Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Free spoilers here!

for Mockingjay. See comments for my continued thought from Twitter. Add anything you want. [I changed the name of this post. I meant to say that there would be no spoilers on this main page but plenty in the comments. Which there are.]

64 comments:

Roger Sutton said...

. . . the hologram thing. Confusing.

Monica Edinger said...

Did too, but forgive all. That is, I just finished moments ago and thought the ending was superb. Didn't expect it nor that I'd feel so moved. (As much as I adore Chaos Walking, didn't react as emotionally to that ending.)

Melissa said...

The ending, disappointing. I wanted something more definitive, and she gave us messy. Which is fine; messy and hopeless can be done well. I just don't think Collins did it well. And Katniss was beyond annoying in this book.

Roger Sutton said...

I did like the re-aimed arrow--was not expecting that. In general, I felt like I never quite knew what I was looking at--little setting or atmosphere. Maybe people like to make that up for themselves?

Monica Edinger said...

It felt so interior to me, Katniss's, that is. So, yes, setting was reader's to make up. Although the setting and atmosphere seemed pretty vivid in the first chapter and we are brought back to that at the end, aren't we?

Roger Sutton said...

I guess I needed more to really suck me in (and the which-boy-will-she-choose never performed that function for me because it always felt like it was from a different kind of book). What impressed me about the otherwise hokey Twilight was its creation of a place.

Monica Edinger said...

What sucked me in was the war, the politics, ethics, morality, and such. The romance, hardly. If people read for that, they are going to be very disappointed, I think.

As I think about it Snow had a tinge of the Mayor Prentiss (from Ness's books) going on at the very end.

Melissa said...

"and the which-boy-will-she-choose never performed that function for me because it always felt like it was from a different kind of book"

Agreed. I felt like, in the end, she should have been content to be alone. Gale she couldn't have because of the bomb, and Peeta was, well, wimpy. I wished that Collins would have done more with the hijacking of his memories -- made it into a bigger conflict.

Can I also say that it bothered me that District 13 was as much a totalitarian state as the rest of the country, and yet nothing was really done about that?

Roger Sutton said...

I thought the hijacking of Peeta and his subsequent halting recovery was creakily handled. So much of the plot consisted of temporary roadblocks, placed and removed just to keep things perking along.

But Melissa, I disagree about District 13--I thought its totalitarian nature was both believable and provocatively developed by Collins.

Anonymous said...

I think you should change the headline to "free spoiler zone."

GraceAnne LadyHawk said...

I hated the ending.

It's a great, even powerful story, and it will create much thought and wonderful discussion. But at one critical point Collins did tell rather than show, knocked me right out of the story, and then I knew I would hate the ending.

There were two deaths that I thought were too much. Maybe that is unfair, but so it seemed.

This was one time I did not read ahead (because I was reading on TheInfomancer's iPad).

Anonymous said...

Yeah, try Spoilers R US. Good thing I don't mind. I thought the first was compulsively readable and partly for that reason, wouldn't pick up the second one.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how you could not read it for the romance--or at least pay attention to the love triangle when that triangle was played with a very heavy hand in this volume. Many things have been read into this series that aren't always there, but the triangle was very definitely and carefully laid out from the beginning. Katniss didn't come by her surname by accident.

Cheryl said...

I just finished it and I'm still processing. A great deal of it -- especially the invasion of the Capitol -- felt like a first-person shooter video game, which I mean as a compliment: you-are-there, gory, immersive, and also very disturbing, to be present for (or causing) so much violence. (I felt sort of sick to think that, when the movie comes out, there probably WILL be such a video game, which people will play with great glee.) But then the last 40 pages whips around to show the effects of that violence on Katniss's and Peeta's psyches pretty completely, I thought, and the consequent fragility of their healing. The messiness worked for and moved me.

In the battle between Gale the Hunter and Peeta the Baker, I was always rooting for carbs. A pretty cupcake beats venison for comfort every time.

EM said...

I too was disappointed by the ending. After the bomb and Katniss's injury, I really thought the next 30 pages were going to be a hallucination. It was just all so hazy and confusing and sloppy, and it really brought home to me K's complete lack of agency in this book. Things happen TO her. She doesn't DO much of anything. And that, more than anything, made her seem so passive and Bella Swan-y, and it made me sad. I want Katniss to be Kara Thrace, and in this book, she just wasn't.

The epilogue also felt a bit off, and I kept comparing it to the epilogue of HP. Seeing Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione all grown up and married with children made sense -- especially because they all still had jobs, jobs that made sense with who they were. Harry survived, *and* he became an Auror, so he's still fighting the good fight. Katniss survived, and became . . . what? A mom? A hunter? It felt like a waste of a life, for me.

Roger Sutton said...

GraceAnne, what critical point do you mean?

Elizabeth said...

Roger and I have discussed The Hunger Games several times over the past 15 months, and he knows I consider it to be a masterpiece of power, surprise, economy and construction. And entertainment. I have read it and Catching Fire probably 4 times apiece, and I spent the past few days reading Mockingjay as slowly as possible.

So. Though I have no interest in ever attending graduate school, I might consider writing a dissertation on this trilogy because I have so much to say about it. Or maybe I will just post some of my thoughts on this blog.

First, Melissa, I do not believe that Katniss would have been “content” to be alone. If she had ended up alone, like Haymitch, it would have been because she never recovered enough from the scars of her horrific and tragic past. She is a woman who loved her family more than anything in the world. To choose not to have a family or be in a relationship with a good man who truly loved her would have been a genuine loss. When she pictures her future, living alone, in Book 2, she's not happy.

In addition, one million readers, myself included, would have formed a roaming band of rebels to assassinate Suzanne Collins. I agree with anonymous, our heroine’s name is Katniss Everdeen as a nod to Bathsheba Everdene, the heroine from Hardy who didn’t know which man she would be happy with. Collins sets up the dilemma brilliantly, and as an author she had to make Katniss’ choice feel convincing to us. She works to prepare us—Gale’s talking a couple of times to the clearly bad Coin, Gale’s not understanding why Katniss could be nice to her prep team, Katniss’ realization about Gale when she saw Gale and Beetee working on bombs together, and the growing, difficult distance between Katniss and Gale. And their make-out scene!

