mark monday's Reviews > Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
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's review
Mar 30, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: teenworld, after-the-fall


Chapter 1
A memorial of sorts. Some final books in trilogies spend time carefully recounting what happened in prior books. Some jump right into the action. Mockingjay has ash and despair and the end of a life our heroine once had. It does not feel like a stirring call to arms; it does not feel like a revolution is about to happen. It feels like the end of things, it feels like death. This is the beginning of the book.

Chapter 2
The brave rebels of District 13. A humorless communist state; a society dedicated to both subsistence living and to revolution. The feeling is gray. It is easy to admire these revolutionaries, but they are hard to love and impossible to trust. A televised appearance by Peeta: he is himself and he is not-himself. How will his story end? Brave Peeta! Poor Peeta.

Chapter 3
Katniss' list of demands. When she shouts them out: goose bumps.

Chapter 4
Katniss' make-up artists... tortured by District 13. An upsetting chapter, but I feel oddly proud of Collins for writing it. This novel is for young adults; young adults should understand the basic insanity of torture - they should despise it. Even more importantly, they should recognize that all sides have humans on them, that the world and its wars are seldom truly composed of cartoon heroes and villains. Thinking in terms of black and white rejects complexity, and in the end, it rejects the idea of being human. The world of the Hunger Games is made up in shades of gray.

Chapter 5
A mass-marketed Mockingjay; the media-packaging of a revolutionary. Collins' humor is dry and dark. I love the ease in which she extends her series' critique of reality tv and pre-packaged violence as entertainment into a deconstruction of how we create our heroes, how a person can be transformed into a symbol, how we can build and televise our revolutions. Every message is packed with potential meaning and so every message must count. Joan of Arc becomes an action figure, a toy for potential revolutionary children everywhere.

Chapter 6
"Frankly, our ancestors don't seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn't care about what would happen to the people who came after them."

Chapter 7
District 8 and the destruction of a hospital. I did not expect any punches to be pulled, so the horrifying slaughter did not pack a profound emotional punch for me. What I noticed most of all was Collins' writing style. It has received a good deal of critique for being choppy - all cut-off little sentences and thoughts... simple and unsophisticated. I think the style is well-suited for the narrator - a parallel to her own way of thinking, acting, reacting, strong hard thoughts like bullets and fast angry retreats and aggressive jumps into action. The style removes the possibility of pathos and bathos. At the end, Katniss gives a ringing speech full of passion and fury and courage, a spontaneous and angrily honest rallying cry that leaps out of her... and immediately afterwards, someone yells "Cut! That's a wrap". A perfect television moment. End of chapter.

Chapter 8
Back at District 13; the District 8 aftermath. If there is one thing about this series that i find annoying (besides Gale - although that is not 100%, the annoyance comes and goes), it is Katniss' perpetual cluelessness. I guess it is appropriate for the character, it fits her psychology... but sometimes it just feels a wee bit manipulative, a too-obvious way to enable reader unease. But is anyone really as uneasy - or as clueless - as Katniss can be? Of course her actions in District 8 would be seen as a triumph, especially as propaganda. Duh, Katniss, duh! I have to remind myself that she is essentially a character who is in an almost continual state of shock - which does go a long way in explaining her reactions.

Chapter 9
A return to District 12. A beautiful song: sad, eerie, haunting. And apparently written by Collins for the novel. Good job on that. A third televised appearance by Peeta, where he is clearly trying to communicate directly to District 13. A smash cut, literally. Still trying to process exactly what is happening here... I love that feeling.

Chapter 10
The bombing of District 13. The most striking thing in this chapter for me is the idea of Peeta as a kind of Damsel in Distress... and how that does not actually show him to be weak. It is a delicate juggling act, to be able to portray someone as a victim without diminishing their strength. Peeta is the very portrait of A Good Boy and yet there is nothing cloying about him to me. Of our four central protagonists, it is Haymitch and Saint Peeta who have the most shading and ambiguity in their characterizations.

Chapter 11
All About Buttercup. Ah, Buttercup. I love cats and am tempted to put in some goofy cat gif or lolcat right now - but don't worry, I'll resist that urge.

