This week should be a good topic I hope. I’m on to part 18 of my 26-Week Book Challenge, and this week I will be discussing a book that disappointed me. I should add that in the case of this particular book I went from being disappointed to being downright annoyed with it, but let’s face it, when I dislike something I rarely do it by halves. I should also say that there will very definitely be spoilers for the Hunger Games in this post, so be warned.
I suppose, given the warning above, it is no surprise that the book that disappointed me was Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay. I also suppose, given the title of this post, it’s no surprise why. That’s not the full reason though, and I’ll get to the love triangle part later.
To start with, on the whole I enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy. They read very easily, even though I generally dislike present tense writing and I’m not a huge fan of YA. The story was mostly engaging, exciting stuff happened, it was all going well. Until I hit Mockingjay.
Call me a wuss, but I have no idea why this book (or series) is classed as Young Adult, given the level of psychological torture experienced by some of the characters in it (and given the amount of rampaging murder people are forced into). To me it’s like classing Lord of the Flies as children’s fiction simply because all the protagonists are children. My colleague’s ten-year-old daughter was given The Hunger Games to read by her teacher, and since she hadn’t read it she asked my other colleague and me for advice. We both said no fucking way is this suitable for a ten-year-old, certainly not one who wussed out on certain Famous Five adventures.
Anyway, Mockingjay. Peeta describes being forced to watch people (friends) being tortured to death, and being brainwashed into believing Katniss is evil and the enemy. Finnick describes how he was pretty much used as a rent-boy ever since winning his Games, to ensure the safety of his family. I have serious problems with these things, and I am well into my maturity. How this is considered fine for teenagers is beyond me. It’s not even the issues per se – I get that this is a dystopian future and nasty things happen – but I just don’t understand why it needed to be as bad as it is, or as detailed. Maybe I am a wuss, I don’t know, but it’s a part about this book that I sincerely disliked.
The main reason why I was so disappointed with this book, though, was in how it ended. To summarise, Katniss leads (follows?) an assault into the Capital. Finnick dies. Something happens to Gale. Then just as she reaches the presidential palace there’s an attack on all the innocent people being used as shields, rebel medics drop in to help and the whole lot is nuked. Katniss is caught in the middle and survives, only to find out that Primrose was killed. Katniss finds out that Coin ordered the second attack to gain sympathy, she kills Coin when she was meant to kill Snow (but Snow dies anyway), then ends up marrying Peeta.
Right, so where do I start? This is all such a clusterfuck that it still leaves me a little incoherent. Maybe if I tackle it chronologically, which means I start with Finnick.
I mean, What. The. Fuck. Why did he have to die? His death didn’t even serve some grand purpose, he just got caught by a bunch of mutts and died. Two paragraphs after it happened I was like ‘wait, what? What the fuck just happened? Really? Really?‘ I liked Finnick. I fully understand the purpose of killing your darlings, but if you do so, let it serve a purpose. Finnick’s death served no purpose whatsoever other than leaving poor addle-brained Annie to raise a child on her own.
The thing that happened to Gale. I don’t even – what? Some tilting street panel thing? And every single trap in the city killed someone, yet Gale survives? But you don’t actually find out until much later, and just – what?
Then Primrose. Don’t get me wrong, to me she was a complete nonentity all throughout the series. I didn’t give a shit about her from start to finish, so I really don’t have a problem with her dying as a character. Couldn’t care less. But Primrose was the entire fucking point of the entire fucking series. Katniss volunteered to save Primrose, and that started the whole chain reaction of events that led to the end of the series. By killing Primrose, Collins just voided everything Katniss spent three books fighting for, and again it wasn’t necessary. Primrose could have been caught in the blast but survived, just like Katniss. It wouldn’t have made Coin’s plan any less dickish, nor would it have lessened Katniss’ anger over it.
So Katniss kills Coin rather than Snow. Great, I actually liked that part. Go for it, kill the bitch, hurray. Snow was dying anyway.
But then what? Katniss has some sort of last talk with Gale and he goes away, and she fucking marries Peeta the Wet Rag. And here we come to one of the reasons why I hate love triangles with a passion.
Firstly, I like happy endings, and with a love triangle there is never a happy ending, because one person is always left fucked. Not literally, of course, if it’s the loser, but you know what I mean.
Secondly, the heroine always ends up with the wrong corner of the triangle. I’ll get back to this.
Thirdly, the heroine always fucking ends up with the blond. Right now I can think of three love triangles I’ve read about: this one, where she ends up with blond Peeta. Cassandra Clare’s City of Ashes where Clary ditches loyal Simon for blond arsehole Jace, and The Children of Wrath by Mickey Zucker Reichert, where Kevral ditches dark-haired thief Tae Khan for boring, straightlaced blond Ra-khir.
I’m guessing not many people will have read the Renshai books (if not, try and find them, they’re pretty good), but all throughout the second trilogy I was rooting for Tae Khan. He was dark, dangerous, a thief. Yes, I know I have a thing for thieves, but he was up against Ra-khir, who was a knight’s son. Ra-khir is all about honour, duty and other boring stuff. Basically, think of a paladin and you have Ra-khir. Then see that in the context of Kevral, who is a Renshai warrior, trained to best anyone at swordfighting and whose ultimate goal is to die in battle. Renshai live dangerously, recklessly… and she ends up with Ra-khir??
I won’t waste too many words on City of Ashes. Simon is permanently friendzoned and Jace is an arsehole. Great choice, Clary.
But to match Katniss with Peeta goes beyond a mere dislike on my part for blond, wet-rag heroes, even though Peeta is that. When we first meet Katniss she is a huntress, used to being out on her own and providing for her family. She is tough, a little socially inept, but she does what she has to, and when she’s out hunting she’s in her element. Gale complements her in that. He’s a hunter too, but with him she’s not awkward. He understands her, and she understands him.
Peeta, on the other hand, has been in love with Katniss from afar for years. When she finds out she’s shocked, perplexed and pissed off, and then really awkward with it. And Peeta is just… Peeta. ‘Yeah, hi, I’m in love with you. I’m not really going to do anything about it though, because I know I don’t stand a chance in hell, even if it freezes over. I’m too much of a wet rag for you, Katniss, but gosh I really am in love with you.’ Any intimacy Katniss ends up sharing with Peeta is purely because of their shared experience in the arena, and then due to the enforced and frankly farcical relationship foisted on them by Snow. Katniss’ entire relationship with Peeta embodies everything that the Hunger Games did to her. For her to end up marrying him means that the Games have won, no matter that Snow is dead and the establishment has been overthrown. For me, had Katniss chosen Gale in the end, that would have shown that she had overcome the hardships of the Games and left behind the trauma she suffered from them. Gale embodies her pre-Games life, and by returning to him she’d have shown that the Games didn’t permanently damage her.
And that’s why I’m so pissed off with how Mockingjay ended. Katniss picked the wrong person, and two people shouldn’t have died. In fact, things could have been neatly wrapped up by Primrose surviving and her and Peeta falling in love. And then you’d have had a love triangle that turned into a love square with a happy ending for all of them.
I’m not going to waste more words on the love triangle. The lovely Tellulah Darling analysed them far better in her post than I’m prepared to do here. All I’ll say is that I fully intend to one day write a story about a love triangle and let the girl end up with both men. (Also, why is it always a girl with two boys? Or do I read the wrong books?)
Anyway, I would love to hear your own love triangle rants, or your reasons why I’m completely wrong about this. Use the comments box below please!