I am still processing the book, too, but I think Collins finished the trilogy by writing the 3 book work she intended, about war and the pity of war. I almost agree with Roger—the sense of place was enormously strong in book 1, and in this book I thought learning a whole new world and district was surprising and rather difficult and I wished I didn’t have to meet so *many* new characters. I thought Peeta being in perfect shape in the beginning, but then what happened to his mind, was a bold and masterful stroke.

I disagree with Roger on the surprise about the final arrow. That’s why Katniss voted for another Hunger Games—to bring down Coin’s government. And that is also why, I suspect, Collins had Enobaria spared and put her in that room—so Enobaria would cast a convincing pro-games vote.

I was surprised more wasn’t made of the lyrics to The Hanging Tree—I thought they might contain a message about where rebels met up, or where lovers ran away from the district. I believed that we might learn that Katniss’ father was still alive, and when I learned that Katniss’ mother forbade her husband to sing the song, I thought that perhaps he had asked her to run away with him at some point.

And I loved that Greasy Sae is still hanging on, in district 12, at the end! She is the cockroach, the person who will survive anything at all.

I found the epilogue reminiscent of the ends of Jane Eyre and of Rebecca, and I found that really neat.

I enjoy what Collins does with names. A few that struck me in Mockingjay were Cressida, Castor and Pollux. And did we ever know before that President Snow’s first name was Corialanus? Hah!

I was grateful for every single word in Mockingjay that touched on any part of the romantic triangle, but I could have used 250 pages more on the subject. But ladies and gentlemen, that is my agenda and not the author’s. I *always* want more about the romance.

Finally, though I hadn’t really expected to, I absolutely bawled when I finished the book this morning, and again later at my desk when it hit me all over again. I can’t articulate all the reasons it moved me so much. I don’t have any children. But then I do have just one sibling. A little sister.

GraceAnne LadyHawk said...

Roger, where Katniss realizes that those firebombs were designed by Gale. I just stared at the page, and thought, so, that's how she is going to separate them. I was furious. I disliked Peeta through the first two books, and found him boring in this one.

Elizabeth said...

GraceAnne, what about the hints I pointed out? I thought Collins was leading up to reasons why Katniss couldn't be with Gale. On the other hand, I love that your reaction is so strong. You are not alone in your opinion if you read this week's blogs and bulletin boards, by the way.

I thought Katniss would end up with Gale until I read this book because I thought he was more like Gabriel Oak and that Collins was giving us a clue in Katniss' name! (although Peeta has a lot of Gabriel Oak in him, no? And many also consider Oak the boring choice. In factI think that's kind of the point in Far from the Madding Crowd. But I digress.)

Also, I have something else to download from my many impressions of Mockingjay. I thought the prostitution angle with Finnick was shocking and interesting, and offered a solid backstory for his behavior in book 2. I do wish I had had more time to grieve him, though. That was one of the points in the story where I needed more time to feel the emotional impact of something.

One more thing (at least for this post). Given Madge's insistence that Katniss wear the Mockingjay pin to the first games, I thought we would learn that Madge and members of her family had been part of an underground movement for years. But no. So much for my ability to predict. But then I've never guessed the solution to a Cam Jansen mystery, either.

Anonymous said...

I’m just a lowly writer who spent way too much of the last few days reading and thinking about this book, but I can’t seem to find anyone putting to words what I keep feeling about it. So instead of revising or writing, or doing something more productive, I’m putting it to words myself.

From the moment Haymitch calls to everyone’s attention that Katniss is best as inspiration when she’s left to be herself, we see this tug between Katniss being real and being used in an unreal (propoganda/puppet) way. But everyone of her greatest moments in the book is when she breaks the rules and goes out on her own – flying into combat in district 8, facing a gun in district 2, making up her own mission to get Snow in the capital and finally turning her arrow towards Coin (Panem’s real remaining threat) instead of Snow.

But only in that final defiance of orders – turning her arrow towards Coin – has she really stepped out of her Mockingjay character and into her Mockingjay self. No one is going to use that moment for propaganda. That moment is hers alone. And it was the right thing for a real Mockingjay to do: to do something deep inside her that she knows is right for Panem. And to do it even though the war has left her broken, even though truly no one will understand her, even if Snow, evil Snow, is the one who helped her to see the truth.

I especially love that Collins didn’t gloss over the loneliness or doubt associated with such a bold defiance and choice. It would have been easy (and perhaps more forgettable) to relish in the triumph of the moment. To twist things somehow so that Katniss ended as the grandstand hero on TV, complete with happy satisfaction. But the kind of choice Katniss had to make to be a real hero wasn’t the kind that came with trophies and grandstands. It was the kind that came with loneliness, isolation and doubt.

I’d venture to guess that many of our most beloved heroes throughout time have had to face such loneliness and doubt. Especially after something as grey as war.

But most of all I loved, loved, loved how by the end of the book, Katniss has to face the ultimate question: can she live with all of this pain and loneliness? And her answer ends up being yes. It is no small act to find life after so much death. But she chooses to live. After nearly dying from grief, pain and emptiness, she finds a way to step away from her anger and walk towards a new life. This is coming of age.

Collins leaves us with Katniss honoring the dead instead of focusing on what killed them (even though it hurts). Collins leaves us with Katniss playing a game where she focuses on what people do that’s good, instead of the evil in the world (even though it hurts). Collins leaves us with Katniss choosing the boy who used fire to bake rather than to kill. A survivor can be bitter, or a survivor can look towards life. Katniss figures out how to scoop herself off the floor and look towards life (even if it hurts).

That right there is the beauty of people: that we can do that. That we can live through so much crap and still live, laugh and reproduce. Collins didn’t go easy on readers. She shows us what real war is like. And she shows us that heroes can indeed be heroes without a camera making them so. And she shows us that survivors can indeed choose life after being surrounded by death.

