Finally got current(ish) with my dystopia reading--a good idea, since that's what I'm writing. A few weeks ago, I finished Mockingjay. Rarely has any book elicited such ire. Here's why: the writer-to-reader promise.
The concluding scene of Catching Fire made me cry. For Peeta, of course, but also for Katniss. Her only goal this time around was his survival, and now she has to face that death would have been a less painful reality for him. And this hurts her. Because Peeta matters to her.
I wanted--no, needed--to read the next book not only to learn Peeta's fate, but also to see Katniss's newfound unselfishness continue to grow. Ms. Collins promised it would. Katniss had learned to see Peeta as a person. Maybe she was even learning to love him.
But in Mockingjay, for no good reason, Katniss snaps into instant regression. She takes half the book to break down over Peeta's torture, and the rescue attempt isn't even her idea. When he's back but hijacked out of his head, she goes to see him once. Once. She gives him up almost instantly as "irretrievable." And she leaves the District and tries not to think about him anymore. In fact, she probably would never have laid eyes on him again, if Coin hadn't sent him to assassinate her.
Then we're in battle with them, and Peeta realizes he's a danger to everyone, that he has no way of knowing what's "real or not real." My heart broke for him when he pleads for Katniss to kill him, for her own safety. In that moment, I didn't need some melodramatic declaration of love. I didn't need a kiss, or a paragraph of dialogue in which she extolled all Peeta's virtues. I just needed her to say, "I'm not killing you because you're worth saving. Because you're Peeta."
Instead, we get, "I'm not killing you, so stop wasting my time asking me to."
The epilogue seems intended to rip out any root of hope that the last line of the final chapter could be true. Sure, Katniss had Peeta's kids. Because he wanted some. But there's such a lack of love in her, even for them, that she doesn't bother using their names.
I. Hated. Her.
Once I'd gotten over my initial fury, analytical me resurfaced. Katniss from the first book would have done all the things I hated her for in the third book. What was my problem?
I get the effect this kind of life, this degree of violence would have on a person. From the first page of this series, Katniss is emotionally stunted. And only a sociopath (which she isn't quite) could survive the Hunger Games without severe PTSD. Emotional numbing? To be expected. Fear of attachment, for sure. After all, what's the point, everyone's going to die. So that's not my problem.
I'm not a Happily Ever After Reader. Never have been. So that's not my problem.
Here's my problem. In that second book, the author gave Katniss an emotional arc, a journey of change. That arc is a promise: when you see Katniss again, she will be this new person. Not the old one.
Did the author make the promise in order to break it? I want to hope not, because that indicates some serious reader manipulation on her part. However, I can't chalk up Katniss's actions (or that hideous epilogue) to anything else. Especially given the overall skill with which this series was written.
If I'm right, this author exploited my emotions on purpose. Skillfully and successfully. So yes, she's brilliant. But ... how can I trust her?
Have you read this series? Did you feel the same way? Do you think I'm nuts?
How do you define the writer-to-reader promise? Is it universal, or does it differ for different readers? Can you recommend us some authors you trust to keep their promises?