Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Mockingjay (the book)

I meant to post on this way back when I read it for the first time because I like how popular it is around here, but, you know how it is. All the posts you mean to make. I didn't intend to reread it at any point (does anyone want my copy? I got it for free), but suddenly the movie was out and I felt like I needed to revisit, and anyway I was working on Black Friday with nothing to do and nobody looking over my shoulder, and it's not like these books need more than a day apiece. We're most likely seeing the movie tonight.

One thing I really admire about the way this trilogy was written is the faithfulness to the original theme. Even after finding an excuse to put the characters back in the Hunger Games for the second book, it must have been a challenge to bring in the revolution that the plot needed without losing the culture of voyeurism that makes this dystopia unique.

So, instead of the protagonists bending the truth for the public eye in a desperate attempt to make Katniss likeable enough to spare her life, we now have them remaking her into an inspiration. Once again, the impression that she makes on the spectators is far more important than her own qualities - which are substantial. The interesting thing about the rebel PR team discovering that she only gives them good footage when she's allowed to be authentic is that it brings honesty into their artifice, but Katniss still hates doing it. Her true worth is acknowledged, but not for its own sake. It doesn't seem to count in her mind, and maybe it shouldn't.

The theme is expanded in this book, too, from the effects of propaganda to self-image versus the perception that others have of oneself. I thought it was interesting that after Peeta had been hijacked, she admitted to herself that she hated him for finally seeing her as she thought she really was. It seems like it should be pretty obvious that his opinion of her is more trustworthy before he's brainwashed, but all she's thinking about is how their sham relationship began under the camera and temporarily took him in. Peeta's broken by hallucinogens tampering with his hold on reality, and in a way, the same thing happens to Katniss: she's had the rug pulled out from under her so many times that she's unable to separate her own successes from failures.

That's why I like the ending. The execution of Snow is a summary of everything that's been done to Katniss, using the completely real elements of her hatred of him and her skill with a bow, and turning them false by giving her a shot she can't miss and televising it. Her final task as the Mockingjay becomes a rejection of the Mockingjay - she understands the real threat, she understands her own power, and at long last, she makes a difference which she can truly claim for herself.

Of course, she's still broken. Anything else would be a cop-out. Prim's death is one of the ballsiest moves I've ever seen a YA author make. Katniss sacrificed everything fighting on behalf of others, and then even that was taken from her. The easiest interpretation for a shell-shocked survivor would be that she had sacrificed everything for nothing. But she's alive, and she's already taken back ownership of herself by shooting Coin, and with the help of Peeta, who has never lost his sense of her worth, she gradually figures out that having her life and having herself isn't nothing. Living isn't fighting, it's living, and that means hope for changing the future.

Overall, this book wasn't the best of the trilogy, and the weaknesses of the previous ones show up here too - the dialogue is mostly indiscernible from the narration, the premise never made sense, and the pace doesn't allow much contemplation. But there's one truly brilliant concept that Mockingjay introduces, which rises over all of that: Panem et Circenses. Why does the government keep the districts so destitute? To control them. Why does it keep the Capitol's residents so pampered? To control them. If there's any parallel to our own world in this series, you can be sure we're the Capitol, wealthy and complacent and eternally distracted from what's real. It doesn't completely mend the plot hole (no way would the numbers come out right if you tried to apply this national budget strategy to an actual country), but it makes sense - the government keeps the districts weak physically and the Capitol weak in character, and with nobody able to challenge it, the government can do whatever it wants.

There's one other plot hole which I would have loved to see addressed, involving the long-term effects of the Games on the more impoverished districts, but I'll probably save that for the next entry. It's now "tonight" and we're going in an hour, so you'll probably hear from me in another month or so.
Tags: a book i read, hunger games

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