Elizabeth said...

Anonymous 10:24, I really enjoyed your post above and the insights it shared. My colleagues at the office who have read the novel already will be interested in what you have to say, too, so since they don't all read this blog as regularly as I do, I am going to forward your comments to them.

If you feel you cannot reveal your name on this blog but want to at some point talk more about this book we both admire, feel free to email me at work, "ElizabethLaw@egmont.com" I also spent time tonight putting my words down here rather than getting on with "real" work because I am having a lot of trouble getting this book out of my head. And I think that's kind of wonderful.

Kjersten said...

Hey Elizabeth, I guess I can be less shy and come out of the closet (I’m the commenter annon 10:24) -- I mostly posted anonymously because I’m a bit embarrassed that I was working on an essay about what I think about Mockingjay when, truly I should have been working (I live in Malaysia right now so it’s actually mid-day for me and I wrote that post during prime work hours). The silly thing is, I’m not even a YA writer – I’m a writer/illustrator of picture books for Pete’s sake. Whatever, a good book is a good book and I hope more people put comments here. And of course, I’d love to chat more about it with you, are you kidding? Then it feels less like procrastinating and more like engaging in good discussion.

Kjersten said...

I should also say that technically I didn't read the book -- rather I listened to the audible version. Being that I live in Malaysia, I was uncertain if I could get a copy right when the book came out so I downloaded it from Audible.com. Thank you Audible!

Mari Hunt said...

I can’t get this book off my mind so I’m working on a blog post about Gale and Peeta - where do I go to take a break? Read Roger. Interesting remarks about setting – the opening is powerful in its contrast of the deathly remains of 12 and the only living thing present representing evil. The sense that 13 was all gray sterility perhaps required less attention to setting, I’m not sure.

Personally, I needed the romance – could have used a little more. So much trauma was softened by the moments of tenderness and there were a few times I’d like to have seen those moments extended. Particularly after Finnick died. I was devastated. I knew in Catching Fire that his backstory had to be intriguing. Sexual slavery didn’t occur to me – he broke my heart.

And Peeta, it bothers me when he’s called wimpy. I think his subtext goes much deeper than what we see on the page. In Mockingjay, it was frustrating to me to read him as a victim, but it was necessary to have a character like him. His road was one of psychological trauma laid by a violent society, not Gale’s more glorified action-adventure path. Beaten as he was, everything he did in the end was a fight for life. He was the first to disagree with Coin about the New & Improved Hunger Games, he stopped Katniss from the nightlock, planted flowers for Prim, and finally, despite it all, wanted children. Peeta is hope and humanity. Peeta is not giving in.

(Cue violins. I really have to go to bed!)

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book, but I am getting the sense that some people are disappointed, or even angry (on other sites) because they didn't get the feel good story they wanted. The one where kicking ass actually -solves- problems, and where a girl gets to play the noble savior for a change, where war is ugly but leads ultimately to a sense of triumph and the world is better for it.

I myself prefer those kind of stories, even though I vehemently disagree with the ideology. My question is, did Collins engage in bait and switch? Did readers have reason to believe that they were going to get a girl lead in a John Wayne movie?

Anon 7:52

chelle said...

Isn't this in keeping with her ending to the Gregor books? I don't expect a happy, triumphant sort of ending from Suzanne Collins. I found the last of the Gregor books to be utterly, totally depressing, but completely in keeping with a series that is all about war and its ramifications.

Anonymous said...

my goodness! you folks are longwinded! do you have little to do (as the kids say) or is this nfatuation?

Mari Hunt said...

Hey Anon 7:52 (10:58), Interesting question. My teenage son finished the book late last night and that's exactly the way he felt. He was primarily upset with Prim's death - felt it unnecessarily cruel. Maybe the problem is that as a society we're a little too conditioned to consequence-free violence in our popular culture. I think what Suzanne Collins showed, particularly in the Gale storyline, is that kicking ass may solve one problem, but it creates a bunch of others.

Catherine said...

Can anyone explain why there was an uprising in the first place? In The Hunger Games, when Collins explains the origins of the games (at the reaping), she states the districts lived in peace and prosperity until the uprising against the Capitol and the Games now exist as a reminder of those Dark Days. Did District 13 gin-up the conflict the first time over control and power? Or was it in fact a true revolt against the repressive government?

I thought the ending was perfect. Save for the epilogue which I felt unnecessary and a bit intrusive.

Anonymous said...

I found the deconstruction of Gale's character unconvincing because it was not consistently portrayed throughout the book. There were three moments where Gale held violent views. But in between those moments, he didn't rage around, lusting after human blood. And he certainly didn't kill as many people hand-to-hand as Katniss did. And since we were not privy to his thoughts, we had no way of knowing whether he regretted his actions in the same way we were told Katniss did.

Here's Katniss, killing people left and right and then thinking "Gee, this is bad. People shouldn't kill people. Oh wait! I have to kill this person over here. Wow. I shouldn't have done that. Killing is bad. Hang on a sec. Have to kill this other person." And then she has the nerve to condemn Gale for his rage and violence, while she's wiping the blood from her arrows.

Gale's deconstruction in this manner--to make him an unfit partner for Katniss--is a device employed frequently in soap operas, where the writers have gotten you to invest in one relationship until it is played out and then must manipulate you out of that investment so they can move the characters in another direction. It's a dirty trick.

And seriously? You can't live on cupcakes. Venison is more sustaining.

Moira Manion said...

I haven't read any work by this author, but I am absolutely loving this discussion about the plot, the characters, their possible motivations, whether certain elements work or not, etc., by intelligent, articulate people. I love this kind of discussion about stories. I don't get it much in "real life," since most people I know don't read children's and YA books. That's one of the reasons I come here.

Elizabeth said...