Chapter 12
Above ground in District 13 and more propaganda. The various startling revelations by Finnick startle everyone but Katniss and the reader. And again Collins enlarges her ideas around media manipulation and reality tv, this time to include the emotional tell-all, the public airing of dirty laundry... now used as a kind of weapon, a distraction from the truly important things that are happening (in this case, the rescue of prisoners). Media slaves and reality tv addicts are glued to the set while a hidden agenda successfully accomplishes its own goals. Smash cut.

Chapter 13
Mind Control & Peeta. The character Delly is such a soft, sweet, gentle contrast to Katniss. Hard to see how they come from the same place. Not sure if this is Collins' fault - and she's a charming character - but something just isn't working for me. Although the character is effectively deployed. Another hesitation on my part: the almost obsessively personalized nature of President Snow's attacks on Katniss (first the flower drop and now the Peeta package). I'm finding some resistance to buying this. Still: no real complaint.

Chapter 14
District 2. This chapter gave me some space to contemplate the series' love triangle - something I'm often loathe to do, since Gale can be rather cardboard. But the triangle does work for me, despite my basic disinterest in it. Collins is smart in keeping Peeta and Gale almost continuously separate, since in many ways they function as the light and dark spirits in her life, directions she could choose to go and moral compromises she can choose to make. I also appreciate this chapter because some real punch is added to Gale's characterization. It was previously shown that he has a ruthlessly brutal - even draconian - way of looking at how he can win this revolution... as if hatred of his oppressors has stripped him of some basic decency. Previously, these were hints; Chapter 14 makes it clear that this is his essence. He has suddenly become a lot more interesting.

Chapter 15
"It just goes around and around, and who wins? Not us."

Chapter 16
"I also think you're a little hard to swallow. With your tacky romantic drama and your defender-of-the-helpless act. Only it isn't an act, which makes you more unbearable."

Chapter 17
Training for Katniss and Johanna; an uncomfortable meal with our assembled cast. Peeta returns to the group, much transformed. This new Peeta is certainly not likable, but I like what I'm seeing in terms of characterization. Although his transformation is due to his torture and brainwashing, little that he says is actually untrue... his snarling commentary on his misuse by Katniss is based in truth, in a kind of unconscious recognition of how his love and altruism were manipulated, made use of when convenient or necessary. The changes wrought on Peeta - and his cynical recognition of his misuse - have made him a dynamic character. Particularly in comparison with the more static Gale and Katniss. Gale has had his inner self revealed, but this amounts to more of an increased awareness of what he is actually capable of doing to achieve his goals. Katniss has grown throughout the series, but has essentially remained the same tough, angry, embittered outsider from the very first pages of the first novel - she has grown but her outlook has not truly changed. As layers of ignorance have been peeled away, feelings have intensified - but there has been no transformation of persona. If anything, she has become more herself.

Chapter 18
To invade the Capitol... and so the battleground will be its own form of Hunger Game. This is a rather ingenious way to continue the series' bloody central spectacle. In their stark differences on physical, emotional, strategic, political, and character-based levels, the varying depictions of the Hunger Games are surprisingly dynamic. I appreciate the refusal to provide the same sorts of Battle Royale thrills to the reader. Each game is uglier than the last and each game widens the arena. Is the whole world a Hunger Game?

Chapter 19
Peeta joins the fray. Two things in particular stood out for me. First, the idea of war as a kind of massive media production - an idea that i first considered when watching Full Metal Jacket, but one that is the standard now for wars everywhere. Cressida & company are about as 'imbedded' as a journalist can be. The second: a game of Real and Not Real. That was so sad, so moving.

Chapter 20
Things move shitward and yet forward. I don't feel the pulse of excitement that I did in the prior Hunger Games; instead I have a sickeningly tense feeling of unease and dread.

Chapter 21
Holed up in a hole and then down into the sewers. What struck me the most was our terrible white-haired antagonist President Snow's broadcast image being suddenly replaced by our terrible white-haired revolutionary leader President Coin's image. Two sides of the same horrible coin? The urge to dominate and to keep control is pervasive in so many of our leaders.

