Monday, December 23, 2013

Literally On Fire

 Spoiler alert: this post is about the third book in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay. It took me three years to read the final book so if it’s taking you even longer, cheers, and see you next time.
When this book came out in 2010, I’d just had major back surgery and was just generally in the worst mood ever for an entire year, so my best friend told me not to read the book yet. I understand the advice—this isn’t exactly a raise-your-spirits type of read. Except maybe the worst year of my life would actually have been the perfect time. Because in the end, this final chapter in the series is really all about how life will be terrible sometimes...but you can still come out the other side.

What impresses me most about this book is the author’s bravery—where many authors shy away from pulling the trigger, she kills off loads of beloved characters—in heartbreaking ways. And she doesn’t use future science to genetically engineer any deus ex machina clones, either. As a matter of fact, Collins doesn’t even avail herself of the magic-like science she’d already invented with mutts and magic dresses to heal her hero. Katniss is literally on fire in this book, and she comes out the other side with the scars to prove it. Just like real life. And let’s have a moment of silence for poor Peeta’s eyebrows. I’m betting that detail won’t survive the Hollywood treatment, though, and they’ll make an appearance on the big screen at the end of the fourth film.

Of course, given the extraordinary popularity of the series, Collins had the license so many other writers could only dream of. She could have sent Katniss and Peeta to district 11 to become yam farmers. The central conflict of the third book could have been a protracted debate over how much fertilizer to use, and the book would still have sold many millions of copies.

But even given the extreme amount of freedom she had, it seems to me it still takes guts to take a character like Katniss down such an unrelentingly dark road. The moment when Katniss casts her vote for a new hunger games is at once heartbreaking and all too believable.

The ending is bittersweet—I can’t imagine anyone would call it happily ever after. And thank goodness for that. We need stories in which there is no magical fix, decisions have devastating consequences, and not everyone makes it through—just like life.
Yikes!Who would actually want a victory tour? 

And as much as I’ve enjoyed the first two film versions of these stories, there’s a strange cognitive dissonance that accompanies the clueless marketing. I’ve already railed about the inappropriateness of the Capitol Collection makeup line from Cover Girl. And just the other day I heard an ad for Subway: “Where Victors eat!” Once they’re done murdering other children to survive, and in between being loaned out by President Snow, presumably.

Not only did these advertising folks not read the books—it seems they didn’t read the book jackets. If they ever do, boy are they in for a shock, because Collins didn’t just dress the Girl on Fire in a flame-retardant gown—she literally set the poor girl on fire. 

No comments:

Post a Comment