Catherine, we are told by Katniss that the districts lived in peace and prosperity until the uprising against the Capitol. But she is taught that in school, just as she is taught that no one lives in District 13. In other words, who knows what is propaganda? An enjoyable part of the book for me was trying to sort out what she was and wasn't noticing accurately--she's certainly oblivious to a few other major things going on. And she always says that Gale is the one who questions authority--we don't see her doing much of it at the beginning.

Moira, what are you waiting for? Get a copy of The Hunger Games and start reading!

Monica Edinger said...

Seems to me there's a major theme throughout in what is truth? What is real? Propos (love that term) are used by both sides.

I think my investment in the happiness of the main characters was there, but my greater investment was that Collins saw the story through even if it meant for an unhappy ending. Unhappy doesn't necessarily mean unsuccessful. I did wonder if I responded different as an adult (and an, er, older adult at that), but there seem to be plenty of the intended audience liking it too, even if they express dismay at the harshness.

I like your take on the epilogue, Elizabeth (actually like your take on the whole thing).

Roger Sutton said...

Elizabeth, when I was talking about the scene where Katniss shoots the arrow and I expressed surprise at her target, I was praising it. Collins is great with surprise; she knows how to throw a plot twist so that it is unexpected but--you realize when recovering from your blink--completely right.

Kate Wooddell said...

re: Cheryl and Monica. Both your comments throw me back to John Marseden's Tomorrow series. Both the "1st person shooter" game quality, which I am sure is enjoying much popularity in its big screen debut in Australia this month, as well as the interior (and occasionally annoying) nature of both the Katniss and Ellie reflections on war, murder, duty, agency, etc. I struggled through Ellie's whining and equivocating in some of the latter books in the Marsden series, but came to find that process as compelling as the action scenes. I don't think we'll see games of either, though, as my cuz (game designer for Sony PS) said, "the censors get uncomfortable when kids are getting shot at or doing the shooting." I thought a game version of Tomorrow series would be good IF it included ways for participants to enter that interior debate before moving on to next round of explosions. So it was much easier to appreciate Katniss Everdeen's struggle, having made it through seven books full of Ellie's. Besides, having recently recovered from a concussion of my own, Collins managed to squeeze a few tears out of me on p. 102.

Philip Nel said...

Finally finished the book, and now can read this discussion -- especially liked comments of Kjersten (aka Anonymous 10:24). To those who found the setting lacking: well, yes, a little. But I think it was sufficient. I also think that the novel is so narrative-driven that we often miss a salient detail about place, in our rush to get to the next event.

Surprised by comments that the violence was too strong, or the ending too confusing/disappointing. Given that Collins' subject is war, I think one could fairly say that the violence was well-handled. She's really good at dealing with violence's emotional effects. It's a strong indictment of war. And, yes, the ending is a little mixed for several reasons. As Monica points out, since this is all filtered through Katniss's eyes, of course it's going to be a little hallucinatory (to borrow EM's terms). She's just suffered a series of severe traumas, after all. Also: she survives the war, but survivors' lives are ever transformed by the experience. This is as happy an ending as one can expect -- perhaps even too happy, given all that she has faced.

Anyway, as you've no doubt noticed, I enjoyed the book. Not yet sure if it's as strong as the first two, but its complexity, darkness, and intensity make it a worth conclusion to the series.

Moira said...

Elizabeth, I'm afraid I'm not interested in this series (dipped into the first one when it came out; not my cuppa). It's the discussion that I'm enjoying, about the elements of the story, the characters and their motivations, or lack thereof, how they relate to one another, the plot and whether it works or not, etc.

Melanie said...

I cried at the ending. Didn't like it at first, but after I had some time to process it, I think I came to understand why the author chose to do it that way. It seemed like a really hopeless message,when I read it. I think I was expecting the the more popular version of how war ends...you know, violence is always right, always justifiable and who cares about the consequences? They can't hurt us...The book shows the truth, I think. That the result of war is often more problems than it solves, and violence isn't easy to put behind you, no matter how strong you are. Maybe the hope in the ending was that even though I was left thinking,"With so much evil, so many bad things happening, how can you ever expect anything to be happy or normal ever again? Once it happens to you, how can you ever find yourself in the mess that's left over?", Katniss is able to see that the good left over in the world is worth fighting and living for. Even though nothing will ever be the same again. And that, I feel, was a powerful message. The ONE thing I was really upset over was how Collins just disposed of both Gale and Finnick...what the freak? She was better than that.
Sigh. Just a few thoughts :).

Anonymous said...

the code word is an apt description formost of these comments - WOOLIE indeed

Amy said...

Thrilled to find so many thoughtful comments and others who loved this book as I did. I sat down and read it cover to cover during a time when I was wondering if I would ever love to read again. I thought it was brilliant and moving and gave me so much to think about, that days later I am still processing.

I've heard a lot of complaints about the ending...I think mostly from the assassination of Coin to the "why wasn't Katniss at her own trial?" perhaps that's a valid question, I don't know.

I loved the epilogue and am of the minority opinion that it was necessary to bring the books to a close, to shadow the scene in Catching Fire where Katniss thinks of the Meadow song and imagines a place where Peeta's child could be safe.

Monica Edinger said...

I too really like the epilogue. That Katniss would heal enough to have children, to feel safe enough to know they wouldn't be up for any sort of Hunger Games, and the reality of having to tell them her story seemed all so powerful to me.

Wondering if the specific ages of the children reflect back to ages in the earlier books. Any one know, off hand? Primm's age in the first book? Katniss'?

fairrosa said...

I thought that the idea "Katniss would choose the one who she cannot survive without," as proposed by Gale is a great one, that some might overlook because it feels like it's only mentioned in passing. But, as we know by now, Collins does not put something into the book if it does not have meaning or consequences.

Katniss at that point thought that comment as unfair, that she would have been a pragmatic and picked her partner based on his usefulness and not emotional connection. Toward the end, she realizes that to survive means so much more and the gentleness (through great great mental strength, Roger, take that wimpy comment back!) of Peeta is truly what she needs to keep going -- surviving not just to live on but to create a next, hopefully gentler and wiser, generation by revealing to them the truth.

