Sparrow's Reviews > Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
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Aug 27, 10

bookshelves: young-adult, girls-rule, influenced-me, reviewed, classic-young-adult, chosen-girls, monsters, best-of-the-year
Read from August 24 to 25, 2010

I guess, sometimes our emotional bones need to be re-broken in order to set them right. Maybe this was a common experience for those who read this book, but a lot of its most emotional points were like reading a bizarre dream about the last few years of my own life. I’m not going to go into it because that would be, like, an unacceptable amount of over-share, even for me. That’s just to say that I have no ability to be objective about it. This story: real or not real?

I love Mockingjay like I love The Prophet and Catcher in the Rye, and of course anything by Willa Cather and Dostoevsky. They’re all books that have at one time or another spoken to me on such a personal and emotional level that they mean something more than writing or storytelling. That is only a personal reaction, not a recommendation. Actually, it makes me not want anyone else to read the book ever. I want to keep it as my own because I don’t want to hear a bunch of fools say they think the names are funny or something like that.

There are many threads of meaning and themes you could take from this story, but the one that strikes me as profound right now, a few days removed from my reading, is, why are we so goddamn powerless? Is it apathy or, maybe, discouragement? Are we powerless against other people or government systems, or are people and systems only symbols of our general powerlessness against the universe? Throughout this book, there is a steady rhythm of characters reminding Katniss of her power and describing her power to her.

I did some research recently about fundamental attribution error, and I've probably already told you about it, but I'm going to again. Basically, the theory of fundamental attribution error says that we think that we make our own life choices because we are tossed in the wind and the crazy, random happenstance of outside forces makes us who we are. But we think other people make the choices they do because of natural inclination. Like, someone who murders might think she did so because of an unplanned series of unfortunate events, but an observer thinks the killer did so because she is naturally a murderer. This story creates an interesting contrast between the way Katniss sees herself and the way others see her. She only sees the random events that lead her to become the symbol of rebellion against tyrrany. Others see her as the natural embodiment of the symbol. And I think this says a lot about all of us and the things we choose to do or to ignore. I think Collins would say we are powerless because we have abandoned our power, or perhaps because we don't remind each other that we have power.

There are some beautiful moments in other stories, like The House of Flying Daggers and Hamlet, where the tragedy of the conflict culminates in good friends battling each other. Nominally, they fight out of some shallow sense of vengeance, but ultimately I think it’s more the total injustice of loss that motivates them. I think they fight because if you can fight you are still alive, and sometimes that’s all that’s left. Maybe what Dylan Thomas meant when he said, "Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, rage against the dying of the light." There are a lot of moments in this book that make me think of that image of friends fighting each other, but really fighting something more abstract and unconquerable. We fight, maybe, as some kind of animal scream in the face of the cold universe. But, Collins also shows how we fight because of the warm arms and kind hearts of the people we love. We fight because we are wrong and evil and stupid and cunning and loving and compassionate and fierce. There’s no simple answer.

Reading the other books in this series, I identified on a personal level with the political and cultural commentary. The way Collins held up a mirror to my own apathy and opulence was a slap in the face. This book meant so much to me emotionally and personally that I hate to pretend that my reaction is political at all. This book, to me, was the story of what happens when suddenly the person you trusted the most in the world sees everything you do as evil. I don't think I've ever seen someone write about that, and I was totally unprepared for the experience of reading it. Do you become evil because you've lost that person? Does their definition of you become your own? Do you sacrifice everything to repair the relationship? If they don't know what's real, how do you? It was so beautiful and tragic to watch that in this book, and it resonated on such a personal level with me, that after reading it I had to rebuild a lot of how I see myself.

On the other hand, I feel like it is important to acknowledge the cultural/political side of this story, and that, while this series is stylized, it is not much of a step away from reality. It, like all of Collins’ writing that I have read so far, is about adults training children to kill children. And that’s what we do, right? In Africa, the Middle East, Russia, America, in uniform and out of uniform, we train children to kill children.

I’m sure you’ve all already seen the wikileak about the American soldiers shooting the Reuters photographers and later wounding children who were riding in the ambulance coming to help the photographers. If you haven’t seen it yet, the linked article also links to the video. One of the most disturbing things to me about that video is how the soldiers laugh. Real or not real? I couldn’t watch the whole thing. When people get in fights on the listserv at school, we call it a “flame war.” Do we call it that here on GR? Anyway, a student posted that video to the listserv last spring, asking, if that video is something that we now know about, how many other incidents like this have happened and not been released to the public? That post started an outrageous flame war on the listserv, in which a couple of the military guys threatened the poster. People who I generally respect and even look up to in some ways said things like, "This is your final warning!" and argued that it is unacceptable to question people in uniform because without their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have the freedom to question them. Even aside from the circular logic, that argument just makes me go ballistic. And I think that is exactly the labyrinth of war that Collins writes about.

