want to survive. I’ve read comments on other sites and one thing I thought was interesting and kind of nit picky is that Haymitch actually says, “I’m with the Mockinjay” not Katniss, which could mean he’s trying to tell Katniss that he does realize that she is not actually for the Hunger Games but is going to kill Coin, and so he references the Mockingjay since it is the symbol of the revolution and hope for a new and better Panem. If Coin is President it will stay the same. Also, since Katniss says she votes yes for Prim and we get the idea that she realizes that Coin was responsible for Prim’s death, she is voting yes not in favor of the Hunger Games, and maybe not so she can avenge Prim’s death, but to prevent other children from suffering like Prim–the horrors of growing up in the type of society that “sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences”. Anyways, I loved the first two thirds, loved loved the Boggs comment about seeing Odair in his underwear, I accepted the whole Capitol attack and actually really liked the ending, but I felt like Katniss got put out to pasture after they had used her and taken all the spark out of her. She was so powerful and I thought it would be nice if she could play some part in helping the people rebuild, but alas, the actual ending was probably more realistic. Besides, you don’t see many race horses complaining about being put out to pasture, so it was probably what she really needed in order to recover and find some happiness. Maybe someday she’ll publish her book and go on tour.

    • the MomB says:

      I don’t feel that Katniss was “put out to pasture”. As you intimate, it was what she wanted. She never liked being in the spotlight and grew to hate it; she had met such challenges when it was necessary, and no doubt would have again. I doubt there’s a better part she herself could play in rebuilding the society than by living functionally and, eventually, having children.

    • zstitches says:

      Those are good points (and clarifications) about what Katniss and Haymitch say in that pivotal scene. I agree that “for Prim” meant to destroy the Hunger Games by destroying Coin.

      You made me laugh about Katniss publishing her book and going on tour.

      I do agree with my mom that Katniss very much wants to be left alone and out of the spotlight.

      Based on how Catching Fire ended, I did expect that this last book would be the story of the revolution and the Capitol being overthrown, and I was actually a little bored with it, thinking I knew the rest of the story arc (other than the outcome of the love triangle). I like this so much better, and thought it was such a better continuation of the rhythm of the earlier stories for it to become the “76th Hunger Games,” but outside of an arena this time, and with even larger stakes. It was also much more disturbing but much more interesting for District 13 to turn out to be somewhat sinister, and not just the obvious good guy vs. the obvious bad guy of the Capitol.

  6. marymary says:

    Yippee! I’m out of the spoiler danger zone!

    I agree, Z, that it’s satisfying when the story goes where you predicted (based on what you think it’s been saying) but still gives you some surprises — and that the Hunger Games series did this.

    District 13 was a pretty suspicious place to me from the onset, esp. how clear it was that personal freedom was not valued and how Katniss was still being treated as a pawn in their games, but it was when she found her imprisoned styling crew that I said to myself, “Ah. I get it. So the president of Panem and the president of District 13 are two sides of the same ‘coin.'” And then later I thought, “You could flip a ‘coin’ between the two leaders — you’ll get the same thing.” So it was very satisfying when I read where Coin told Katniss “you can flip me for him” — meaning for the privilege of killing Snow, but also w/ the play on words.

    And when Katniss and Haymitch were conspiring in that final Yes vote, I was thinking to myself, “Woah. Is she _really_ going to just go and shoot Coin at the execution, then?” But it seemed to me like she’d have to shoot _both_, so when they gave her the single arrow, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Afterwards I realized that of course it was already certain that Snow would be killed regardless, or at least never be in power again. Killing him really was unnecessary.

    When Peeta was calling for a cease-fire in his first broadcast, I was pretty sure he was going to prove to be right, but then revolution seemed so necessary that I had doubts. Honestly, I was a bit worried that it was a clue that the book was eventually headed to an assertion that war is never justified and that no cause is worth killing over. In the end, though, I thought it did a pretty balanced job of showing the horrors of war and the likelihood that those going to war are motivated by a lust for power, w/o denying the virtue of self-defense or of fighting for the things that truly matter. I thought the dividing line that Collins put up — the willingness to kill/exploit children — was useful. Also, at the end, there’s no question that Katniss’s & Peeta’s children are growing up in a better world than they did, and she doesn’t seem to imply that it could have happened without the revolution.

    One thing I kept really hoping would come up in the series was the idea of the power to defy authority by asserting one’s freedom to choose even when every other freedom is taken away. From the beginning of the first book, I so badly wanted _someone_ in the games (I kept hoping Katniss or Peeta, esp.) to make a big deal of saying, No, I refuse to kill these other innocent tributes. You can kill me if you want, but I refuse to take part in your game. When that never came up in the first book, I really hoped that’s where the second hunger games would go after all the tributes joined hands. But then I guess, plotwise, the Capital would have killed them and even if it inspired the districts, there go your main characters. 🙂 So, the scene where Katniss interacts with the injured man from the train after they take down the Nut in District 2 was satisfying.

    I better go to bed. But one more thing: I’m so sad about Boggs. And Finnick. :’-(

    • zstitches says:

      I loved everything you had to say. What a great observation about Coin’s name.