We saw through the three books that Katniss is a great survivor, in her physical form - being able to shoot accurately, manipulate the media, etc., but at the final scenes in Mockingjay, we, at last, find her being able to emotionally and mentally survive something that most people probably can NEVER pull themselves out of: all the responsibilities and guilt that she feels from her past actions.

I really liked the book as I read it, and the more I thought about it, the more I appreciate the construction and execution of this volume.

And, although I was vocal about not approving the team-Peeta/Gale hype, I thought that Gale never had a chance and really enjoyed seeing how Gale becomes clearly a non-choice for Katniss.

Elissa said...

How could Peeta *not* get the girl, after all that guy had been through! I did wish there was just a little more about his un-hijacking, especially since they end up spending their lives together (presumably free of murderous rage). There were a few other details over which I would have liked Collins to linger--the parachutes dropping, for example; what a powerful image to recall from Book 1. I found the pace almost a little *too* breathless; what I loved most about the first book was how well the quiet moments--Katniss with Rue, times with Peeta, etc.--worked amidst the frenzy. But maybe, as people have said, that’s a product of the upped stakes of this book--the entire revolution is on the line--and it does make for a cracklin' good read. (BTW -- do people think the corrupt revolution was inevitable? or was it just Coin's leadership that made it all go bad? and/or does anyone else think that the rebels were behind the hospital bombing? and could an Avox really whistle??)

Kaethe said...

I think Collins has written the best book ever addressing PTSD, survivor guilt, and the costs of war. The disjointed feeling and possible paranoia were, I thought, brilliant. I even loved how Katniss was constantly being assigned new rooms in 13.

Prim's death made me weep, as had Rue's. It also brought the three books, painfully, full circle.

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

I really enjoyed reading all these thoughtful comments. I've been waiting to discuss this book, processing my reactions. Let me first say that, from the moment I saw The Hunger Games on a bookstore shelf I had a strange love-hate reaction to it. My hand reached for it automatically; then I read the blurb and put it back. But it happened again and again, at different bookstores. Finally, shortly before Catching Fire was released, I read so many enthusiastic blog posts about the two books that I decided to try The Hunger Games at last, and I was very impressed at how completely I was caught up in the world, in the characters, in the bloodshed of the Games. I immediately read Catching Fire and was amazed at how well the premises set out in the first book were developed and intensified. So I was really excited about Mockingjay. I was in a small town in Wyoming with no bookstore, but I pre-ordered it for my iPad and started reading it first thing. I also downloaded it from Audible, because I had a doctor's appointment half an hour away that morning, and I wanted to be able to keep "reading" while I drove there. So - what did I think?

I was mesmerized by the first part. I liked the complexity of the rebellion (I immediately saw the similarity between Snow and Coin), and I loved that Haymitch pointed out that Katniss was at her best when she acted independently, not when she was scripted. I thought the fact that Cinna had designed her Mockingjay armor before being killed by the Capitol was poignant (though, in keeping with the "real or not real?" theme I hoped he might not be dead) and I found the scene at the hospital in District Eight powerful. I agree that it was an anti-war book, yet I thought it thought-provoking that the bureaucrat Coin was corrupt and should not govern, but Commander Paylor could draw on her military decisiveness to be the new leader.

However, where I felt letdown was when the story became less complex than it deserved. As their group of snipers moves through the Capitol, Katniss notes that it's like the Games, with the randomly placed Pods that contained unknown attacks. Granted, they're moving through portions of the Capitol that are supposed to be deserted (yet there are people in shops and apartments), but I found this completely unbelievable - as if Collins was trying too hard to recreate the Games which had served so well in the first two books. But it's one thing to stage the Games in an arena; it's quite another to stage the Games in the Capitol where the Pods could damage, not just citizens (Snow's government clearly didn't care about its citizens, only about keeping them in line) but the government's own soldiers. After all, there can't be an infinite number of trained soldiers to rely upon. Knowing that some of them will die to suppress the rebellion is one thing - knowing that incalculable numbers could be lost to Pods is another. I found this plot device very forced. I also found it incredibly convenient how characters appeared and disappeared - I know people disappear in war, but it seemed as if some just ceased to exist and others died unnecessarily. I did like the way Buttercup kept coming back, but cats have nine lives.

And where did Peeta's pearl disappear to?

(Continued below)

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

Ran out of space above.....

I also had trouble with characterization. While Katniss has always had a hunter's ability to find hunting hideouts to either spot her prey or hide from those who would prey upon her or hide someone who was injured, in Mockingjay she suddenly takes to running away and hiding. We're told that she did this when her mother got so angry at The Hanging Tree song, as if that's supposed to foreshadow her running away and hiding now. Again, this felt forced. And where was the payoff for the song and the memories of her father? These threads felt dangling to me. So did Prim. Katniss started this whole journey to save her sister. Although the consequence of Prim's death was Katniss's turning away from Gale (which was believable in concept but not as passionately furious on the page as I'd have thought probable, she seemed to get over the loss of her family more easily than I'd have thought possible.

Which brings us to Peeta. I liked the way he was used by the Capitol for his words, since that was always his strength, and I thought his hijacking was powerful and poignant. I particularly liked the way it was so deeply engrained in him that he kept attacking Katniss, even after everyone was working with him to regain his real memories. And I mean everyone. Then, all of a sudden at the end, it's just him and Katniss happily ever after together? With his constant relapses (and he's still having flashbacks after he gets back to District 12), I can't believe he wouldn't all of a sudden have a relapse and kill Katniss. He had been so terribly damaged that I couldn't believe his abrupt complete healing. I felt that Collins knew how deeply invested readers were in the characters and couldn't bear to leave Katniss without a family. But if she were being completely honest about post-war (and post-Mockingbird propo) traumatic stress syndrome, Katniss would believe that the governments could turn on her, the Games could return any time, and having children would mean she was willing to reject experience in exchange for hope. Readers should believe in hope, but I felt Katniss did it only because her author wanted her to. I think the book would have been stronger without the Epilogue, with the reader left to decide whether Katniss and Peeta made it into a happy future, or paid the personal price of the war.

fairrosa said...

