Friday, August 27, 2010


Disclaimer: I am a reader, not a writer. I'm not an accomplished reviewer. Just a lover of books. ** SPOILER ALERT **Don't read unless you've read the book.
Well, one of my most anticipated books arrived this week and though I attempted a "snacking" approach, I finally gave in and gobbled. That was yesterday and the book is still calling to me to come and revisit certain parts. But that starts a crying jag so I've had to stop.
On both GoodReads and Amazon, this book is getting some negative reviews. I imagine Collins knew that would be the case as does any author who risks going against the trends. It would have been better according to many if she had made it more of a romance. I agree that Ms. Collins took Mockingjay in a direction I didn't see coming. But I love a book that is unpredictable. This story was never about the typical YA love triangle that has become so popular these days and so trite. This story is about the realities of war, the costs, the soldiers used up and discarded and left to recover from the ravages and damages of their wounds and choices. This was about the gray area of the agendas of power hungry leaders and who they are willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals.

This book wasn't about Katniss, the superhero either. She's ultimately broken as anyone would be after living through her hellish young life. I came to love some of the other minor characters...but unfortunately most don't live to see the destruction of the Capitol. We finally get to know Prim who Katniss has fought so hard to protect, only to lose her in the end by "unfriendly" fire. We don't even get a chance to grief or mourn their sacrifices. I feel cheated but then I imagine most of our memorials to the fallen are an attempt to say thank say you are appreciated, you are missed and to say goodbye when those privileges were denied in the heat of battle.

I do have one minor complaint: I missed the old Peeta and I most definitely wanted more of him as he recovers. I want to know what happened to the pearl Katniss carefully carries with her and where Peeta was during the siege that resulted in his horrible burns. Although Collins was much too stingy with her words in the end, they were well-chosen and ultimately satisfying. I am so grateful for the Epilogue.

At the end of "Lord of the Rings", after the destruction of the Ring and restoration of the Shire, Frodo still suffers from the pains inflicted during his quest. At one point Frodo tells Sam, "I am wounded, wounded; it will never really heal". I thought alot about Frodo and Sam as well as Ender Wiggin while reading MJ. Neither Ender nor Frodo were ever able to return to a normal life. Katniss, though a victor, is still a casualty, but one who finds healing, love, and hope with another of the Games's victims.

Years ago, an older man, a transient, wandered into our neighborhood lost and disoriented. My daughter ran in from playing to tell me of her concern for him and I went out to investigate. He was hanging on the stop sign, his clothes ragged and dirty. His face had that permanent ruddy complexion of an alcoholic. Two of my neighbors came out and said not to bother...they would call the police. I ignored them and asked the man if he needed help. With slurred speech he explained he had taken the bus to our town to visit his sister and got off at the wrong stop. If he could just get back to the bus stop, he knew he could find her. I offered my arm and together we ambled back in the direction of the bus bench. I asked him where he was from and he started telling me about the war he fought in. His eyes teared up. I listened while he told me of his service and the buddies he lost. We almost made it to the bus stop when he simply collapsed. I couldn't lift him and about this time, the police pulled up and I told them what I knew and returned home to my concerned kids.

I followed up on him and what he told me was true. He did have a sister in town. I also realized something else. When I asked where he was from, he had also told me the truth. He was from the War. He had never left it. He tried to escape with alcohol but the battle always pulled him back to the frontlines. I wondered what he was like before the war entombed him.

After reading Mockingjay I've thought alot about this man, who's not unlike Haymitch. I know it's just a book but the story was more "real" than "not real".
And sad. Terribly sad.
It will linger with me for along time.


Kermit~the~Frog said...

I have given this book a less-than-favorable review on Goodreads, though it's not because I wanted more romance; I wanted less. I wanted Katniss to take her hunting gear and live in the woods, alone, for at least a decade after it was over, if not forever. I was disappointed in the shabby treatment EVERY character got. I didn't feel like I understood any of them better, or their motivations, by the end of the book. Maybe Collins meant to do that, but I can't see why. Prim's character was "too little, too late" for me. I would have been more satisfied if Kat had been allowed to make the sacrifice for her sister that she intended from Book 1: dying for someone she loves, who also has hope for the future.

I had a manager at a bookstore I temped in during my college summers who was a soldier in Vietnam. He was not a complete servant to drink and functioned as a normal human, but if the war was brought up, he'd have some of the bourbon from his desk and his mood would turn shaky and dark. The war broke the person he hoped to be when he was young, and he became a survivor, but did not thrive. He could not speak of what he did or saw. I think Kat's the same way.

The richest characters, by the end of Catching Fire, were Finnick and Haymitch, who were both tossed away in Mockingjay. Every chapter after the climax was stumbling, abrupt, and dissatisfying.

I am glad it's popular because I would like YA to think about war, politics, humanity a little more than they think about "Peeta! ***swoon***" I can hope.

I appreciate your review.

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Thank you for your comments, Kermit. I understand your comments about short-changing the characters and the tendency to knee-jerk the final chapters. I had to keep telling myself that this was first person narrative so we were getting our insights from Katniss. Do you think this story would have benefited from a fourth book? One to slow the pace down and answer many of the questions her readership has? Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

Crystal Cook said...

Very well thought out review Kim. I loved this book. It was heartbreaking, and the descriptions were at times so difficult to read, but I loved it. I am so glad that it didn't turn into a huge love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. I think that would have devalued its power so much. To me that's never what it's been about, and I would see and hear people talk about what 'team' they were on and kind of shake my head. It just seemed to make a mockery of the real depth of such an amazing series. Did this book have faults? Of course, every book does, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a book that engages readers (particularly young readers) as much as this one did, while at the same time showing the real effects of war on an individual as well as a society.

So, while I sobbed (literally) at Prim's death, and even more so at the scene when Buttercup finds Katniss and she finally lets herself weep, I was glad that it happened. Because without that loss, the loss of everything Katniss had been trying so hard to protect, the person who meant more to her than anyone else, we would not have been able to understand just how deep the effects of war reach, and what the cost is.

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of what the world was like in the end, and how the other characters were handling it.

But overall, I can't give it anything but 5/5. It kind of breaks my heart to see the harsh reviews it's getting. I think Suzanne Collins deserves more than that.

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Thank you Crystal. I agree about the wanting to know about the structure of the world, both leading up to the Hunger Games and after. Some readers scoff at the extremes presented in the books, both in the tyrannical control of the Districts by the Capitol and the plausibility of it's citizens actually allowing the Hunger Games in the first place. Back in HG Ms. Collins expressed her opinion and concerns about a world that is so numb to the realities it views on TV. How easy it is for me to emotionally detach with the click of the remote when viewing tragedy and the hardships of others in my world on the screen. Out of sight, out of mind. As Kermit expressed in her comments, it's preferable to see a YA book address these issues over some of the current popular titles.
BTW, my Tear Fest occurred at the Buttercup scene and the "Hangman's Tree" song. I was genuinely relieved that song didn't foreshadow Peeta and Katniss' deaths.
Thanks again, Crystal.