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Miss Marm's Book Club: Mockingjay

Miss Marm's Book Club: Mockingjay

By Miss Marm

Here's my one-word review of Mockingjay: meh.

Before you shoot me through the heart with an arrow made of nuclear bombs, let me say more (but read on only if you don't mind spoilers!!!!!!).

I did like many things about the book. For example:

* Collins knows that everyone is a little bit evil. It would have been the obvious choice to make District 13 a haven of intellectual rebels governed by a wise woman ready to throw the might of her army behind Katniss. Instead, Collins makes President Coin a power-mad jerk, and her people a bunch of skinflint obsessive-compulsives. One of Collins's big themes is how similar we are to all other humans. Another is the stupidity (and unavoidability) of killing other people who are just like you. It's good stuff.

* Team Finnick! Does anyone else have a crush on this guy? He's a babe, he goofs around, he's a sexy invalid, he dotes on his wife, and he has a tragic secret. According to science, people with tragic secrets are great kissers.

* The speeches give me chills. Hands down, my favorite parts Mockingjay are Katniss's fiery addresses to the nation. How great is it when she gives the "if we burn, you burn with us" speech? Chills, right?

But Mockingjay disappointed me because:

* The characters are flat. Each one has a prominent trait (Annie's spacey, Haymitch is a loyal drunk, Johanna's a spitfire, etc.). But none of the characters are truly fleshed out, with the possible exception of Katniss. In particular, it bugs me that President Coin is a cipher. The plot hinges on her, but because we don't know anything about her, we have no reaction when Katniss kills her. Coin isn't really a character. She exists only so Collins can show us her theories about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

* Too much of the action happens off stage. What's more exciting—seeing a Vegas showgirl get in a screaming fight with her matador boyfriend, or hearing your friend tell you about it? The former, of course. In books, as in life, we want to watch the action ourselves, not listen to a secondhand account of what happened. Collins doesn't have space to show us every crucial event (like, say, the bombing of District 12), but there are many moments when she summarizes what's happening when she could just as easily show us exactly what's going on. Why torture us by saying that Finnick heard "tales of strange sexual appetites...and bloody power plays"? Why not let us hear Finnick say, "When I was a sex slave, I saw stuff you wouldn't believe. Let me tell you what this one guy did with hummus." Collins pulls a veil over many of the juicy bits, telling where she should be showing.

* The fragments. Drive me. Out of. My mind. Collins's prose is workmanlike at best. That's normally okay, because you're too distracted by the plot to pay much attention to her flat style. But because I found Mockingjay's plot snoozy, I couldn't stop obsessing about the fragments ("Quickly." "And why I was in pain." "Myself more than anyone." "Because I really don't know." "Meaning Peeta."). They're all over the place, and they make me feel like I'm driving with someone who steps on the brake every two seconds.

* The Gale-is-a-violent-bomber plotline is the copout of all copouts. First of all, it's so cheap to let Katniss decide between Gale and Peeta based not on their merits, or on which one she wants to smush, but on the death of her sister. It doesn't feel fair. It feels like Collins couldn't decide what to do, so she cheated. Second of all, who was this pod person pretending to be Gale? It's okay if your characters change, but you have to show them changing. You can't just say, "Remember this peaceable sweetheart you spent two novels with? He's now a lunatic who likes bombing innocent civilians! Just trust me, it makes sense." No, it doesn't—not unless you give us some scenes showing this transformation. But no such scenes are there because the bombing plotline doesn't grow out of Gale's character—Collins forced it onto Gale so she wouldn't have to make Katniss actually choose between him and Peeta.

Do you agree with my assessment? Disagree? Are you en route to the SparkNotes office with your quiver of arrows? I can't wait to hear what you think of the book. Let's talk in the comments!

Topics: the hunger games, miss marm's book club, mockingjay

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