Elaine, I appreciate all the points you brought up about Katniss's personality traits (and how some of them seem not quite in keeping with the "earlier" Katniss to make the story work,) and about the fact that Peeta might still have a murderous relapse that ends badly for Katniss and their children.

However, I do feel that 1. Katniss has changed from book to book to book and changed because she has learned something from her experiences and made decisions based on the newly learned realizations about the world. I'm not happy that Prim has to die but at the same time, it proves to the readers that no matter how hard one tries, there are unpredictable and unacceptable loses in life and especially in war.

I also believe that Katniss would have chosen to live somewhat dangerously WITH Peeta than finding a quiet place to be all by herself -- because to do that, to give up on life itself and all the small pleasures one can still find, would have meant a total defeat.

So, yes, I'd like to see some of the loose threads tied up (the pearl, for example) but at the same time, I also feel that if everything is tied up, then it would have surely felt even more forced. I choose to settle for a bit of untidiness in this case: for a really moving and powerful book.

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

Sorry if I was unclear, Fairrosa - I had no problems with Prim's death occurring. It was tragic, and an honest, if unacceptable, loss in a war. The problem I had was with Katniss getting over it relatively easily, and never having it out with Gale about it. I agree that Katniss changed (good characters should always change and grow), but her change in the final book seemed terribly uneven - too much regression in exchange for too little growth.

You raise an interesting point in the idea that her living by herself would have been giving up on life. But it felt terribly contrived that she would choose to marry such a fundamentally and damaged Peeta. In real life, I'd have expected Katniss to return to District 12, watch it slowly become filled with more people that rebuilt a newer, better version of the home where she had once been happy, and end up reaching out to someone new as she began to reach out to life. But this is a book, and readers do not forgive authors for introducing a new significant character in the last chapter, so I suppose that couldn't happen in a book. But it felt false to me.

My problems were that the issues which stood out to me rang false, more than just being untidy. Life can be untidy, and I can certainly be moved by untidy writing in which the heart rings true, but I feel let down by what could have been a much more moving story when it rings false at critical moments.

Emily said...

To be fully honest, I felt that reading some of these comments was more thought-provoking than the book itself.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic series. And overall, it was incredibly thought-provoking. Mockingjay in and of itself was a great read. But I couldn't help but feel that - similarly to what others have mentioned - as I read Mockingjay, some of it felt as if it was more focused on tying up the plot than anything.

Despite that, I don't have any major complaints, not even in regards to Prim. In my eyes, her death, though sad, was a necessary part of Katniss's development as a character, and that was important.

The one thing I absolutely did not like about Mockingjay was Peeta. Granted, part of it was that, leading up to Mockingjay, I liked the Katniss/Gale coupling myself. But personal feelings aside, it irked me that - just as Elaine said - that all of a sudden, at the end of the story, Collins threw Peeta and Katniss together for the sake of deciding. Yes, if you stretched it, it could be as a way of examining the repercussions of Gale's actions and personality; but I honestly don't believe that. It seems to me that Collins was just trying to appease her readers with that, because everyone knows Katniss has to make SOME sort of decision. To top it all off, the kids....If Peeta had convinced Katniss to have children for the sake of character development, that would be one thing, and I think I would actually have taken well to it. But all of a sudden, Collins just reversed Katniss's wishes on us through the guise of Peeta, simply so that Katniss's legacy could carry on. That's just.... No. That's just wrong.

Overall, it was a good book, one that I enjoyed reading. What I DIDN'T enjoy reading was the forced plot points that seemed to occur simply for the sake of occurring. In my opinion, Mockingjay would have been better off without them.

fairrosa said...

I am slightly baffled at the comments and notions that Katniss and Peeta were "thrown" together at the last moments of the trilogy. I felt that Katniss's fondness and deeper understanding of Peeta are well developed throughout this last volume: she stops questioning his motives and believes in his sincerity and sees in him someone who loves her and who sacrifices so much for her and who possesses strengths where she is the weakest and who, ultimately, NEEDS her: and Katniss is nothing if not a compulsive protector, of herself and of others. So, I just don't see how her relationship with Peeta and the development of the events leading to the final "pairing" as mere forced plot points.

Laura said...

I purchased Mockingjay the day it came out and finished it within a few hours. I walked around nunbly, almost in a state of shock, for the rest of the day. I think my brain was still processing everything that happened in the book. That was fine with me, as I really wasn't ready to leave Katniss and her world behind.

Ultimately, I think Mockingjay worked well. No, it wasn't perfect, and various points felt rather rushed. Yet the concluding book in a series often seems the hardest to write. There are so many plotlines to wrap up, and so many expectations from readers to be met (or not met). So many times, the final book in a series has ruined the whole series for me, or at least truly dampened my enthusiasm for it. Mockingjay did not.

I think the strongest book in the trilogy was Catching Fire. In the first book, the plot is slightly slowed in various places as Collins explains aspects of Katniss's world to readers. In Mockingjay, the plot is again slowed as explanations, first with regard to life in District 13, then with regard to life post-war. In Catching Fire, there is less need for constant explanation, leaving the book's world to shine to its full potential.

The best part of Mockingjay, in my mind, is when Prim dies. When I realized what the silver parachutes were, my stomach turned with indignation and revulsion. In a book so full of graphic violence, the fact that a scene that can elicit such a strong reaction from the reader truly speaks to its power.

Its power lies in its symbolism. The silver parachutes, "the girl who was on fire," The Lottery-esque scene -- each one of these represents an individual horror of the government of Panem from earlier in the series. The scene ties together all of this in a new, even more horrifying fashion. The scene reminds us that wars are rarely if ever fought by the forces of good against the forces of evil.

This scene also begins the hopelessness, of course. Katniss has been through hell again and again and again since she volunteered to take her sister's spot in the Hunger Games, yet Prim still died much too young. Worse yet, her death could be construed to be Katniss's fault, at least to some degree.

