Books I Read: Mockingjay

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: 2010
Content Rating: R for violence

Thanks to Susan Kaye Quinn, I got to read this book in the same year it was published -- the same month, even, which never happens. (Even better, I got to read it with my wife, who got hooked and caught up in less than a week).

I figure it's kinda pointless to tell you what this book is about, yes? Either you've read the first two, and you know. Or you haven't, and the last thing you want is a summary that could potentially spoil the earlier novels. I also don't want to spoil it, so I'll just tell you how I felt.

Overall, I liked it as much as I did Catching Fire. Everything fit, and there was plenty of tension to go around (especially towards the end). There were only a few times where I could see the author's hand nudging the plot in a specific direction. In the end, there were things I wished had happened, but it felt right.

I'll talk more in the comments, but with spoilers. So don't go there if that's not what you want.

14 comments:

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

What's your opinion on the violence level, given that it's targeted to teens? I know there's been a bit of kerfluffle about it.

aspiring_x said...

i really enjoyed mockingjay, but i've been encountering a lot of people who feel betrayed by the book. they think that katniss's character wasn't true to herself ( i disagree with that) and they think that there should have been big sweeping romantic scenes near the end (which i disagree about too). most the mockingjay reviews and commenters i've read are really really angry. the only thing that bugged me was the end in the city with the pods... i guess i just didn't think the capitol would destroy itself like that... and i sort of wondered if she was pressured to write more bangs and booms now that HG is being made into a movie? so, were you angry at the end. i was ultimately impressed by it.

fairyhedgehog said...

SPOILERS

I was disappointed at the end. I wanted Katniss to triumph by her own abilities, not to get taken out of the running for a while.

VERY BAD SPOILER

I really hated that her sister got killed - that felt truly gratuitous to me. It not only destroyed Kat's only reason for doing anything, but it seemed so silly to send a kid into a war zone. (Yes, I know it was explained away.)

Also, I got bored with all the explosions and found myself skimming. Unlike in the earlier books, it wasn't a case of "one of us must die" - there was the option of escape instead. And I don't enjoy the violence for its own sake.

I read to the end but I was left feeling dissatisfied. (Mind you, if I could write a book like that I'd be ecstatic!)

Adam Heine said...

@Susan: Of the Three Rating Evils (language, sex, violence), violence is pretty low in my personal concerns for teenagers. Still, I think Collins could've "hidden" a few things, the way she did with Prim at the end.

Oh my gosh, I feel so dirty for saying even that. I'm such a spoiler Nazi!

Adam Heine said...

@aspiring: I didn't feel betrayed in the ways you mentioned. Katniss seemed to me completely in character, which is to say she was stubborn, reckless, and slightly naive (attributes of hers I've never liked) but also kind and noble and willing to stick her neck out for those she cares about.

As for the romance, I definitely didn't need big sweeping anything at the end. With so many dead, it would've been totally out of place. In fact, I was half-expecting either Katniss to die, or both boys to die, or otherwise Katniss to choose nobody. I would've been perfectly okay with that (though I suspect the target audience would've made a bigger stink if their Team hadn't won).

That said, I was upset that Gale was brushed aside so casually. He just disappeared (and even his "fancy job" was never explained) and her emotions with him never dealt with. I thought that was unfair to Gale.

But I wasn't upset, no. Mostly I felt the ending fit, like I said.

Adam Heine said...

@fairy: What bothered me about the part you mention is that it felt so strongly like the author's hand, forcing the first person narrator to where all the Important Things were happening. Ultimately, Katniss' "mission" to kill Snow, and her resulting separation from the rest of the rebels, had no effect on the plot at all.

Although it probably would've bothered me just as much if she had succeeded in killing Snow, because (as the book pointed out) it's not like the whole society revolved around a single villain. It was a society.

Adam Heine said...

Also, I was sometimes bothered by the obvious misdirection. Like after Katniss' moving speech in District 8, she was all worried that it would be terrible like before, which just made it more obvious it would work. Or when she went to the hospital to see Peeta, imagining his arms around her and being happy again and... well, let's just say I saw it coming.