Chapter 22
Out of the sewers and the death of Finnick. There are mixed reactions about Collins' use of a present-tense first-person narrator. I can think of no better chapter than this one to illustrate just how effective this style is in conveying a you-are-there-now feeling that makes the action in these novels feel truly tense and nerve-wracking and real. It is also a ruthlessly efficient way to show Katniss' (and maybe the reader's) inability to let things like the deaths of her comrades and her cold-blooded but probably necessary murder of an innocent bystander to truly sink in and affect her. To let them sink in - at this time and place - is to die.

WE INTERRUPT OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING TO ANNOUNCE: i just watched The Hunger Games! enjoyable and moving - a very good adaptation. you should go see it. now let me be as gay as possible and point out the times i teared up: the first, during the reaping with Katniss & Prim; the second, during Katniss' goodbyes to her family; the third, the death of Rue and a quickly squelched uprising. three instances of shivery fanboy type chills: Katniss & Peeta in flames during their ceremonial entrance; the first sight of the Hunger Game players on the field; Katniss deliberately turning to the cameras as she counts "Two" before (not) eating the berries. most striking sequence: the blurry, horrific, extremely upsetting and brilliantly directed scene when the players begin immediately attacking and slaughtering each other - that will stick with me. now i wonder how many days will pass until i see it again?

Chapter 24
Slaughter in the streets and the death of Prim. It is hard to express how devastating this chapter was to read. Earlier in the novel, I expected something along the lines of the attack on the hospital - it was necessary to the narrative. Later, Gale's vicious attack on the Nut took me aback, although I think I was focused more on what this meant about Gale's character rather than what Collins was actually trying to communicate to her readers. Well, this chapter makes her message very clear: blindly choose death as a path to freedom... and death will become your master. The terrifying confusion, the massacre of innocents, the rebels dealing out a justice that is as repugnant as anything from the Capitol... all perfectly accomplished. The worst that can happen, happens; it is as if Collins imagined what a wish-fulfillment version of her novel would look like and deliberately chose to do the exact opposite. I've seldom seldom read a sequence that so completely illustrates the berserk pointlessness and basic, mind-numbing evilness of war... and somehow this is contained within a young adult novel. Amazing.

Chapter 25
A conversation with President Snow. As expected, Coin is shown to be as savage and evil as Snow. Expediency can be an evil. Protecting the status quo can be an evil; if your goal is to create change and take down that status quo, no matter what the cost... that also can be an evil. Snow will die; Coin must die too. And yet it is hard to get excited about another death to come.

Chapter 26
A new Hunger Game is proposed. Collins succinctly illustrates that to ignore the past is to repeat it.

Chapter 27
"I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself. I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences. You can spin it anyway you like. Snow thought the Hunger Games were an efficient means of control. Coin thought the parachutes would expedite the war. But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen."

This series is many things, including a pointed critique of class inequity, the media, and popular engagement with barbarous games - as well as a thoughtfully rendered contemplation of the power of memory. But with Mockingjay, the series also joins the ranks of anti-war classics. Right now I'm just relieved that it ends on a positive note and not in despair, and that life is chosen. A small, sad, and very intimate bit of life - but life nonetheless.
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Reading Progress

02/27/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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Stephanie I know! I teared up in the same places. The movie was excellent.

message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Man I wish I could review books like some people ...

mark monday ha! well thank you Ian. but your review was quite excellent. i just reread it!

Lisa Vegan Oh, Mark, such a fabulous review. And thank you for reminding me in such detail about the book. I hope everyone reads your review, after they've read the book/the trilogy.

mark monday thank you very much Lisa! i just read yours and also enjoyed it.

it's strange, i'm not exactly sad that the series is over. i have a very satisfied feeling because it seems like Collins' really accomplished her goals. i haven't been as moved by a YA series since His Dark Materials.

Lisa Vegan Mark, Oh I loved His Dark Materials too.

And, I agree, Suzanne Collins did a masterful job with her story. the three books do feel complete.

And, I plan to see the movie within the week.

mark monday tell me your thoughts on it when you do!

Lisa Vegan mark wrote: "tell me your thoughts on it when you do!"

I will.

