She Never Promised Us A Love Story (Mockingjay Spoilers)

Contains Mockingjay spoilers. If you haven't read Mockingjay yet move along, nothing to see here! ;)

A lot of people seem to be upset with Suzanne Collins Mockingjay. A lot of people are commenting on the grinding violence and the ending.

I'm not entirely sure why.

Let me give you some personal background. I spent my university years studying archaeology and history, specializing in war and society. Almost every paper I wrote dealt with death, either in the abstract (rituals) or the reality (wars, graves). I studied war because I cannot comprehend it. I can intellectually understand the reasons why it happens (mostly...sometimes...not completely) but the acts of war are the ones that I can't comprehend.

War scares the pants off me but I also think in times of war we see both the best and worst of humanity, often all in the same person. We see who people really are. No one is ever all good or all evil. War is not black and white. War is grey and red. Grey because war is full of moral ambiguity. Red because it is deadly and violent.

War is a machine of grinding violence. It chews people up and spits them out. Even when their bodies remain intact they are never really completely the whole person they were before. Each war changes the world and everyone in it.

Katniss wasn't just a girl. She was a warrior. She was a part of the resistance before we even met her, before she even realized it. Her hunting was a means of resistance. She was a mix of Boadicea and Sophie Scholl, even if she didn't see herself that way.

But Katniss also was just a girl -- a girl that got caught up in a world that moved to action faster than she did.

Katniss kicked ass but she was also flawed and oh how I loved her for her flaws. She was confused about Gale and Peeta, something that felt true to me. She didn't see she was being used as a pawn, something that also I understood because Katniss never thought beyond her and her loved ones survival. The world of politics was not her concern. She wanted to be able to hunt. She wanted her mother to be able to heal people. She wanted Prim to be happy and to also be able to heal people. Her wants were really quite simple. She just wanted to LIVE freely, without the constant fear of execution hanging over her.

And to me, that was what the Hunger Games series was about - the fight for freedom. People with control don't give up control easily. The only way to get it is to rip it from their hands, often violently. Katniss, rather by accident, ending up leading a revolution. The signs were there. Don't tell me you didn't know when those two girls showed up at the cabin with mockingjay cracker that you didn't know what was happening. But a revolution wasn't enough to win their freedom, they needed to fight for it. Tooth and nail.

I've seen people decry the violence in Mockingjay, much as they did in the other books. The world that Katniss lived in was not our world. Her life at home was not easy. She lived in conditions that I wish that no one ever has to live in (though...I do think we could find parallels in our world). Katniss, at the end of The Hunger Games didn't come home to an easy life. The revelations made by Finnick of his life of being prostituted meant that even if Katniss hadn't been a revolutionary her life never would have been easy. You know that she would have faced the same fate, or possibly even one worse. With or without Peeta and Gale, Katniss never would have had a happy life living under Capitol rule.

War is violent. It is more violent than any of us can imagine who have not taken part of it. We can watch movies and read books and listen to stories and we'll never touch the real violence of war. Collins tried. She tried to show us that while the goal that Katniss and other were fighting for was worthy, it comes at a great cost. Reading Mockingjay I...I don't want to say liked but agreed with Collins' use of grinding violence. This was a society in which children were forced to kill one another for sport and entertainment. We should not think that the bombing of children, including Prim, at the end of the book is beyond their thoughts of justness. To make the war "clean" would cheapen the world she created. In that world war had to be incredibly violent because their lives were incredibly violent.

Collins never promised us a love story. In that world there was never going to be a happily ever after. As much as we might have hoped for a romance in the middle of war, such as that sometimes happens in real life and is fed to us in so many movies, it was never about that. It was a sideline at most. The Hunger Games series was never to be a romance. I think Collins made that pretty clear when Katniss confesses to Peeta that everything in the arena was an act. Yes, she spent a lot of time conflicted between he and Gale but well, who wouldn't be under the circumstances?

At the end of Mockingjay everyone is broken in some way. Katniss. Peeta. Gale. All broken and none entirely happy. That's right to me. After all they've been through, there is no such thing as true happiness. There are moments of it, no doubt, but for Katniss in particular there has been so much pain that it is part of her. To create a world within hers where Katniss could have a happily ever after would be to cheapen that world and all that Katniss went through. It would have been a disservice to Katniss. And to us.

Did I like the ending? I don't think that like is quite the right word. I think it was the right ending and that really, is what matters.