HOWEVER, I'm mostly being picky. I wouldn't be so thorough on what I didn't like if (a) I didn't like the trilogy so much and (b) it wasn't so hugely popular. I mean, once you get to a certain popularity, there's really nothing you can do to make everybody happy with the ending.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

SPOILER ALERT

@Adam Of the three evils, language is probably my lowest, but I actually think Collins handled the violence extremely well. It was very violent, disturbing even (esp. in Mockinjay), but it wasn't gratuitous, and there was a message and consequences. All redeeming, mitigating factors for me. Still it bothers me to think of 9-10 year olds reading it (which will happen with any teen book, there's not much you can do).

As for the story itself, including the ending, I thought it was masterful. Yes, I could pick some nits, but only because the story took over my brain and had me thinking rather endlessly about it. I thought Katniss was completely in character, and thought her most true statement in the whole trilogy had to do with not "needing" either Peeta or Gale. That said, and although I was Team Peeta all the way, I did feel like there wasn't enough closure with Gale.

Also: Katniss' emotional distance with her children at the end just about killed me.

Bane of Anubis said...

I haven't finished it yet (reading w/ the wife... i.e., she's reading it to me), but I've found the pacing slower than the previous two and my interest level reflects....

I've also found some of the plot points so far (about 2/3 through) sloppy (e.g., in the beginning, SC brings up Katniss's side fx to medicine, but those are never shown in any substantial way, taking down a freakin airplane w/ a bow and arrow, no matter how explosive, ain't happenin', avalanching the people in the nut is like strategy/tactic idea #1 and would have been employed early on)...

My wife's found K's character a bit more childish than previous books. She's always been somewhat selfish, but given her caretaker role in the first couple of books and everything's she's been through, I think her maturity level should have been higher.

I'd give it between 2 & 3 stars so far (on the Amazon 5 star scale), mostly for pacing and plot issues and a couple of character flaws.

Lyla said...

Re: "hiding" the violence with Prim (and other topics, SPOILERS, SERIOUSLY):

I dunno, the line several pages later about "watching my sister become a human torch" has been ringing in my head ever since I put the book down. Then again, that's straight out of my nightmares. But it's one line I kind of wish she'd skipped. Mockingjay had enough violence already. (But I'm with you, it's still my lowest concern out of the three evils. Which is a whole 'nother topic...)

I was a little annoyed about her waking up in the hospital, like, six times as a plot shift. But I don't know if I would have noticed if I hadn't stumbled across some spoilers complaining about that before I read it.

I have a question: What about Katniss voting for the Capitol Hunger Games? I've had it explained to me since, but at first I was sooo ticked off because it made no sense... did anyone figure out what was going on the first time through?

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Here's an interesting Mockingjay survey.

I actually did see the assassination of the prez coming (shocking, since most of the plot was not predictable in any way) - but once Katniss agreed to the Games, I knew something had to be up. But the way Collins wrote that part, I'm not sure that Katniss knew what she was intending, which makes it less believable.

Adam Heine said...

@Bane: My wife and I noticed the pacing difference too (also in Catching Fire), but I think a lot of that is that the first book was the freaking Hunger Games, which is among the most tense situations I've ever read in a book.

My wife was bothered by some of the false cliffhangers. Like when Coin decreed the immunity Katniss asked for would be invalid if she stopped helping them but it didn't come back as a tension (not really).


@Lyla: I didn't mind Katniss' vote so much (I can see her wanting revenge). What bothered me hugely was that the Capitol Hunger Games were an option at all. It made me angry, actually, since that was one of the main things they were fighting to stop. (Also it seemed like the choice was between killing everyone, or just killing their children -- where's the choice to, I dunno, NOT kill them?).

Adam Heine said...

@Susan: Thanks for the survey link! That was really interesting. I think I'm in the majority on most of those questions too.

The most interesting to me was #9: "Does a series' broad commercial success change the writer's responsibility to meet reader's expectations?" I'm glad most people said no, and I heartily agree. Suzanne needed to write the ending that she thought was best, and for the most part I think she did a good job.

For the most part.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I hope someday to fail as much as Suzanne Collins.