book: mockingjay

"mockingjay" by suzanne collinsi didn’t want to post about MOCKINGJAY at least until after the weekend; it’s hard to post about a book without at least touching on what happens in the book. and we all know that many people don’t like spoilers, especially on things as much-awaited as this book.

but it’s already monday, so i think it’s safe to write about MOCKINGJAY. but first, a little look back on the first two books from the HUNGER GAMES trilogy.

in THE HUNGER GAMES, a katniss everdeen volunteers herself to the hunger games to protect her younger sister. the hunger games is an annual televised event where twenty-four children are pitted against each other, in an arena where only one child can emerge alive and be declared winner. and so we follow katniss as she navigates the arena to protect herself, and to be able to go back to her family.

and then in CATCHING FIRE, we once again follow katniss after she wins the hunger games against all odds. in the second book, our protagonist finds herself the unwitting symbol of the rebellion against the capitol, the government behind the barbaric hunger games. in this second story, katniss begins to become the mockingjay.

now, with MOCKINGJAY, the story works its way to a conclusion. katniss must decide if she does want to become the rebel’s symbol, if she really does want to go against the capitol, if she will choose the safety of her family or her own happiness. and it’s a very satisfying ending to this amazing series that suzanne collins started in 2008, but which was recommended to me in early 2010.

oh, well. still no spoilers. good on me. now, here’s the tricky part: discussing why i liked the book without giving spoilers.

what i liked most about MOCKINGJAY was that it didn’t service the fans. it serviced the story, and that is always more important. by the time she finished the novel, i’m sure suzanne collins have heard what the fans had to say about the first two books, what they liked, what they didn’t, and instead of giving in, she plowed right through what fans wanted, and gave them what the story needed.

and so we have events in the book that will definitely not sit well with fans of the book, or will challenge their perception of the world of panem, or both — and it’s absolutely brilliant.

my biggest fear for MOCKINGJAY was that how suzanne collins would write the structure of the story without the help of the hunger games. because the first two book was very structured in the way that the first six books of HARRY POTTER was structured. you had one year where your protagonist prepares, learns, and ultimately “wins.” and like in the last book of HARRY POTTER, all sense of familiarity was thrown out the window by the time MOCKINGJAY starts.

you have the same character, and by all intents and purposes, they are the characters left to us by the end of CATCHING FIRE. but at the same time, something has changed within them. a spark was ignited, and we see it flame up and flame out in this last book. we see new characters take up important roles in the story, and former background characters moving up into supporting characters; we see old characters show new facets of their personalities, and we see our main characters grow more.

the katniss everdeen of THE HUNGER GAMES is the same katniss everdeen of MOCKINGJAY, except she’s also not. in the three books, we see her grow into a real person, with a deeper understanding of responsibility, of friendship, and of love. and it is this development that makes me say MOCKINGJAY is an amazing book.

and had i been a literature teacher, i would include this trilogy into my curriculum as must reads.

event: mockingjay launch party

"the panelists for the mockingjay launch party"good day reader!

i’m back from attending the MOCKINGJAY launch party held at NATIONAL BOOKSTORE: BESTSELLERS at robinson’s galleria. and here i am now, reporting about it.

i arrived during the last part of the panel discussion, so i wasn’t able to hear what was talked about. what i did get to hear about was the last three questions: about the blurbs from stephen king and stephenie meyer, about violence in a young adult series, and about favorite characters.

with the first question, the panel discussed their thoughts on why scholastic chose to put an endorsement blurb from stephen king and stephenie meyer, two authors from very different writing backgrounds, and with very different kinds of readers. i agree with the general consensus that scholastic is covering all the bases, making the book attractive to the two types of readers: the more serious ones and the tweens.

i’m not saying the tweens who read stephenie meyer’s books are not serious readers. on the contrary, i think TWILIGHT readers show a good potential at becoming great readers. i mean, to be able to stand a series that basically has no plot? whatever book follows must be an amazing adventure. that and i have friends who liked the TWILIGHT series and are big fans of better books too.

