Thoughts on Mockingjay
The first half of the book is magnificent. Katniss is at her rebellious, strong willed self throughout, refusing to be no one's pawn and as always, trying to find a way for her friends and family to survive. I found myself practially moved to tears during her firefight in District 8, when she commandeers a gun and mows down various Capitol war machines, culminating in a final defiant scream at her enemies: "If we burn, you burn with us!" Oh god, Katniss, I would follow you to the ends of the earth. I would go down in flames for you. Lead me and I will follow.
And I hoped the book would continue this way. Strong, willfull, disparate Katniss scrambling ahead of her pursuers, surely she would prevail in the end! Find some way to change the world and emerge from the conflict whole and beautiful, a survivor to the last.
Sadly ... it's not to be.
Katniss is dead at the end of the book. Not physically, but the character we know dies, and what's left isn't her. Here's an interesting article on the ending, on Katniss's final moments in the book. The author points out something very true: If Katniss chooses Peeta, her life will suck in the end. And it does. However, I do not believe that this was some tacked on happy ending, or that the ending is a betrayal of the Katniss we have all come to know and love, or a betrayal of the Hunger Games trilogy in any way. I think it's an appropriate ending because it's a sad ending pretending to be a happy one. It is a miserable, miserable ending, and it has nothing to do with choosing Peeta or any of the love triangle stuff, it is a miserable ending because the Katniss we fell in love with in the first Hunger Games book is dead. The war has destroyed her, eaten away her strength and goodness, eaten away at her desire to live, to stand up and sacrifice herself for those she loves.
Ultimately, I think that was the point Suzanne Collins was trying to make: that war takes the best and brightest of a generation and rips out the things that made them the best and brightest. The character who I think came off the worst (and yet ended up with potentially the best ending, working a "fancy job" in Sector 2) at the end of the book was Gale, and it's because he seemed to gain an understanding of war throughout the course of Mockingjay. Gale loses his soul to the war. Gale survives the war with his mind and psyche intact because he compromises morally to it, discovering new ways to kill people, discovering the merciless machine behind war and accepting it, and adapting to it.
Katniss, however, is too moral to compromise the way Gale compromises, and ultimately it destroys her. She cannot accept the cost of war, cannot adapt to it, and in the end, she is lost to it. All she can do is drag her broken self home and live with the Baker, the person who does not question her, challenge her, the person who is not her equal in any way, and live out life as a haunted, shattered individual.
It is a horrible, horrible ending. I wept for Katniss. I closed the book after I finished it and felt devastated. The Katniss I loved loved LOVED in the Hunger Games was gone, her inner core wrecked. But ultimately, I think it is a legitimate ending, because it's an ending that's true. War destroys people. It especially destroys those who have a strong sense of morality, and throughout the course of these three books, despite Katniss's claims to the contrary, she has always come across as smart, moral and loving.
The ending I wanted for Katniss was one where she could overcome the demons that eventually swallowed her, and perhaps help her shattered society to move on to a brighter future (with Peeta or Gale, I don't really give a shit), but that would have (in my opinion) been a true happy ending. The ending that Mockingjay presents is to me in no way happy, and has nothing to do with the love triangle (ultimately I don't even feel she chose between the two boys. Peeta literally followed her home). Katniss is dead. Let's hope her shattered soul finds some peace, out there in the fields of District 12.