Big obviously but…spoilers ahead.
I did the same thing with Mockingjay that I did with Harry Potter 7, I waited to read it. My anticipation was high but unlike Catching Fire I did not want to start this book. I knew Mockingjay was not going to end well. It couldn’t. Suzanne Collins is too good a writer for that, like J.K. Rowling.
So of course at 2:30am last night I found myself in bed, devastated. Not because it was over but because of all Collins had taken away. I have respect for her because she did not relent, did not give in to an easy, happy ending.
There are articles about the violence in the Hunger Games series. I shrug it off because violence doesn’t offend me. Bad writing is a greater sin than extreme content. But last night as I finished Katniss’ story I found I do have an opinion about the violence in Mockingjay. Was it brutal? Yes. Extreme? Yes. Upsetting? Very. Gratuitous? Absolutely not.
Katniss’ world is violent. Her middle-age like existence in District 12 is what makes her successful in the Arena. She has experience with weapons, knows hunger and sacrifice, seen brutality. She reacts with anger and violence to many situations. But not unnecessarily or without cause.
I have lived a life of privilege and peace for which I know I am blessed. True I’m no millionaire’s daughter or royalty but I have never lived in war zone or poverty. I’ve seen images on TV and movies that fictionalized. But to live in that environment is unknown to me.
“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.”
E.M. Forster’s famous quote explains why the violence in Mockingjay is necessary. This is as close to experiencing something that affects so many children around the world that I have been. To question what a book like this will do to our children is missing the point. Nothing. A violent book like this will do nothing physical to a child. Will it affect them emotionally and mentally? I hope so. I hope this critical look at war and society let’s children explore these issues, experience them in a safe way that doesn’t require living through hell.
This book has gone down that path, further than I am comfortable with. It shows the devastation, the unyielding torment, unending suffering, and redemption that will never be complete. Would I call this entertainment? Did I delight in the graphic death and persistent violence. No. Were they needed to create Katniss’ world? Yes. It is books like these we shouldn’t hide away from, shouldn’t shield from. They go further down the path so that hopefully one day we won’t and will instead chose a different path.