Mockingjay: some thoughts
August 29, 2010
Not a full review, just some thoughts.
First of all, the context for my reading of it: My littlest daughter woke up and I took her (still in her nightgown) to Target to buy the book. (I left a note in case her sisters woke up while I was out.) (They didn’t.)
I then proceeded to read, almost non-stop, until the book was done. It was about 7 hours.
I really liked it. It was the engaging, page-turning, fascinating story I had hoped for.
I was intrigued by the fact that District 13, while a safe refuge from the Capitol, was not the warm and cozy refuge that everyone seemed to have hoped for. I liked that Katniss was still the stubborn, non-conformist girl who tended toward selfishness but took on the mantle of leadership when it was placed on her shoulders anyway. I appreciated that her character was “mentally disoriented” and that she seemed unstable at times. I think that is in line with reality. When people are severely traumatized, it takes its toll. I liked how, almost in spite of herself, Katniss was just what the rebels needed to overthrow the Capitol. Unlike the conniving, scheming Capital and the conniving, scheming rebels, Katniss seems unable to do anything but “the next right thing.” And she has a remarkable depth of character to know what that is: Her spontaneous compassion on the hospital victims. Her honesty about her own weakness and inability with the gunman in District 2. Her insistence on the people whom she wanted to have immunity in the war, demonstrating her loyalty and instinct for helping others. Her condition that she must be able to hunt, knowing that fresh air and nature would act as a restorative. Her willingness to consider Johanna’s plight. Her tenderness for Finnick. Her coming clean with Haymitch about where they both failed Peeta. All things that, in a confusing time of war and conflict, kept her as centered as was possible under the circumstances.
I appreciated the complexity of war as it was presented in this book. The necessity of killing some “for the greater good.” Beetee and Gale were not evil, but placed in a role to strategically kill and destroy the enemies. Gale’s strong sense of anger and injustice fueled his willingness to create traps and snares for people, and that was needed to overthrow the evil government that created The Hunger Games. But it sickened Katniss to see this brutality in her friend. Likewise, it grieved her to see the conditions under which her old prep team had been kept. Katniss implicitly grasped that there are nuances to understanding evil and control, and that the prep team couldn’t be expected to entirely sympathize with what the Districts had gone through. And the complexity of reality, that though they had “aided and abetted” the Capitol, they weren’t entirely to blame for their actions and attitudes.
The whole situation with Peeta was so tragic. And yet, I liked how he, also, grew. He had to look at things logically, carefully, to know what was true, instead of just following his almost-too-good-to-be-true heart of Books 1 and 2. He saw Katniss more realistically in some ways in this book, and he worked at controlling the poisoned thoughts that wanted him to believe that she was completely evil. Again, the book celebrated the ideas of nuance and complexity so well.
I couldn’t believe it when Katniss announced that she agreed that the Hunger Games should be instituted for the Capitol children. I am certain that this was the moment she realized, without a doubt, that Panem under the rule of Coin and District 13 would be just as brutal and evil as under Snow. And she complied with this vote to have The Hunger Games in order to not arouse suspicion in Coin. And Haymitch, who always thinks like Katniss, knew just what she was doing. And I loved her brilliant solution of shooting Coin instead of Snow.
I loved Haymitch in this book. Again, a character who has been broken, whose life is a wreck, who acknowledges freely his crimes and frailty. And yet who has a goodness and kindness under all the debris that wants to do the right thing.
I just love people who are a mess and are honest about it. I think they are so much more free to do good in this world than the cookie-cutter, “got-it-all-together” hero.
Maybe postmodernism influences my thinking too much here. I’m not sure.
I thought the ending was lovely. Going home, taking a day at a time, opening up herself to the process of grieving by creating a book of memories. I loved the sweet epilogue. I feel like I’d like to re-read those last couple of chapters and epilogue again but Dave is busy reading it and I don’t think he’d appreciate me ripping the book from his hands.
Lucy (my 11 year old) read it and was disappointed by it. Even mildly traumatized about it, which made me feel like a bad mother for letting her read it. But we ended up have a good, long, hard hug while she held me and shed a few tears, and a good, long, hard talk as we processed through it together, and I think I redeemed the situation fairly decently. We spoke of how people are all capable of hurting and harming others, she and I as much as some of the characters of the Hunger Games. Such a book shows us so clearly our fallen nature, our need for grace, and ultimately our need for a Savior.
There are other things I would like to process about the book, but those are some initial thoughts.