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Mockingjay = Sad

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)As I said yesterday, I went back and forth on the second volume (Catching Fire) and ended up suspending judgment on it until I read the third one. Now that I've read the third one...wow. It isn't perfect -- the author's reliance on the main character losing consciousness at crucial moments and waking up rescued is a serious flaw -- but overall I found this a tremendously powerful and disturbing book.

Recently I read Ugly War, Pretty Package: How CNN and Fox News Made the Invasion of Iraq High Concept, an examination of how the media packaged and marketed the Iraq War as a media event. There were entirely too many parallels for my comfort here. From being marketed as a tribute in the first book, Kat goes on to be packaged and sold by Coin as The Mockingjay, only to be discarded when her usefulness is over. One reviewer here on GR complained that Kat's having a camera crew and a prep team constantly with her was distracting and stupid. But that's the point: Kat is never allowed to be a genuine heroine because that's too messy, too unattractive. Too real. She has to be "on" and "in character" (not to mention in costume) all the time, no matter what her personal feelings are.

If she'd chosen this part -- if she were by nature a leader, driven by a desire to inspire people, or a born martyr like Joan of Arc -- that would be one thing. But she's not, she's a seventeen-year-old girl whose had to slaughter people she's made friends with, whose entire village has been destroyed, whose family has been threatened, who's been forced by everyone around her to be something she's not. It's no wonder she doesn't deal with it well. The role of Mockingjay isn't what Kat wants, but it's the only path left to her. Her bargaining for the cat, for the captured tributes, for the right to go hunting with Gale all speak to the fact that this isn't a role she takes on willingly but rather one she demands payment for. Not because she's mercenary, but because she can sense the wrongness, the falseness in it, and wants to extract something from it that's meaningful to her.

In the first book, Peeta says that if he's going to die, he wants to die as himself. Kat's never given that option -- no matter what happens to her, someone else is pulling the strings. Someone else "owns" her. Like the Mockingjay, she can only echo the wishes of others. I ached for her, constantly being manipulated by the people who she's supposed to be able to trust.

Which brings me to the one thing that really broke my heart: Kat's final act of defiance and its aftermath. When President Coin announces that there will be a final Hunger Games using the children and grandchildren of President Snow and other important Capitol personalities, I was revolted. When Kat shot Coin instead of Snow, I literally cheered. Since Coin had said she would tell Snow about the final Hunger Games before he was executed, I assumed everyone had heard this, that they would know Coin was as bad as the system she purported to replace, and that Kat had shot her as the ultimate statement that she and the other victors would not be used as a figurehead to support the same horrors they had fought against.

And then Kat wakes up basically in a cell, and we find out that it was all whitewashed, covered up, "marketed" as the act of a disturbed young woman. I very nearly cried. Kat's victory is turned into some sort of crazy freakout instead of being seen as the righteous act it is, and that was immensely, intensely, enormously disappointing. She's robbed of the one blazing moment that's truly hers.

If this was a deliberate choice, meant to underscore the hopelessness of battling the corporate/government machine that steamrollers reality and repaints it to suit its wishes/needs...well done.

In the acknowledgements, Collins thanks her father (I think it was) for having taught her about war and peace. Certainly as a statement against the horrors of war, all three books work well and the last one best of all. There are no winners, only survivors.

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Mar. 5th, 2012 08:42 am (UTC)
Well you've certainly convinced me not to bother reading it.

I'm a cheerful soul and like some sort of happy ending.
Mar. 5th, 2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
Well, the ending is right -- for the story arc, the characters, certainly for the message of the book. And as I said, it struck me as a very powerful, thought-provoking set of books, with a lot to say. But no, if you want happy endings, this is not the series for you LOL!
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