Monday, August 30, 2010

Some rambling, spoiler-free thoughts on MOCKINGJAY

Behind every book is an author.

And the author's family, background, thoughts, opinions, biases, etc. are going to come into play in the writing of the book.

Most readers don't think of that while reading, though. They take the story at face value. I mean, really, if we've done our job, the author is invisible. Ideally, you shouldn't think of the author at all while reading, right?

But because I'm an author with books out there, I know what it feels like to have people read a book, not know where I was coming from, and express their disappointment about the book.

Generally, with every book, and with every item readers may have disagreed with me on, there are reasons WHY I handled things the way I did.

But do those reasons matter? Or perhaps a better question - SHOULD they matter? I think before I became an author, I might have said no. Now, I think I'm saying maybe.

I've been thinking a lot about these issues after having finished MOCKINGJAY last week.

I have to tell you, I set the book down and my heart hadn't felt that heavy in a long time. And from a book? I can't even remember the last time a book did that to me. (And this wasn't about Team Peeta vs Team Gale at all. I never felt strongly one way or the other about either of them. I never felt like that was what the story was really about in the first place).

I just was left wanting more at the end. More love. More hope. And I didn't get it. And yes, I was left feeling disappointed.

Some readers have expressed similar feelings to me about my book IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. Some have felt disappointed in the ending. And as an author, it hurts to hear that. Especially because I have my reasons as to why I ended it the way I did, and I think they are GOOD reasons! :)

And I know Suzanne has her reasons for writing the book the way she did. In fact, when you read many of the reviews around the internet, people talk about these reasons.

What I've come to learn is that sometimes, especially with endings, when people feel strongly about the way an author handles it, some really good discussions can grow from those strong feelings. Now, some lousy ones can too. I've read some horribly mean comments from people. Hateful comments directed at the author herself. WHAT??? Seriously?? I've had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne Collins and chatting with her for a few minutes, and she is a VERY nice person. You are allowed to not like the book, absolutely. But why say hateful things about the author? I don't get that.

Anyway - I have my guesses and assumptions after I've processed the book for almost a week now. And I think there was a lot of intention behind the ending. I was left feeling sad, because war is sad. I was left wanting more love because in a world where there is so much war, you are going to want love! Crave for it, long for it, wish for it. And I believe Suzanne wants us to remember that.

Does it make me feel better about the book? I have to say, it does. But what's weird is that I have no way of knowing if any of that is true. SC might think she gave us a very hopeful ending. Who the heck knows???

It's interesting that in many cases, we'll try to understand a character's motivation around something. But with some books, we feel the need to go beyond that. To try and understand the author's motivation. And you know what I've realized? If we're doing that, the book obviously did a good job creating characters that readers feel like they know and really care about.

And that, my friends, is no small feat.

I probably would have had more at the end. I probably would have tried to bring a bit more "balance" to the book (something Sab at YABliss talks about here). But I didn't write the book. And so, I'm respecting Suzanne for doing it the way she thought it needed to be done.

Have you read it? Want to tell me what you think (without hating on SC, please)?

(one small note: the mom in me wants to warn parents to read this book before you let your kids read it, especially if they're under 13. I know, the other two books had kids killing kids, but this book is incredibly dark and sad in places. If nothing else, if you read it before your kids, you can be there to talk about it with them and help them process everything. I think with this book, it's really important)


  1. I've got about 50 pages to go and am feeling the darkness, too. Not that I'm not enjoying it (though that's a weird word to pick about a book with so much pain), but I think the middle-grade prude in me is disturbed by the level of violence in this one. I know; it's war. If it were a book for adults and kids were reading it, I'd have no problem. Somehow, because it's for kids, I'm having a hard time.

    After I tackle some writing this morning, finishing the book is my reward.

  2. Great post! I've seen so many different reviews that show such conflicting emotions about MJ, but I have to say that I loved it. I loved it for the darkness and the reality it provided. While it was nothing like I expected it to be, the darker tone and the sadness fit with the undertones that SC gave us in the first two.

    The series was never about the love story. It was always about the fact that the people in power were killing innocent children as a means to show just how much power they possessed. The political agendas and the constant ploys to use Katniss to help their own means was a huge part of the series. The war in the end was always expected and while I didn't imagine it to be so gruesome, it's realistic. I appreciate SC for the honesty she put into MJ and showing that no one is left unfazed by war. Everyone involved will be damaged and broken in some way.

    Like you, MJ left me with such a heavy feeling and I felt emotionally drained after reading it. It's been almost a week now and I'm still thinking about it, which goes to show just how incredible the series is and has been.

  3. I haven't read any reviews: yours is the first, even though this really isn't a review.

    The ending made me think about the other two books. I understood why things had to progressed they way they did or characters portrayed the way they were.

    Although I tried to come to the book with no expectations of how it would end, I don't know if I have actually succeeded. I found the ending very satisfying. Starting and ending with Prim, for example, felt really complete. Sad, but right.

    And I liked a lot of her inner struggles, the ruminations. They seemed authentic and real and I appreciate Collins taking this route.

    The violence is staggering, and I wouldn't want my middle graders to read these books for a while yet. But that too, I believe, is part of what the theme is.

  4. I completely agree. I know she must have her reasons and I still LOVE the book and LOVE her because NO OTHER book has ever moved me quite so much as this series has. Yet I also agree it's a teen book where we 'should' be able to sense some kind of love or hope even within the darkest of stories.

    And I cant believe people are saying things about SC! She is a genius and no matter what I cannot wait to read anything that she writes next! :)

    Thanks for the mention btw! *blushes*

  5. I think she ended it just right.

    Of course, I would have liked it to have been different, but then it wouldn't have been true to the story she was telling.

    I think there is that ray of hope and healing that I didn't expect...which I am SO glad was there.

  6. It took me a while to get used to the ending. I think I expected rainbows and birds singing and Katniss in the meadow frollicking with the deer. But that's not what the story was about. I liked it and thought it consistent with what we had seen so far. I think it would have been good to have more interactions between Katniss and Pres. Coin, build things up there a little more, but oh well. Great books. I don't see the point in all the hating either. I'll definately checkout SC's next series, and maybe try to get into Gregor again.

  7. I felt satisfied with the ending. I felt like it was hopeful - to me the fact that the main character decided to allow something very specific (which I won't mention to avoid spoilers) indicated hope and change because it was something brought up in all three books over and over that she would never do and was afraid of. As for the reunion with Peeta and not really showing their "love" in a detailed way, I liked the way it was done - subtle, sophisticated, sweet - without gushy emotion or sexual description - you still get the picture. And given that this is a YA book, I appreciated that.

  8. I also felt sad and actually a little depressed after reading this book. It was weird because it's a book -- not real life. But now that I've had time to dissect it, I think this is the effect that author wanted us to have. And the fact that it had ANY effect says something.

  9. I really did like Hunger Games. But I feel like CF and MJay went in a different direction. I let my daughter read the first one. And then I made the mistake of trusting the series. I thought by the third, the series had taken on a whole different tone and purpose. So, I felt a bit caught off guard.

    I felt parts of MJay were exaggerated. Katniss's insanity didn't quite ring true for me.

    Overall, the writing and emotion was powerful. But, I probably won't read the series again. And it's not a series I walk away from wishing I'd written it.

    I think maybe my expectations going into MJay were misguided. I don't know. I love all the discussion the book has sparked though!

  10. Thanks all, for your thoughtful comments. I agree with Karen - the fact the book had an effect on us, says something.

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