I have some major problems already. Cato is supposed to be huge and strong, like a football player. The actor who plays him has an average physique. I could go on. But it sounds as though, overall, a good job was done, and I'm too curious not to see it. At least they didn't make any of the actors lose weight so they'd look underfed. Some of them are too young for that.

message 9: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Excellent review Mark. I saw the movie over the weekend and I teared up at the same points as you did. As a rugged heterosexual male I know I'm not supposed to do that, but I'm getting more emotional as I get older. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful. I appreciate that they stayed true to the book.

message 10: by Tim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim Amazing review! You summed up my thoughts on the novel way better than I ever could. Re-read is on the cards.

message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday As a rugged heterosexual male I know I'm not supposed to do that, but I'm getting more emotional as I get older.

very good! i am also getting increasing weepy as i get older. and the same goes for my most rugged heterosexual friend. since having a kid a few years ago, he tears up when we talk about things like kids & marriage. and certain commercials! and this is a former football player and all around macho guy who owns his own construction company. so you are not alone in your hearfelt rugged heterosexuality - there are others out there like you!

I thought Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful.

me too. she is an unknown to me so i wasn't sure what to expect. she was perfect.

message 12: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Tim wrote: "Amazing review! You summed up my thoughts on the novel way better than I ever could. Re-read is on the cards."

thank you Tim!

message 13: by William1 (new)

William1 And I thought I was long winded! Do you write these in Starbucks?

message 14: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday ha! in the race to see who is more long-winded, you got nuthin on me, William. i leave you in the dust!

a coffeeshop - yeah, sometimes. or my back patio or backyard. or my living room. but never Starbucks. Starbucks coffee tastes like brown water to me and the whole Starbucks atmosphere just makes me prickly and anxious.

message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Mark, I saw The Hunger Games movie. I really liked it. But I have objections to some of what they left out. I think Madge and the mayor should have been left in, but if their characters had to go, I say my main problem was the meaning of the mockingjay was never addressed at all. There was a good opportunity when Rue taught Katniss about the mockingjay's mimicking of song/whistling. That was just silly. Most of the rest I think they did a good job.

message 16: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday good to hear Lisa!

i agree about Madge & the mockingjay. hadn't considered that, but now i feel the lack.

another thing that has recently occurred to me after reading an article on the topic... Collins clearly indicts the viewing audience (and by extension, the reader) in being part of a culture of violence - by forming an audience to the atrocities of the Hunger Games. similar to messages in films like Starship Troopers. that is a tough message, and the film doesn't include it. as the article mentions, in the book, everyone besides Katniss' specific allies & District 12 are her enemy... in the movie, President Snow appears to be the real enemy.

message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Spoiler for the 2nd book: (view spoiler)

I think in the movie Snow does come across as the main bad guy but I do think the capitol audience is definitely indicated to be horrible.

message 18: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday good point. now i am also remembering that amazing little part in book 2 (view spoiler)

message 19: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Yep.

And in this movie it would have been REALLY easy for district 11 to send the bread. I missed that too.

message 20: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark loved the review. Thanks

message 21: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Mark! and now i'm going to go read your review.

message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian I agree leaving out Madge and the mockingjay pin connection was a mistake. But I didn't get the sense from the movie that Snow was the only enemy. I thought it portrayed the audience, even Ceaser and the gamemakers, as enemies. But that could have been my bias from knowing the whole story already.

message 23: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday when i watch it for the third time, i plan on looking out for that! second viewing was not a diminished experience and, happily, i enjoyed it just as much.

Matthias Great train-ride through the Mockingjay-pages mark, I really like what you've done here! I see where you're coming from and understand why you wanted me to explain my admittedly different feelings on this book. It just goes to show there are no absolutes when it comes to reading, right? Even though I found your review captivating and convincing, I still remain where I stand. It boils down to the kind of readers we are: also not absolutes. It depends on when we read it, the circumstances in which we do, etc. I think you've done a very generous reading of this book and your interpretations, your engagement all have added something to it, as is evident from your entertaining review. My reading was far less generous and more skeptical, I added very little and when I did it was rarely something warm, but I don't really feel bad about it either. It is what it is and it can be enjoyable to be critical as well :-)

Sonia Almeida Dias Mark, you write the reviews I wish I could write. Thank you! :)

message 26: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday no, thank you for the very kind words! very nice to read in the morning.

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