Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Take Tuesday: Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publication Date: 8/24/10
Pages: 400
Previous Readings: 2010 / 3/29/12
Date Completed This Time: 3/11/15

Summary: After being rescued from the collapsing arena during her second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the mysterious District 13. Despite suffering from some serious PTSD, Katniss is expected to serve as the face of the revolution against the Capitol.

What I Thought Before: I first reviewed this book for the blog back in 2012, then I gave some revised thoughts in 2014 when I reviewed the film adaptation. First time around, I complained the book was hurried and left important action unexplained. I called it "a rocky conclusion" to the series. Two years later, I was singing a slightly different tune - one I continue to stand by.

What I Think Now: I think I explained my stance pretty well in that 2014 post, so I'll let it speak for itself and then add some additional comments:

I still feel the book is hurried and that Collins skims over details. Peeta's transformation still tears me apart. But, I no longer think it's a rocky conclusion to the story of Panem and Katniss Everdeen. I think it's the appropriate ending, one for which Collins is not given enough credit. 
To me, the final book takes us deeper into the psyche of Katniss than we have ever been. In the previous books, we have loved her because she is surrounded by those who love her so unconditionally: Peeta, Prim, Gale, her mother. We love her because they do. Yet, in Mockingjay, those people are stripped from her. Peeta becomes, well, crazy. Prim and her mother are caught up in their medical training (this is seen more in the book than it was in this Part 1 movie). Gale becomes consumed with being a soldier and fighting in the rebellion; his focus has shifted.

So, here we find Katniss, alone and confused in her PTSD. She is broken in every way. She is continually being pushed and prodded to be someone she really is not. The book shows so much of her emotional turmoil and inner battle. I think that's what makes it hard to connect for many readers.
As I mentioned back when I reviewed the film, Jennifer Lawrence does a great job connecting the audience to Katniss even in the midst of her severe emotional trauma. Reading the books through and watching the movies again this spring for my thesis only solidified my thoughts on this final chapter of the trilogy.

Interestingly, as I went through the book again, I realized the parts most hurried and lacking the most explanation of action all pretty much occur in the second half of the book. The whole seige of the Capitol is still really confusing at moments, even though I've read the series many times now. Who else forgot there were weird lizard mutts that chase the rebel team through the sewers? *raises hand* This girl. As I read that whole second half, I couldn't help but wonder how they will do the movie. It just has such a different feel than the rest of the series and I worry about how it will work on screen.

In my thesis research, I read a lot of other people's thoughts on the series as well. One comment I appreciated immensely came from Tom Henthorne's book on the books (yeah, I know this is a fairly meta world of literature I've climbed into). He pointed out that the books become increasingly less linear as Katniss's emotional state deteriorates and she has an increasingly more difficult time processing events around her. Whether or not Collins intended it to be that way, it's a great argument for the struggle the end of Mockingjay can be at times.

In the end, I love the end. I love broken Katniss and Peeta slowly learning to make their life together. I love Katniss away from the action and trying to rebuild in the place that once was her home. I love the idea of Everdeen-Mellark children dancing in the meadow of District 12 and Katniss's image of them dancing on a graveyard. I love the pain; I love the hope. It feels real to me. No happy ending. Just coping, trying to rebuild and move forward. Absolutely beautiful.

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Of course.
If You Liked This Try: Station Eleven / Wool / The Girl Who Was on Fire
Other Books By Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games / Catching Fire

A Reduced Review: Though the conclusion to this popular series has some moments of struggle, I am happy to defend and justify Collins's ending.