Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mockingjay Review

First of all, please be aware ...

****************HEREIN BE SPOILERS*********************

I finished Mockingjay in two sittings. I would normally have read the novel in one prolonged sitting, but Collins' writing was so emotionally charged that it made for painful reading. To be absolutely honest, I needed a break before tackling the second half.

Let me say at the outset, I would not let a child under sixteen read this novel without adult supervision. And, if that pre-sixteen child had a loved one stationed in the Middle East right now, I don't think I'd allow him/her to read the book at all.

My preferences in reading tend to put me way over on the dark and violent end of the continuum; so much so that I was startled to have a friend tell me the violence in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was difficult for her to read. I actually asked, "What violence?" and was a bit embarrassed when she reminded me of Lisbeth's rapes.

I draw a distinction between what I call "comic book violence" and real-life violence. I can read fictional violence all day long and not flinch. But you'd have to drag my unwilling body toward a non-fictional book or movie containing violence because then both my empathy and imagination are triggered, and I am devastated by what those real people experienced. To this day, I have never seen Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan.

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were both sci-fi adventure novels. The werewolf muttations and the tracker jackers bordered on fantasy. They had a high squick factor, but fell into the comic book violence category for me. Not so Mockingjay.

Let's call it what it is: Mockingjay is a powerful and frightening polemic against war. The violence feels very real and bloody. The street fighting and house-to-house searches bring inevitable comparisons to Iraq and Afghanistan. What our soldiers call IEDs (improvised explosive devices), Mockingjay calls pods.

I was lulled by the symbolism of these three book covers into expecting an exhilarating YA adventure. Just look at the progresson of the mockingjay ... from an almost cowering creature confined by the gold ring to a floundering bird captured in the center of a gunsight to a soaring bird, breaking free of all restraints.

I made the assumption that either Peeta or Gale would sacrifice his life so that Katniss could survive to marry his rival and live HEA (happily ever after). Always the romantic, I wanted underdog Peeta to be the suitor who lived.

Mockingjay sucker-punched me. I didn't see the ending coming at all. All three survive, and Katniss ends up with Peeta, but the couple are terribly scarred physically and emotionally.

Collins is a superb writer who excels at "show, don't tell." Therefore, I was very disappointed in her "tell, don't show" ending. I also thought the epilogue was a bit of a cheat and wondered if her editor had asked her to add it after the fact. It had a bitter tone that left a sour taste in my mouth.

Again after-the-fact, I was surprised to realize that not once in the entire trilogy could I recall a mention of God, religion or any faith. Not one time. So obvious an omission had to be deliberate. If I could ask Suzanne Collins one question it would be "Why?"

Having said all this, Mockingjay is a suspenseful, nonstop roller coaster of a ride. The first person point-of-view makes reading it both intimate and painful. I am glad I read it.


Kaz Augustin said...

I haven't read the series. Maybe I will, I don't know. I have a teetering pile of TBRs as it is. However, Maya:

Again after-the-fact, I was surprised to realize that not once in the entire trilogy do I recall a mention of God, religion or any faith. Not one time. So obvious an omission had to be deliberate. If I could ask Suzanne Collins one question it would be "Why?"

And my riposte, as an atheist, would be, "Why not?". I think the religious perspective has been taken as a default for far too long, and if Collins IS an atheist, props to her, especially if the novel is set in North America. I get so tired of the common pleas, calls and entreaties to (a) god in American fiction that it would be refreshing to read something that doesn't contain any.

Maya Reynolds said...

Kaz: As always, thanks for your comment.

I wasn't expressing a complaint. I was interested in how Collins' addressed the world-building questions about the nature of the universe and her characters' place in it. As I said, the complete absence of any cosmological references (even astrology or shamanism) struck me by their total absence.

Kayanna Kirby said...

I agree with your review. I feel like it's a little bit of a bait and switch judging by the covers. I agree with not letting a child under 16 read the book, it's very disturbing. My problem is, it felt so real and we have enough disturbing things in real life. Even though the war was over and overall things are good, it was depressing.

Maya Reynolds said...

Kayanna: I know exactly where you're coming from; I was there with you.

The saving grace for me was the superb writing. It takes a great writer to influence readers so powerfully.

Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I enjoyed your review, and the book. However, I had a reaction that I haven't seen anyone else comment on.

I found the "climax" to be something of a "deus ex machina" (so much for no gods!) Katniss, who throughout the first two books and most of Mockingjay, is reduced to an impotent bystander while everyone else takes care of mopping up the Capitol, and Snow.

True, whe does regain the initiative by killing Coin, which someone had to do, but I found everything from the moment of Prim's death to the moment when Katniss turns the arrow on Coin, as a "cop-out" on the author's part.

Any thoughts on this?