Posted by: Trisha Leigh | August 30, 2010

Thoughts on MOCKINGJAY

Fair warning: The following paragraphs contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – STOP NOW AND GO READ THEM. If you have, feel free to read on and engage in discussion.

I love these books because they’re different, they’re fast-paced, and I can’t put them down once I get started. There are so few books in my life that sucked me in to the point of not being capable of stopping until I finished. The other series that have done this for me include A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Black Jewels by Anne Bishop, and The Mark of the Lion by Francine Rivers. Just 3 others. In 31 years. Okay fine, 4. I have to include Twilight since I read the entire series in 3 days.

August 24 filled me with excitement as I waited to get home from work and bury my nose in Mockingjay. I read Hunger Games and Catching Fire in about 48 hours back in February and howled in dismay when I found out how long I’d be waiting on the conclusion. Here is was, finally.

I read it in 5 hours and sat awake another 2, digesting. I didn’t know what to think. At first I didn’t like the ending, along with a few other bits and pieces. I thought about it some more, decided even though the ending wasn’t what I wanted, it felt real.

A few days later it hit me – the real reason the book made me so uncomfortable.

I realized that, after three entire books, I didn’t truly understand Katniss until the final pages. She’s perhaps the most complex protagonist I’ve ever read in YA. All this time people waxed about her strength, her uncommon tenacity and will to survive, her lack of interest in falling in love with either of the two boys willing to die for her – all character traits that are rare, especially in females in YA. I loved those things about her too.

I think, after reading the final installment, that she wasn’t those things, not inside. She embodied those traits because she had to, because the Capitol forced her to fight every day. The real Katniss was crippled the day her father passed, and she died in those first Hunger Games.

In Mockingjay I kept wanting more from her. More fire. More fight. More passion for Peeta or the cause.

When I turned the last page I understood that Katniss had nothing left to give. She’d given it all before. She’d lost her humanity as she’d watched children killed, even killed some herself. Her father was dead, along with most of her friends and family in District 12, Cinna, and a million other unnamed people she felt responsible for murdering because her actions – albeit unknowingly – began this war.

I began to see her as fragile for the first time. Like a pane of glass that someone had thrown a rock into, causing it to crack beyond repair but not shatter. Each tragedy struck as another pebble, wove more fissures into her teetering sanity. The goal of killing Snow held her together, but just barely.

The moment when the mutts rip Finnick apart while Katniss looks on, helpless, is the moment I felt her shatter and thought; there’s no way she can come back from this.

Then Prim died.

Still, the part of me who followed this brave girl through 3 books wanted her to come back from it. I wanted her to realize she loved Peeta and build a life with him. That’s not reality though. Grown men trained for battle wouldn’t be ‘normal’ after seeing and doing the things Katniss has in the span of a single year. How can we expect a 17 year-old girl to do anything but fall apart?

I don’t know Suzanne Collins personally, so I can’t say what her intentions were with this series. For me, I think it teaches people, especially children, about war. She pulls no punches and lays out all the violent atrocities in staggeringly descriptive prose. She shows us that in war there aren’t good guys and bad guys, only bad fighting worse. That the people who end up paying the price are the weak and innocent, the ones who get caught in the middle with nowhere to go.

Most of all how it ruins the soldiers that stand on the inside and witness it all. The death. The horror. The unnecessary evil, the clamoring for power at any cost. Young readers who devour this series will see violence and war destroy Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Prim, and everyone they cared about; watch as it steals their childhood’s, their ability to love, their bodies, and eventually their minds. Maybe one day, when those kids are in charge and the triggers rest in their fingers, they’ll be able to remember what war costs before they pull them.

What did you think of Mockingjay and the rest of the series? Am I right? Crazy? Delving too deep?

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Responses

  1. Fantastic thoughts and well-said! I second them.

    • Thanks. It was so intense, wasn’t it? Hard to know what to think right away. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I think you’re absolutely right. It took me two readings to come to some of the conclusions you did; mostly because I think I didn’t want to see Katniss that way.

    Collins ended the series appopriately, staying true to the themes began in The Hunger Games. Do I like it? I don’t know. Do I respect her choice? You bet.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. I’m not sure I like it – in fact, I’d be happier with a different ending. But I respect the crap out of what she did, and appreciate her honesty.

  3. Trisha–I thought you did a great job with this post. It’s a great perspective on Mockingjay. I hope you don’t mind if I share mine. It’s more related to the structure of the novel than the contents, but they’re still quite related.

    I loved The Hunger Games, enjoyed Catching Fire, and was bored and disappointed by Mockingjay. The key for me was that Collins structured the book so that people were always waiting for something to happen.

    On one hand, that’s fairly realistic. A lot of wars are fought by waiting. Waiting for the enemy to come to you. Waiting for insurgents to strike so you have something to respond to. Waiting for someone to throw the first punch.

    The trouble is, even if Collins was trying to be realistic, it makes for a really boring novel. She did very little to propel me forward from chapter to chapter. I think the only chapter that left me hungry to keep reading was the one where (spoilers) Katniss gets shot. But even then, within a few paragraphs you find out that she’s fine.

    Most of the book is spent waiting for something to happen (more spoilers). Katniss waiting for the revolution to happen. District 13 waiting in the bunker to be bombed. Katniss waiting for Peeta to not be crazy anymore. Katniss waiting for her ribs to heal. Katniss and crew waiting for the black wave to solidify. Katniss and crew waiting in the secret room in the fashion boutique. For days! Katniss waiting to heal after catching on fire. Even in the epilogue, Katniss waiting to marry Peeta.

    To make matters worse, in many places where there should be action, there is nothing. The entire revolution (besides District 2 and the Capitol) happens in a few sentences. The destruction of the mountain in District 2 happens in a single paragraph. The rescue of Peeta and friends isn’t even described at all. Katniss gets into the action in District 8, and kind of in the Capitol, but she’s still isn’t given much to do there. Multiple times she gets injured, and then we cut to the next chapter when she’s healing.

    This should have been a book that I read from cover to cover in one sitting. Instead, I found it all too easy to put down. I feel like Collins forgot how to write an entertaining story, a story that propels the reader forward. Or maybe her editor is at fault, I don’t know. All I know is that The Hunger Games draws you in, leaves you on the edge of your seat (even when Katniss is waiting in that book, the stakes are so high and the danger is so close that you can’t wait to know what happens next). Mockingjay failed in those regards.

    At least, that’s my opinion.

    Jamey

    • Jamey, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I have to say, as I read the book I had some of these same feelings. Mostly that a lot of time was spent doing nothing, a small amount of time was spent doing, and only a sliver of attention was given to the resolution – which is what we were all waiting for.

      I made my peace with the whole thing several days after I put it down. I respect Suzanne Collins for what she did and I think the book – though not as constantly intense as the previous two – had its own merit. Its different than Hunger Games and Catching Fire, but an excellent telling in its own way.

      I think 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by the new address!

  4. Thanks, Trisha. I also completely respect Collins for this epic trilogy she put together.


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