Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Talk: Mockingjay

"One of the reasons it's important for me to write about war is I really think that the concept of war, the specifics of war, the nature of war, the ethical ambiguities of war are introduced too late to children. I think they can hear them, understand them, know about them, at a much younger age without being scared to death by the stories. It's not comfortable for us to talk about, so we generally don't talk about these issues with our kids. But I feel that if the whole concept of war were introduced to kids at an earlier age, we would have better dialogues going on about it, and we would have a fuller understanding."
-Suzanne Collins, in an interview by Rick Margolis (School Library Journal)


Mockingjay is not a "people pleaser." I doubt that Ms. Collins' intentions were to write a feel-good book, or an angsty love story, and I wouldn't describe Mockingjay as either. The book is a look at war and what war does to people... people we have grown to love very much.

What happens in Mockingjay doesn't make sense. It isn't fair. It isn't even right. That is the genius of this book. Ms. Collins didn't make war into something that could be neatly packaged. Innocent people die in war. People change, sometimes in ways we can't understand or even respect. War is a vicious cycle. Hard decisions are made, and we don't always agree with what the leaders of our nation decide to do. People are senselessly killed. People die without warning. And even worse, we don't get answers about every person lost in a war. Not in real life, and not in Mockingjay.

What a legacy we have in Mockingjay. What an opportunity. I admire Ms. Collins more than ever, not only for this exceptionally well-written novel, but for having the courage to be truthful to her audience about what war is like. How HUGE a lie it would have been to have Katniss obsessing over which boy to love, or seeking stolen moments of passion with whoever she felt most drawn to. I'm so grateful that Katniss remained true to her character throughout these novels. Katniss was a normal girl thrust into an overwhelming situation. Yes, she grew and changed-- her personality developed from the world she was a part of, for better or worse-- but she was always herself. Deep inside herself, Katniss always held on to one thing, even when her mind told her it was pointless, even when she didn't want to let herself believe it were possible, and that thing was hope.

Reading this book broke my heart, enraged me, unsettled me, and ultimately left me with a sense of mournful triumph. As a writer, I could not be happier to find a story that inspired so much. Deep parts of my brain felt opened, and I thought for a long time after closing this book. The world is real. The characters unforgettable. The challenges all-too familiar. This book is about more than Panem. It's a book about truths happening right now, as I type this blog post. As you read it.

This is a necessary book. People like me, in cozy suburbs with problems that could not be considered problems by over eighty percent of the world's population need to read this book and really think about life. Thank you, Ms. Collins.


  1. Well said Di! I think a lot of people were angry because Katniss wasn't all kick-ass like she was in the first two books, but again SC stayed true to the story. Sure, we didn't get to see a lot of the action (Peeta's rescue) but that's what happens in first person POV. Katniss was an emotional mess and she was being controlled by Pres Coin. It wasn't what I would have liked, but it's true to what happens in war. Still, I loved this book.

  2. Yes - I love and agree with everything you said. You explained my feelings toward the book so much better than I could have. These book are about war and Mockingjay captured the horror and the triumphs and the reality brilliantly. I loved the book and I loved the ending. It filled me with hope.

  3. This was a tough book for me to swallow because I wanted so much more closure with one of the characters. I DO love the series as a whole. fantastic work of art.

  4. I did not now about the war thing until you told me as I was reading halfway through the book and it totally changed my perspective. Katniss DID stay true to her character, I think as writers that is a hard line to follow. And like Mary said, you expressed my emotion better than I would have. Your commentary on Mockingjay spoke beautifully from the heart. Thanks for sharing. XXOO's