      I think I’ve gone through that exact same mental process of wanting the tributes to defy the Capitol by refusing to kill each other, but realizing it would be pointless since the Capitol would just kill them off anyway (and, as you say, the books would end prematurely–be a really great short story). Of course, there *is* some collaboration instead of killing in the Quarter Quell, with the tributes who are in on the plan to escape. But I agree that the scene after the fall of the Nut is particularly satisfying.

      I did think 13 was sinister from early in Book 3; it’s just that the earlier books made me anticipate 13 to be more of a utopia.

      Peeta’s messages to Katniss via Capitol TV are interesting terrain, because we don’t know exactly how much of what he says are his own thoughts, and how much he’s being forced to say. I think what he says is essential in helping Katniss (eventually, finally) see that she can’t trust Coin, and he’s right that the war isn’t good for anyone, but it’s also true that a cease-fire would leave everyone in the same unlivable condition they’ve been in, and worse. And although assassinating Coin earlier would have saved a lot of suffering, Coin hadn’t yet proven how bad she would be.

      Anyway, the fact that Peeta’s so idealistic and so opposite to Gale in his attitude towards war and fighting is part of what makes him so good for Katniss, and, as I said before, she really needed his perspective to counter everything else she’s hearing and to finally stop being used as a pawn. But I also assume that by the end of the book Peeta has learned to trust Katniss (and she has proven herself) and he would, in hindsight, approve of her decisions, or at least believe she’d done the best she could with the knowledge and opportunity she had.

      Whew! I”m tired. Bedtime. I’m glad I have this thread for talking about the book because Ike and Dean were each somewhat disappointed with Mockingjay, so it’s nice to be able to talk with other fans. 🙂

      • zstitches says:

        One more thought, in regards to what you said about it no longer being necessary to kill Snow. The reason I always thought Katniss shouldn’t end up killing Snow was that getting her revenge wouldn’t be a good enough reason to kill, and killing for revenge only would be damaging to Katniss. It was pretty clear that Snow was losing power and wouldn’t need to be killed to be satisfactorily ousted. But then it’s so interesting (and satisfying) that Katniss DOES end up having to kill a President, not for revenge but for morally justifiable reasons.

        (It’s like that Stephen King story, the Dead Zone, where a character says that if he’d had the opportunity to go back in time and kill Hitler he would definitely do so, and the main character has visions of the future and, based on them, has to assassinate a political leader he knows will be comparably evil to Hitler. See also Nephi/Laban, of course.)

        • Lili says:

          Oh, yay–Mary finished and has interesting things to say!

          Very cool about the Coin.

          Diddo on the thought process of wanting them to assert their agency by refusing to play the hunger games. (In fact, I remember telling a friend I would/could never be Katniss, I’d just lay in a fetal position and die–and the book would end there. Pretty boring)

          Also ditto on never thinking Katniss would kill Snow, for the very reasons Z explains, and like you, Mary, I figured she’d kill Coin instead. (Even though Katniss’ vote still confused me until I chatted with Z)

  7. Lili says:

    So your boys didn’t like it, eh?

    I’ve talked to several people who said “it was a bit lacking…”

    They said it ended way too fast, and was more war then they’d anticipated (hello, book 2 sets that up!), that some character’s stories ended too abruptly, not enough epilogue-y stuff about Gale, etc etc. But one thing I like so much about Collins is her willingness to not spell everything out. Oh well. To each his own.

    • zstitches says:

      I’d guess Dean’s and Ike’s criticisms would be along those lines. Ike said it was “feverish” and didn’t mean that as a good thing.

      • zstitches says:

        Also, for what it’s worth, I feel a bit bad about my earlier statement that people who were disappointed had missed the point of the books–but at the same time, I’m glad I wasn’t disappointed. 🙂

  8. Jami says:

    White! What a great idea to hide a spoiler! I did not read because I plan on reading the book.

  9. nakiru says:

    I just loved the book.

    I have a brother who recently returned from Afghanistan (from his second tour of duty) and I would say that maybe what made me cry the most in the book was the hope for slow but sure redemption of the horrors of war. Not to forgot your losses and the evil you’ve seen, but to learn to remember the good as well.

    I didn’t post any spoilers, and I haven’t gotten to re-read (my copy is doing the familial rounds now) but I would just say that I thought that this felt like a realistic end.

    And I agree, it resonated with me.

    • zstitches says:

      Yes, realistic. A tragic ending would also have been realistic, so unlike others who felt disappointed by how bleak the last book was, I felt relieved and reprieved (at the very end).

  10. Mindy Hymas says:

    This post is exactly what I needed Zina! Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t quite understand into words! I was sad when the book ended. Not because I wanted Katniss to end up with Peeta because I wasn’t sure who she should be with, but because it was sad. And you’re absolutely right saying that it couldn’t have ended any other way. It had to be sad, and yet Collins did show all was not despaired, and it ended happy too.

    And I must say having your post typed in white and highlighting it to read it was brilliant! Very fun.

    Thank you Zina! My need for a Hunger Games book group is now (slightly) subsided. 🙂

    • zstitches says:

      I was sitting next to my neighbor at our RS meeting tonight and it was a “My Favorite Things” night, and somebody said she likes reading young adult fiction and mentioned The Hunger Games. My neighbor asked me if I had read those and if I liked them, and I said I had and I did. She said she liked them, too, but then out of politeness we had to stop talking. I would have loved to turn the rest of the meeting into a Hunger Games book group.

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