the second question, which deals with the violence present in the HUNGER GAMES trilogy, has everyone in agreement that there’s no alarm about the violent nature of the book. on the contrary, the violence shown in the books are actually a good way of getting children nowadays to open up to their parents about their thoughts on violence. granted that there is an open line of communication between the reader and whoever they need to talk to about these things.

my answer for this question is actually connected to my answer for the last question–which is the favorite character one.

when i started reading the HUNGER GAMES trilogy, i connected with the character of peeta. he’s nothing special, but he gets thrust into the limelight and slowly discovers who he is and what he is capable of. but as the series progressed, i found myself getting drawn to one of the supporting characters: prim, katniss’s younger sister.

now, how is this connected to the second discussion?

katniss volunteered herself to become a tribute after the reaping put prim on the spotlight. prim was the one who was supposed to be part of the hunger games. instead, katniss volunteered in her place. in our time now, many parents would rather shield their children to the violence present in the world. and that’s exactly what katniss had done.

but as the story unfolds, we see that prim is not the naive little girl katniss would like her to be. prim has seen and is seeing what is happening in their world. and that’s exactly the same thing that’s going on in our world. children are exposed to violence no matter how parents try to cover their eyes from it. violence is present in the television, in the radio, in games. and let’s not start on the availability of everything in the internet.

by the time we come to the story’s conclusion in MOCKINGJAY, katniss realizes that she’s never had to shield prim’s eyes from the violence. and while she doesn’t regret what she had done, she does come to an understanding that prim is stronger than she thinks. and that prim can understand, and is not afraid to ask when she doesn’t, what is happening in their world. [and that’s not a spoiler, for those of you who are spoilerphobes.]

and that is why prim is my favorite character: because she is a reflection of our youth. the ones who, if we try to help them understand, can pave the way for a better future. as the famous song goes, “i believe that the children are our future. teach them well, and let them lead the way.”

"the tributes during the live-action role-playing activities"after the panel discussion, the launch party went on to the activities it had prepared for the afternoon. the main feature? live action role-playing of the hunger games. or a version of it.

24 players registered to be part of the game, 2 volunteers representing each of the 12 known districts in THE HUNGER GAMES. and the first round had the “tributes” racing across the room in piggyback and sending arrows flying towards the MOCKINGJAY wall at the back of the events area.

it was all good fun, and the game was designed to shave off pairs upon pairs of players until a winner is called.

i don’t know who won or what happened after the second round, which is a modified version of tag-you’re-it. but i have to say the people there certainly enjoyed the games. i’m not very big on audience participation though, and i was feeling a bit claustrophobic at the smallness of the activity area. so i left to browse around that time.

at the back of the activity area, stalls were set up for the sponsors:

there was cinna’s corner, in which attendees can have a temporary tattoo applied on whatever body part to signify their attendance in the launch party; there was haymitch’s bar where cookies and other pastries were served with blue sprite; an area where you can go online to find out which HUNGER GAMES character you are, and a photo “booth” where you can have your photo taken on with either a “team peeta” or a “teem gale” flag.

"mockingjay launch party extras"truth be told, i’m not a big fan of the “team this” and “team that” phenomena. while the ship wars have been present for as long as fandoms have existed, it’s not until TWILIGHT that these “team” things have become so infuriatingly common.

though it was fun to watch [though, i did cringe at some parts] as fans of the book debated over the qualities of peeta and gale as partners for katniss. these fans are really passionate about the man they want katniss to end up with! they argued about their quality as a partner, the parts they played in katniss’s impressionable years, and whether or not they were the person who made katniss a better woman.

it did get a little heated though, so it was a relief when the moderators cut the debate off. i wouldn’t have been surprised if hair-pulling was about to ensue, even if the debate started off in good fun. it was that heated.

was the event a success? i wouldn’t know. this is only the second commercial book launch i attended, and it’s the first to actually have activities that doesn’t involve the author at all. so i’ve got nothing to judge this event by. that said, the attendees seemed to have a great time participating, and generally bonding with each other, that i would say it was a success in that aspect.

and in the end, isn’t that what matters? events are supposed to bring people from all walks of life together, to enjoy an afternoon celebrating the one thing (or many things) they do have in common.

though, i do hope to see more people in the next event i attend.