Everything she did here is beautiful, even, at times, poetic. I love that she didn’t glorify the rebels, and I love the image of communism she gives as much as her version of capitalism. It makes sense that she published this story in three parts, but I think it could also be read as one whole. I love her characters and her thoughtful messages. I love the way her relationships fall apart and grow back together. I almost had to stop reading this book partway through because it was too painful. But I think it was a stern talking-to that I needed. This story real or not real? For me, real.
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Reading Progress

08/24/2010 page 8
2.0% "Okay, she already blew my mind. I'm such a Collins-sucker." 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 85) (85 new)


Eh?Eh! !!!

Speedreader.


Jenn "Awww Yeaaahhh" Can't wait to read your review!


Kelly Ditto!


Kelly Oh, as for theme, I think another one is how it's always the young people, and especially the poor young people, who are sacrificed in our wars.

There are about 898475938 different levels that you can look at the books, which I think is part of why they're so good.


Sparrow Yes. I think that's the general theme of all of her writing. Did you read the Gregor books? Those have that same theme, but to a younger audience. She is absolutely incredible at that.


Kelly I haven't yet, but I keep hearing they're good.


Sparrow I really love them. I think both series should be taught in schools. Even if kids wouldn't have an immediate reaction of how socially relevant they are, I think they're a great foundation for learning about politics and war.


Kelly I've actually been suspecting lately that the Hunger Games series, at least, will be taught in schools, and soon. Politics, war, propaganda... And then Gregor could raise some of the same questions at an earlier grade level.


Sparrow I hope so!


Bonnie I just finished the first book last night and loved it. I'm looking forward to reading the next two. Good to hear that I won't be disappointed.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm holding off reading your review because I'm afeared of spoilers. But I want in on the thread for when I finally do read, so here I am!


message 12: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin Okay, apparently I need to read this series because almost all the people on my "friends" list (which is pretty small) have read these and given them all 5 stars.


Sparrow Ceridwen wrote: "I'm holding off reading your review because I'm afeared of spoilers. But I want in on the thread for when I finally do read, so here I am!"

It's not a review. It's just a place holder saying I can't talk about it yet. But I might post one today. It seems weird to review it. I tried to talk only about things that would compliment the story, but it might still be better to avoid it for potential spoilers.


message 14: by Aerin (new)

Aerin This is a fantastic review. I need need need to read this series.


Sparrow Thanks, Aerin! My advice is to give yourself some recovery time after readings.


Jenn "Awww Yeaaahhh" Nicely said, Meredith. Days later and this book still hurts me...


Sparrow Thanks, Jenn. Same. I've been doing all of this reading about human trafficking for a project I want to do this year, and, sheesh, that combined with this book made for a pretty devastating week filled with powerlessness and exploitation. Come on, humans.


message 18: by Cari (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cari Foulk Beautiful commentary, Meredith...absolutely spot on. Thank you for sharing your personal connection to the book. I'm not a writer, I'm an agent that represents some wonderful writers and I've had the honor of editing some powerful books over the years. One might say I'm not easily impressed. (jaded! yells my senior agent)
Collins is a genius. This series will haunt me and, oddly, heal me...for years to come.


Sparrow Thanks, Cari. I'm glad you feel that way about Collins, too. I kind of want to punch her in the face for being so mean to me and then follow her around like a dog because I'm pretty sure she's more right about everything than anyone else in the world.

That's so interesting that you represent writers. That seems like kind of a dream job - to me at least. I could see how it would be easy to get jaded, though. Heck, I'm probably pretty jaded in my own way, and I'm not even getting paid to be.


message 20: by Cari (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cari Foulk You are most welcome.
I must add my disclaimer, writers are the reason I get to do what I do every day. I love writers. I am lucky to represent some fantastic writers, and
I do love my job.. ( just this past weekend, I was desperately trying to dispel some of the "scary agent" myths at a con Q&A! *ashamed* )

The jaded-ness is an unfortunate side effect of reading through 4200+ manuscripts in 2009 to launch this new branch of the agency. There are a lot of good books out there, but only a few of them are great.
One could liken it to having a filet mignon each day... Unless it stands out like a filet prepared at Ruth Chris, it...well...doesn't stand out.

Please excuse the clarification. (and the made up word: jaded-ness ;)
Best to you.