This hopelessness, to varying degrees in different places, pervades the rest of the book. As a reader of the author's Underland Chronicles, I knew the author would not automatically give the war or the series as a whole a completely happy resolution just because fans expected one. What Collins obviously set out to do in both series is convey the true horror and senselessness of war, and in that she succeeds.

In both series, the war's conclusion brings a strongman's rise to power. In the case of the Gregor books, it's the hero's mentor Ripred. In Mockingjay, it's the much more sinister Coin, backed by the authoritarian District 13. In both series, the hero leaves the exciting center of power (the Underland in Gregor's case and the Capital in Katniss's) without his or her consent live out the rest of his or her life in the place he or she came from (the United States and District 12, respectively).

Anonymous said...

So, is she going to get a PRINTZ?

melody said...

***SPOILERS!~

I am appalled. So many readers don't seem to see the angle that Collins was going for in this novel.

Her gruesome details of war and its effects hit home. Truly. Those who read the first and second of this series: Were you really expecting a happy ending? Where the 300 pages of Mockingjay were devoted completely to "the love triangle”?

Well then, I am glad you got disappointed. If you got that wish, we'd have another Twilight book on our hands. I personally think Collins's twist was ingenious. She set up the first two to be novels of heavily hinted cruelty and violence, but never was it full-out gore and trauma. She got her home run with Mockingjay.

Readers have to realize something about the way Collins works. She is, in turn, the Gamemaker, and a darn good one. To see how she drives in what the main theme of this book really is, is astonishing. Did you think the Hunger Games series was centered on romance? No, of course not. It's based on war, cause and effect, and psychology.

In fact, I think we were lucky to even have the little snippets of romance here and there. Honestly, imagine this realistically. If you were in Katniss's shoes, would you think twice about boys when trying to fight for your beliefs? I know I wouldn't. I'd be trying too hard to stay alive. And that's what Katniss does.

People who say that in this book Katniss was portrayed "weak", really don't see the underlying points behind Collins's work. Katniss is no HERO. Heck, she's a scared little girl thrown into a society that has made her mature far beyond her capacity. I think the intense contrast Collins gives between the hero image the rebels use Katniss as and the real shattered shell of a woman she is inside, strikes hard. You have to hand it to Collins, her knowledge of emotions is amazing.

As for others who call this book "messy" and "rushed", I'm going to call you out too. I believe the messy was really just Collins's way of letting the reader think more. Ponder more. And really engage with the storyline by picking up the messy parts and making them whole, that way it is unique to each individual that reads this book. As for rushed, I think the pace was to keep the reader focused, to show that in war everything is a blur. If it was purposely rushed for other reasons, I did not notice.

And finally, Prim. Finnick's death was unnecessary in my opinion, but hers was. That sounds horrible, and don't get me wrong, I love Prim. But if I were Collins, I'd have made the same decision. Why? Why is this the turning point of the war? Why was this necessary? Why did Katniss hate Gale afterwards? Why, why, why? So many questions, I know, but don't you see? This was a main reason behind the wars. The cruelty of children. How the Games exploited them, and how children were so innocent and yet they were deprived of that great quality. The fact that Prim is the target, does not surprise me. After volunteering for her sister in the first Games, Katniss is bound to feel extreme emotions from this. Which is exactly what Collins knew. This is the final straw because it's the last time you see what happens to the most innocent in the most gruesome times. Think of the children. Exactly what Collins wants you to do.
(continued!)

melody said...

-cont.-

And as for Gale, I can understand why Katniss gets so discharged from him. It wasn't just the death of Prim, I think it was the fact he was willing to hurt any children with his invention: a sign of how extreme both sides can be. War made Gale flare up. After so many years of mistreatment, of course he jumped at the chance of fighting, helping, etc. His repeated involvements with the war effort weren't simply to derail him from Katniss's love train, but also to show what we've seen all along from Gale. What you merely saw in the first and second novels were a cooled flame inside Gale, when all he could was rant. And now given the chance, we saw his true colors.

Which is why, I still think the Katniss and Peeta train works out. But that's just me.

I'll end with this. This book was not the best with words and transitions, it was not the best plot wise or character wise. But it had heart. It had gut-wrenching truth. And Collins chose to make it messy and disturbing, and I think that every reader will take her serious message from all this.

War is not to be taken lightly. It ruins lives; but the essence of humanity picks us back up again to live once more.

rockinlibrarian said...

I think Melody above me is right on all counts.

The main thing that has stuck out for me, reading all the comments on all the spoilers threads and reviews, is that it seems like everyone who's complaining seems to want Katniss to be a certain kind of hero: a kick-butt Robin Hood, a romantic, a model of feminism, or whatever it is that that particular person was looking for and not finding. But ironically, that is EXACTLY what everyone in the books kept doing to Katniss-- expecting her to fit into Their Mold of what the Mockingjay should be, or a Hunger Games Tribute should be, or a Victor, or whatever it is they wanted her to be. And she couldn't do it, she had to be herself for it to work. Maybe people need to look more carefully at what's going on in her world and who she really is, instead of who they want her to be.

Anonymous said...

I think Melody was a little *vehement* considering the course of conversation on this blog. But I also agree that the complaints I have seen on other sites seem to be based on Collins refusal to conform to a conventional hero-story. Here on Read Roger I sense a little more that people are saying that Collins didn't successfully clear all hurdles in making this unconventional story *work* for them.

Tough call.

Anonymous said...

Good comments, melody and rockinlibrarian. I too think that the book was fiendishly clever and multilayered. I was truly kept in thrall throughout, and found the ending satisfying and realistic.

Melinda said...

