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Defending Mockingjay (slight spoilers)

You may have heard of a tiny, independently produced novel by Suzanne Collins titled Mockingjay, the third book of The Hunger Games trilogy. It debuted on Tuesday to overwhelmingly positive praise. However, as stated in my last post, no matter the book, and no matter the level of praise, someone’s always going to trash it.

Here’s the thing…they’re entitled to. No one’s opinion is invalid.

Still, opinions can be the springboard for lively (and civil) debate. I wanted to take the time to address some of the grumblings I’ve heard in regard to this (IMO) incredible close to The Hunger Games. Slight spoilers lie ahead, so if you haven’t read Mockingjay and wish to remain pure, please stop now and come back later. Spoilers in …




Complaint #1: Katniss is out of character

I’ve seen more than a few comments about how much the character runs away in this book (in to closets and various other hiding places). I can’t help but wonder if people who make this complaint realize that Collins has done an incredible job of creating a fully fleshed out character, not an Amazonian combat machine.

She’s 17. She’s spent a little over a year in situations where she should’ve died. A bunch of times. In front of a camera, no less.

She had opportunities to run but did not take them to preserve the safety of her family. Multiple lives depended on her giving up her own. When Book 3 opens, just about all of her worst fears (District 12 destroyed, Peeta captured) and greatest wishes (Gale, Prim, and her mother safe in District 13) have come true. There’s no longer a camera hovering over her. She can do what she wanted to do all along, to an extent. She runs and hides in the moments where her absence won’t cost someone else their life.

Notice how she always comes back when she’s needed, though. I’d say she’s very much in character.

Complaint #2: Mockingjay is too different from the previous books

The claim that it differs so greatly from the other books is lost on me. Perhaps my writing background makes me look at it from a different angle, but I think what Collins has done to get through this series is genius.

A similar structure has existed throughout the books. Katniss is meant to be a pawn and submit to her role as television star and sacrificial lamb, but turns the tables on her oppressors. Taken at that level, Mockingjay is exactly like the other books. Those who are complaining in this manner, aren’t looking at it that way. Frankly, I don’t know what they’re looking at.

Their are a small group Readers/Television Viewers/Movie Goers/ Music Lovers who all have something in common when it comes to their favorite series or artists. They want same-different in equal measure. In other words, they want the impossible. If it’s too much of the same, it’s a redundant fail. If it’s too different, it’s a radical fail.

I hate to say it this way, but these are the people who don’t like sunshine, but hate clouds. Moving on.

Complaint #3: Team Peeta vs. Team Gale

My friend and fellow writer Dia Reeves made a statement last week that struck me funny, “I don’t understand how there can even be a TEAM GALE. He’s not even in the book for crying out loud. Not enough to matter.”

Well, all that changed in Mockingjay. Gale got much more limelight, and I must admit, he’s pretty badass. It doesn’t take long for him to establish himself as a solid contender for Katniss’ affection. I won’t say who she ends up picking, ultimately, but I will say this…one team (possibly both) were destined to lose this one. People who judge the merit of the book on who got the girl at the end seem to miss the point…it HAD to be resolved one way or another. If you’re sore about it, and are ready to decry Mockingjay literary tripe, just hold off a bit. Snuggle up with your homemade Team Gale/Peeta pillow for a couple of days, then re-evaluate.

Collins did what she had to do here.

Complaint #4: The deaths (too many, too anonymous)

Folks…Its. A. War.

The book opens at the gravesite of 7,000 people. We already know it’s going to be bloody. And, in AT LEAST one death, utterly heartwrenching.

The complaint that we don’t get to know many of the characters who do meet their end is indicative of war. We don’t know every casualty…but someone does. And the ones we do know–the pain we feel at their loss–should form some sort of sympathetic bridge between us and the soldiers/bystanders we don’t know by name.

Also, a technical note, the story has been a 1st person narrative from the beginning, we can only know what Katniss knows. If she spent too much time getting to know new characters, there’d be complaints about our favorites being neglected.

Bottomline: Collins painted an accurate picture here. In war, sadly, we tend to know very little about the heroes who make the ultimate sacrifice.