Sparrow You can clarify and make up words all you want, as far as I'm concerned. But Webster's online is giving you jadedness as a word, so I think you're even good there! But I do love a good made-up word. ;)

That's definitely how I would see it, too. Plus, if you're looking for the problems, I'd think they would they stand out more and be more memorable. Writers are great, though. I agree.


message 22: by AH (new) - rated it 5 stars

AH What an awesome review, Meredith!


Sparrow Thanks, AH! It's almost a week later, and I still feel like I'm recovering from it. Collins really knows how to give a good kick to the gut.


message 24: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal arguing that it is unacceptable to question people in uniform because without their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have the freedom to question them.

This "reasoning" drives me to distraction. I grew-up with a lot of guys who went on to join the military (out of poverty, BTW, so they're nothing short of mercenaries IMHO (don't you love internetese acronyms?)) and lost friendships over arguing about it. It's shorthand (of the non-internetese variety) for fascism.

I've been saying and writing "fascism" a lot lately. I'm getting tired of it. Maybe I should use "cultural mange" instead.


Sparrow One of the unfortunate things about that situation is that the guy who was the most threatening is one of my favorite people in the school. He's a really sweet, smart guy. I think it partly goes to show how intense the rhetoric is.

And, yes, I do love the webspeak. We're so young and hip and nerdy.


Annabel Grinbergs Meredith, I simply adored ur review! I think u put ( in a far more eloquent way) exactly how I felt about this book, this trilogy. I personally feel that Collins has produced a modern day 1984 and has illustrated perfectly the reflections of Capitol gain and dissection.

Many people seem to be slating katniss for losing her vivaciousness and tenacity...but I think that's the point, that she was powerless, used as a pawn no matter which side she fought for, in the end the only side she could be on was her own, and peeta's. I, like u, missed his presence terribly in the book it made me question my own life and think about the people I take for granted. This book is appealing on so many levels, I think that ur on my wave length and I avidly look forward to reading more of your book reviews!!!! Annabel


Sparrow Thanks, Annabel! I found Katniss so inspiring in the other books, but I didn't identify with her at all. In this one, I pretty much identified with everyone. I thought it made a lot of sense how her character developed through the series. Who she was in the end made it make more sense to me how the beginning was written. I'm not sure if I'm being clear. I just love it.


Sparrow Umm. I keep updating this. You don't have to read it again, but as Adam Sandler once said, "It's a work in progress. It may never be finished."


Rinoa Heartilly Beautiful review, very thoughtful.


Karena Very thoughtful review.


Sparrow Thanks!


Cookiesue9x I am reading them all as one, one right after the other.
Your review was fantastic!


Sparrow Yeah, they are one whole now to me. I like them best that way.

Thank you!


Fannie I just finish to read the series... One after other. Wonderful review!


Sparrow Thank you!


message 36: by Kaitlin (new)

Kaitlin Holy crap just go write a thesis on this for goodness sake.


Sparrow Um, I think the tone in that comment is lost on me, so I'm not sure what the appropriate response is.


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

The appropriate response is awwww yeeeaaahhh!


Sparrow hahaha, okay. I hope somebody pays me to do a thesis on Suzanne Collins. Dream job!


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

I would pay you, but I can't . Plus, I'm a little loaded. Awww yeeeaaahhh!


Sparrow Sweet! I just sobered up. It was the Snooki book. It's enough to kill a buzz within a chapter. Because whaaaaa?


message 42: by Sparrow (last edited Dec 25, 2011 11:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sparrow Suzanne Collins thesis and being loaded really are part of the awww yeeeah lifestyle.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

I just watched the Oscar Wilde/Jersey Shore videos again. And drunk history. While drunk!

Holy cow do I need to go to bed. Awww yeeeaahhh!


Sparrow hahahah! good choice! see you in the morning!


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Aww, I just noticed your spam from katiesvidlog or whatever. The memories! So wonderful! And to all a good night!


Sparrow Aww! I forgot about katiesvidlog!


Mariah this is the most irritating review ever.


Eh?Eh! Wow. That was uncalled for. Care to explain why this irritates you so much? Maybe you can write a review of your own?


Mariah oh, damn, sorry about that! that comment is not for this review!

i guess i should say some nice things to make up for that:
i REALLY ENJOY this review and i don't know how that comment ended up here! it added some new insight into the story that i hadn't thought of before and i appreciate that.

sorry again about that last comment! it's not for this particular review. and thank you, Eh?Eh!, for pointing that out, i did NOT intend for that comment to be posted here.


Eh?Eh! Hah! Too many open windows at once? I was just surprised because Sparrow launched it out of the park by any standard. But glad it was a too-fast-typing thing!


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