What I was really impressed with was Collins' portrayal of war fatigue. If you've seen photographs of soldiers you know with that exhaustion in their faces, then you get the way Katniss feels through the last part of this book, and why the ending, in light of this, works so well.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated the depiction of the very real affects of trauma as well. And while people interpret the ending as some kind let down, it is good to look at all the examples Collins has given us as to how different people deal with the terrible experiences of both war trauma and the experience of being profoundly exploited in and post Games. Haymitch and his near constant dependancy on alcohol, Annie lost to madness, Johanna and morphine etc. Look at Gale and his decisions too: he and Katniss both lost their fathers in a mining accident, he was willing to engineer the same fate for others, she was not. They were both hunters: he used his skills to devise lures/traps for humans, while she used her skills mostly in defense except to hunt down Snow. I think she showed strength of character throughout as she struggled with how to act and think within the confusions, lies and horrors of her situation.

Off topic, but I can't help adding that I'd love to have seen the look on Gale's face when she shot Coin!

Anonymous said...

To say I cried like a baby is an understatement. I cried for a number of reasons.
1. I finished the series... Now they are over.
2. The ending was disappointing.
3. Prim!
4. Finnick! Poor Annie!
5. Gale got sent to 2, and Peeta! stayed. Talk about disappointing and predictable.
6. I feel like Suzanne Collins has the ability to write amazingly, but this book was finished in a time crunch...
7. Prim!

*Sigh*

Kate Coombs said...

Wow, what an amazingly cool discussion! And to think I was merely going to go grocery shopping...

A few thoughts:

Much as any of us might question some of Collins's plot choices, what other books have been this well written, moving, and thought-provoking in recent years?

As far as Katniss not being a cartoon action hero, I'm inclined to compare her to a child soldier. Manipulated right and left, very damaged. The fact that she was able to have any impact at all in the end was a one-woman coup, a tiny window of opportunity that she grabbed because of Rue and Prim and the horrible thought of more Hunger Games.

Most of Katniss's life revolved around Prim, so the lingering question of Gale's role in her sister's death really was a deal-breaker, assuming there was a deal to break.

On the other hand, I wasn't surprised by the final pages because I felt Collins spent quite a bit of time in Catching Fire showing us Katniss becoming more comfortable with Peeta, slowly growing to appreciate having him in her life and liking who he was.

I had to smile at the thought of Peeta as a wimp. He would have been dead in the first five minutes of the first Games if he didn't have some kind of strength.

When it comes right down to it, though, Katniss and Peeta are simply survivors. Barely, but yes, survivors... Real.

Kjersten said...

I was just discussing the book again with my husband who finished it yesterday and he pointed out something interesting about the name of Katniss' squad that goes into battle in the capital: it's squad 451 -- like Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 -- the temperature which books burn. I confess I haven't read Fahrenheit 451 (even though I've had it on my classics-to-read list forever), but I thought this was an interesting tidbid from the 451 wikipedia entry:

"Bradbury still has a lot to say, especially about how people do not understand his most famous literary work, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. ... Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.
Bradbury went even further to elaborate his meaning, saying specifically that the culprit in Fahrenheit 451 is not the state - it is the people."

It's started me thinking about the war-news-as-reality-TV aspect of Mockingjay afresh.

Although I'm not sure I have anything to say about it, I thought others might find the 451 connection thought provoking too, which is why I'm sharing it here.

Anonymous said...

This book had me thinking of Farenheit 451 too, with all the references to burning and fire and of course the whole future-gone-bad dystopian genre, but I also really love how Collins sharply departed from them too. One thing that books like that [Brave New World, etc {ha! & the movie Sleeper!}] have trained me to expect is the main character eventually finding the classic woodsy-crunchy heroic utopian rebel group. I really appreciated the surprise that District 13 turned out to not be wonderful people, instead decent seeming but creepy machiavellian PR savvy molemen who were masterminding the uprisings for their own bid for power. So unlike the wish-fulfillment of finding the groovy book lovers in the woods, or the classic idealized and pure guerrilla fighters. Instead, these people were willing to use Katniss for all they could, and willing to dispose of her when the time came. All too like real life, they weren't necessary "saving" the oppressed peoples of the districts, but using them to populate their army and help them disrupt the Capitol. And after it all, Peeta and Katniss were left to make their own life, and pick up the pieces and try to make sense of what to do and how to live. The hard hitting nature of this book is exactly what I appreciated most about it, besides the fact that it was so exciting to read.

Heather said...

So, I'm a bit late to the Hunger Games trilogy. In fact, I read them all over two days. Having said that, I appreciated the fact that Katniss had several melt downs in Mockingjay. It brought a sense of humanity to her. It sort of separated her from the killing machine we see in the Hunger Games and in parts of Catching Fire. After all she had been through, I would have been more skeptical if she hadn't had the moments of breakdown (hiding in closets in District 13, hiding in closets again in the Capitol, not showering, not functioning, having to he coaxed into eating). It's easy to forget that Katniss was 15 when this whole thing started. She was a kid. And while war does age people, deep down, she's still a kid.

And though I wasn't going to comment on this, I can't help myself. I think there are a few important things to note on this whole Gale vs. Peeta argument. Katniss admits in one of the books that she never really paid much attention to Gale's rants. Basically, she saw what she wanted to see. I think Mockingjay is about her waking up and starting to see the truth and paying attention to her surroundings on a more intellectual level. We don't know what Gale's anti-war rants were before. They could have been just as bad as killing children. And after she shot Coin, he didn't make a move to help her, not even to help her die as they had agreed to do earlier. I kind of knew from the beginning that she wasn't going to end up with Gale. He sort of reminded me a bit too much of Archer from Kristin Cashore's Fire. Yeah, he loved her, but there was always something a little off about it.

As far as the other point in the triangle, Peeta is not a wimp. He lost a leg and he was tortured pretty harshly. He went through almost everything Katniss went through in both of the Games without the same training. The fact that he was able to do as much as he was as a baker makes him that much more awesome in my eyes. He may have seemed like a wimp because of his attitude, but his resolve to come out as much the same person as before makes him strong. He was different at the end of Mockingjay, but he didn't lose himself, if that makes any sense.

I don't think Katniss ended up with him out of some sense of pity or duty. I think she ended up with him because she loved him, and that happened long before Mockingjay.