I started reading Suzanne Collins’, Hunger Games trilogy last week and, as predicted by Lainey (link) became obsessed. I tore through the first two books in three days and then read the third, Mockingjay, within 24 hrs of it being released. Yes, it’s safe to assume I’m a bit of a bookworm, but this was bad even for me. These books were like crack to me – I couldn’t get enough. They had all the right elements; fast-paced plot, descriptive but not overly so, an intense love triangle that was trying to resolve itself under the shadow of the darker themes of distrust, corruption and instability. The plot kept me guessing to; I had no idea how it would all resolve and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the third and final installment, Mockingjay. My hopes were set so high…. and they all came crashing down. Mockingjay was good, but the ending SUCKED!
I had some bad dreams that first night after I finished reading Mockingjay (that’s how crazy, my book-crazy is). Mockingjay left me so unsatisfied, with so many questions left unanswered, that even my subconscious couldn’t let it go. No one else I knew had even finished reading it, so I had no one to discuss it with (by the way – who wants to start a bookclub because I am SO in?). And so my brain became stuck on the Mockingjay disappointment. I mulled my issues with Collins over and over in my mind until I came up with a justification for the ending that I could, at least partially and as a writer myself, accept. It took me a few days to come to terms with Mockingjay but eventually I did. And it was all because of this one realization: even though the ending was not what I wanted it to be, it was the only possible ending for the writer.
As readers, we often have completely different expectations than writers do, and for writers, it is not always possible to reconcile the differences between the two. As a reader and fan of the Hunger Games trilogy, I wanted a happy ending. I loved the characters, I’d seen them fight and struggle and conquer all odds and I wanted my happy freakin’ ending. I wanted all the loose ends neatly tied up. I wanted all my questions answered, all mysteries to be revealed. I wanted a happily-ever-after but I didn’t get one, at least not the one I wanted. At first that was a huge disappointment but as I moved on and let it go, I realized that perhaps I was left with something more important than what I had originally thought I wanted. Perhaps Mockingjay had accomplished something more than just entertaining and pleasing its readers.
Mockingjay really haunted me – days later it’s still prominent in my thoughts (enough so that I had to blog). I’m still thinking about the characters and replaying in my head how it “all went down” in the end. And I’m coming to realize that to tie it all up into a neat and perfect little package would have been unfaithful to the work, because a writer has to be true to their vision, to their inspirations and their themes. This was not a happy story, it was obviously never meant to be, so why was I wanting (so badly) for it to be something other than what it was?
Collins stayed true to her characters, dedicated to her themes and was disturbingly honest with the reality of her story. I’m willing to accept now that there aren’t always happy endings – and that’s ok. Sometimes, you have to find the happiness you can and accept it for what it is. Mockingjay also guides readers to appreciate the power of the unspoken word - the things that can be left unsaid yet despite and because of this, they are still so clearly heard.
The truth is, we don’t always get our happy endings. Things don’t always play out as you expect but you heal, you move on and you find what happiness you can and you take it. I will argue though that there is A LOT of opportunity for character exploration, growth and development in-between-the-lines but Collins chose to leave these moments untouched and in that way, I am still disappointed with Mockinjay’s ending. On the other hand, it makes me hope that one day she may eventually “go there” and tell us the rest of Katniss Everdeen’s story because I am not the only book-crazy, obsessive reader who would be all over that. This may be another case though, where the readers’ hopes and desires differ greatly from those which influence the writer.
PS - if you haven't read the Hunger Games, you should. They are starting production on the movie soon and you definitely want to read the book first.