Complaint #5: The book is terrible, a disappointment, a waste of time

I’ve seen a lot of reviews that say this and nothing more. In my mind, these declarations say more than the wordy reviews.

These readers are upset. For various reasons, I’m sure. But, can I posit this: maybe they’re upset because that’s what this book was meant to do. It’s upsetting.

All I can say to those who had this immediate reaction is wait. The book came out Tuesday, a mere two days ago, and some of these bad reviews went up within 24 hours of its release.

My point: terrible/disappointing/wasteful books don’t get read cover to cover in a day.

Terrible books don’t get you past the first 5 pages (sometimes the first page).For whatever reasons, you may not have liked the outcome, but something pushed you through Mockingjay (and the series as a whole). Take some time to think about it. I don’t know if your opinion will change, but I think you’ll see that Collins did her job. She got a reaction out of you.

Hurry up and finish…

That’s all I have for now. I look forward to the coming week as more and more of you finish Mockingjay. Should be some lively discussions. In the meantime, what do you think the next big series will be? There’s definitely a void to fill, and I’m open to suggestions. Give me some recs in the comments.


5 Responses to “Defending Mockingjay (slight spoilers)”

  1. EJ says:

    I guess something that really bothered me was about the missing closure between katniss and… Certain people. I frankly dislike the ending. It’s just I have to ask, what did you see in this book?

  2. L. R. Giles says:

    EJ, thanks for checking out the blog. I agree with the lack of closure in regard to some characters at the end of the book, particularly Gale. I joke about it a bit in the post following the one you read, but in all seriousness, that’s one facet of the book that didn’t sit well with me. In regard to what I DID like, there were a number of things really, but I admired how the violence was often sudden and unrelenting, since we’re essentially reading about a war without rules of engagement. Civilians are just as likely to be shot/killed/bombed/maimed as a soldier. It’s senseless, and I think it’s good to examine such things in fiction, and let readers draw their own conclusions. I have my thoughts about it, and not because I love violence. I think there’s something there that everyone can learn from. And, on a more technical note, I admire any writer who can close out a series. It such an incredible feat when you think about the creative process.

  3. Danielle says:

    I just finished to book today, and I agree that there was I lot of lose ends, but I was with the book up in till the end. I just didn’t believe that Katniss stayed at home and picked a guy. Then the epilogue was ridiculous… Katniss is stubborn and would not just give up and live a normal life. I think that also leaving the reader out of her trial was wrong; we should have been given more information on what was going on. I just felt like we lost her when she went back home. That’s where she ends and someone else starts playing her part. I want to know, has there been any response to the negative reaction from Suzanne Collins?

  4. L. R. Giles says:

    I think Suzanne Collins responded by laughing all the way to the bank. 🙂 Overall, I think reactions were largely positive, and even if they weren’t, she seems like the kind of professional who just takes her lumps quietly. Frankly, she had an uphill battle when it came to pleasing her audience. I think there’s always going to be a bit of disappointment when a beloved series comes to an end because most people who stuck with it probably have their own thoughts on how the conclusion should play out.

  5. Lizz says:

    I agree with your comments about it being a war – death is inevitable whether we like it or not. Of course it is fictional but if there was no element of real life in there then we’d be reading fairy tales wouldn’t we? I must admit I didn’t really enjoy Katniss’ lack of grasp in Mockingjay, the way she was on and off medication often and asleep for what felt like half the book however once again, that’s real life. People don’t go into war and come out the other side as ‘the girl who was on fire’, she needed time to recover obviously. Although as I said, I didn’t really enjoy it. In regard to the ending, I also felt that there were loose ends regarding three characters in particular (I guess you all know the ones I mean!). *Spoiler alerts! Sorry!* Throughout the whole of Mockinjay Gale is by Katniss’ side. No matter what she’s doing, whose orders she’s disobeying he’s right there and it bothers me that at the end Collins sends him away without even a hint of how he’s feeling. For me, Gale should have stayed by her side until the very end. But it certainly made for a very interesting read and while I did not enjoy it as much as the other two and must admit a little disappointment at the ending, I still couldn’t put it down!

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