Dear Ms Collins,
I change my mind again. I want your trilogy on reel. I want to see Katniss and Peeta and Haymitch and even Gale. I want them under the hands of the most creative screenplay writer and through the eyes of the most skilled directors. And please, Ms. Collins, please do not make a lot of changes. Just enough for the sake of cinematography, I guess.
But that’s not what I’m writing about. I am trying to write a review of Mockingjay, your last book in the trilogy. But my attempt is reduced to simply wanting to tell you how I feel about your books. Less technical and more personal, if I can muster so.
First, I wish to thank you for the fresh concept. As I’ve written in my review of The Hunger Games, your story is a refreshing break and deviation from the now rampant tales about our fanged protagonists. In an almost feverish way, I have went through your books because suddenly, I am reading something I have lots of trouble predicting what’s gonna happen next.
With your fresh concept also comes the politics of the world you have created. And that has, for me, added an additional attraction. Politics in a YA book is very rare but your approach to it doesn’t hamper its spirit. If only for that, you have provided a passable bridge for YA readers and adult book-lovers.
Second, I like that you have written the story in the way that you have. The first-person point of view, in all its susceptibility to lacking perspectives, has worked for your tale. Because we have to understand the Games and the war and how it internally affects the people in it. More importantly, how it affects a mockingjay. And I’m not sure, but I seem to think that your first-person way of writing addresses that need for understanding.
Aside from that, I especially like your choice of words. Direct, expressive, tell-them-like-they-are kind of words. From the heart and sometimes hidden under nasty meshes of hurtful circumstances. Short sentences like “Twirl for me“, “Stay with me“, and “Whatever breaks you” that actually speaks for a heart-full of feelings.
Next, I love your characters. There’s your heroine, Katniss Everdeen. The girl on fire, the impulsive and yet accurate hunter whose complexity I love unconditionally. I love her wooliness, the way she gets presented with conflicting ideas and feelings, and her struggle to choose among them. Thank you for making her vulnerable to as many harms as her strength can cause.
And then there are the people who have made Katniss’s life as intricate.
There’s Gale Hawthorne, her best friend, her hunting partner. In his individuality, I still like Gale. Even with his bloodlust. Even with his desire to fight at the expense of innocent people. Because the war does that to people, too. If I understand it correctly, Gale is made into the other result of a war: vengeful and spiteful.
But as a potential lover for Katniss, I guess I would stand by your own choice, Ms. Collins. Because honestly, ma’am, I have had a fair share of best-friends-to-lovers stories that if yours end with Katniss choosing Gale, I would have been sad. Because, yes, I agree with you. We become best friends with people who, at best, are of the same mould as we are.
What we need then, for a lover, is someone who would complement us. Harmonize our strengths and weaknesses. And fill in what we lack. That’s why I love Peeta Mellark being with Katniss in the end. And even in the end of the beginning novel (The Hunger Games). I have somehow understood why it is Peeta who gets to be in the arena and not Gale. Why it’s him who gets to share with Katniss’s fire. Because he can put it out when it becomes destructive, while Gale can only strengthen it. Because after all the heat of the fire, what we need is the coolness of true pearl–pure and relaxing.
And then there’s Haymitch Abernathy. An older, male version of Katniss. I like that mirror-effect he has with her. He seems to exemplify the possible results to Katniss’s causes. On top of this, there’s the unlikely existence of a softer, more humane person deep within the drunken exterior of Haymitch’s character. A man who has been shattered to irreconcilable pieces by grief and cruelty and yet still finds the heart to take care of two equally victorious and suffering people. Needless to say, I love his multiple layers.
Maybe the same is true with Johanna Mason. And Boggs and Paylor. And Beetee, too. As well as the prep team Octavia, Flavius, and Venia. All of them, their multi-faceted personalities. The strengths and the weaknesses. The way they personify the many faces of war and the world itself.
Same goes with Finnick Odair, well that and the fact that he has shown Katniss the way through her heart. I feel quite glad at the idea that Finnick’s love for Annie has mirrored that which Katniss feels for Peeta.
I’m afraid I cannot say the same with Plutarch Heavensbee. That imprudent, sorry excuse for a Head Gamemaker. He’s Capitol inside-out, I guess. With only entertainment to sustain him, regardless of how many innocent lives he kills, I know I have been right when I said (in my review of Catching Fire) that there’s something unsettling about him.
But then, Ms. Collins, their lives are marred by death. With so much gore and blood and nausea and unseeing eyes. I’m sorry people had to die.
Well, maybe not much in the case of the two presidents. President Coin, who I hate for being so intelligent and yet unfeeling. Who has made every citizen in Panem a piece of her Games. Who has done what the Capitol has done all those years of superiority: watch as people battle for life through murder.
President Snow, who I hate for being an active piece of Coin’s Games. He has had it right when he said he shouldn’t have turned the Capitol and the districts against one another. That he should have united them against the ominous threat that is District 13. And although he couldn’t have known what Coin has prepared against him, I still think his way of ruling is unforgivable. Huge, huge ego does not pay for all the lives he had spent.
But there are deaths that I do feel sorry for. More than anything.
Cinna, the silent warrior. The man who has caught so much of my attention and affection. I am resentful toward his death, which is delivered in such an unjust and unnecessary way.
And Prim. Her death, so unfair to come just as she is blossoming into her full self, breaks me. Prim, who has provided light to the darkness of the war, whose presence is soothing even without her consoling words. And yes, people like her die in battles. Even as pawns, as reminders that no one really is spared from wars.
Maybe all of these–the nightmares, the pain, the loses–maybe they are also reminders. That victors, those who win in the Hunger Games, can make it out alive and well. But that in reality, they make it out with either only one of the two, which I guess is pretty clear a choice, or with neither true at all.
Maybe all of them are encased in your metaphors. The fire, the ever burning fire, of feelings and emotions and strengths. The mockingjays that have surpassed extinction and have ever since served as a reminder that as long as they live, the memory of the Dark Days do, too. And now, they carry with them the memory of the war as well. The spark of rebellion, the face of relentless fighting, the need for a thorough discernment between what is real and what is not.
In the end, Ms. Collins, I end my reading with a sharp jab of the pain I usually associate with losing a friend. I end a journey I have taken on with your books. A journey that is both agonizing and relieving. Thank you for them.
It feels good to know Katniss has become a mother. She would make a good one, I think.
I’ll wait for the movies.