Let me get one thing out on the table: I like this series. Well, I did. I thought The Hunger Games was a really fun and exhilarating trip with a social injustices bone to pick. I thought Catching Fire upped the ante even more, which I didn’t know was possible, especially during the game sequences. I like this series. There’s nothing wrong with this series.
Except for everything. Katniss now finds herself underground, pushed around by the rebels from the Capitol and the survivors from District 13. They want her to be the figurehead for the rebellion without actually doing anything. Fine. She walks around, pouts a lot, and goes hunting with Whisper or whatever his name is. I understand the complexity of foisting the responsibility of image on a young girl, but it makes for supremely boring reading. The cat is not particularly a show stopper. PETA is nowhere to be found. Haymitch is clean as Howard Hughes’ hands at a social event. So when battle does eventually happen, it’s kind of interesting, but not enough to the point where I don’t regret spending a hundred pages learning about what kind of bland food they ate that day. And then things get real. I don’t want to give anything away, but the violence of the ending hearkens back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Aliens — which I think the latter is just a more violent version of the former – and the list of dead is too long for Collins to wrap up the series nicely in as few pages as she did.
Should we teach this to kids? Teach, no. The subject matter is too violent (well, probably not), but perhaps it is too violent for how Collins writes the book; she rapidly approaches Stephanie Meyer’s penchant for being unwittingly patronizing and laboriously redundant. And yet there’s the complete carnage at the end, the utter attrition of total war, the meaninglessness of relationships in the face of death. Now, in another writer’s hands, this might have been more effective. However, Collins refuses to spend more than a few minutes eking out a logical ending, and instead compartmentalizes each main character and his or her destiny in a trite way. It’s a flabby bulldog in a red bow, basically. It just doesn’t fit.
That doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t read it. Hell, teachers can teach it if they want, but it really would have to be a book that students spent some time on outside of class. For one, you can’t read it without reading the other two. For two, I don’t think it’s half as well written as the others, but in order to understand that the reader has to pay attention to Collins’ syntax before Mockingjay and then during it. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just disenchanted that a series that I enjoyed ended on such a flaccid note. Perhaps I just need to read it again. And again. And again.