Tuesday, September 14, 2010

15 Mockingjay Survey Results

This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS. If you haven't yet read Mockingjay, go buy it, read it, and then come back. Whatever the survey results, you will kick yourself if you don't read this book.

So... 100 people took the survey after reading Mockingjay, and the results are as mixed as the reviews. Marissa and I have been thinking about this, and we've come up with a number of points we'd like to throw out. First, a young adult book that gets people talking is a wonderful thing. Second, it would be great to see into the heads of the people who made the decisions about ending this series. Why did Suzanne Collins make the choices she made?

Don't get me wrong. Neither Marissa nor I are in the "disappointed because the love story didn't end well" camp. We could care less who Katniss chose. And based on what we've heard and seen in the survey, the fact that Katniss didn't actively make a choice isn't significant because she didn't pick one "team" or the other. What seems to disappoint people is that Katniss didn't make any choices--after two books of being a complex, flawed heroine willing to sacrifice for others, she becomes a weak character who mimics what she herself despised at the beginning of the series. Yes, war is horrific. Yes, war leaves people changed and not always for the better. But to many, the ending felt rushed and there were critical plot points that weren't addressed. Believability became an issue when Katniss agreed to the final Hunger Games, but then that issue disappeared without resolution. Do we believe Katniss would have let that happen? No. According to the survey, we don't. Does that change the fact that this is an amazing book? Also no. But the survey shows it's by far the weakest of the trilogy. And I wonder whether there was an obligation to the readers that wasn't met.

Is it fair in commercial lit to make a point at the reader's expense? Not all books need to end with a happy ending, but do we need to give the reader something to take away after such a major investment of time, energy, and emotion?  Something as small as having Katniss help Peeta plant the primroses might have been enough for me. What would have done it for you? Do any of the survey results below surprise you?

Martina







15 comments:

  1. Looks like I was in the majority on these questions. I really enjoyed the poll, girlfriends. Thanks for doing it and for posting the results. It would be fascinating to interview the author and ask why she did what she did. I'd love to hear her thoughts. You're right about one thing, though. It's always great when people are reading books and discussing them. Have a super day ladies:)

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  2. Interesting survey. I'm not surprised with the result. I was talking about the book with my middle grade daughter and her friend (a boy) and they had similar reactions.

    I still think Suzanne Collins is an amazing writer. And this just shows that if you have a popular series, there are heavy reader expectations that you may or may not fulfill. She wrote another great series GREGOR THE OVERLANDER-more middle grade--that people might want to check out.

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  3. Interesting pole ladies. I love to see the reactions of other readers, especially to a series that is so in demand.

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  4. I think you summed it up. As a reader, I was more disappointed and almost bored with Katniss' character by the end. I didn't care who she ended up with but she had no choice in her ending. And we hear all the time that we have a responsibility to our reader...Great poll!

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  5. Other than spending her days in sector 12 (and that was her punishment, in a way), I think Katniss did have a choice. She turned her back on Gale because of what happened. That was her choice. And it wasn't like she rushed into Peeta's arms when he showed up in sector 12. I had predicted she wouldn't make a choice at the end, and I was right. She had to fall into love with Peeta. Until the ending, I didn't feel like she really loved either of the guys. Maybe that's why I was sitting on the fence which one she should pick (though I was leaning more toward Gale until part way into Mockingjay). In the end, Katniss and Peeta were perfect together. They were both broken. They needed each other to heal. Gale couldn't have done that for her. Like I said. She had choices. She didn't have to turn to Peeta. But she did.

    Thanks for posting the survey. It was interesting reading. :D

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  6. Great pole! This has been very interesting to discuss and very satisfying to talk about. I do think that there is a margin of responsibility to the reader, and that Suzanne Collins is lucky that her writing itself is so strong because people love her books even when they hate them. A writer not as strong, nor as already successful would likely have bombed after this sort of ending to a trilogy.

    I think, in retrospective (I LOVE that I just keeping thinking and reevaluating things after reading Mockingjay) that at least part of my issues with Mockingjay are due to the fact that I've been querying a Dystopian YA (written before Hunger Games was released) and although all the agents have passed on it, they've done so while saying my writing is very good. Their problem seems to be that my MC is not 'sympathetic enough to the public' even though she's realistic. I can understand this, she isn't likeable at all sometimes. But in lieu of those sorts of responses to MY character, I was abhorred that a beloved, strong character like Katniss was thrown under the bus while millions read on. There was definitely a feeling of betrayal (besides the one pertaining to Katniss herself) from the standpoint of 'I can't write an unlikeabe/unmarketable character because I'm not yet successful, but it's okay for someone like Suzanne because she's so established.' That's an oversimplified way of putting it but it's something I feel. Sometimes I think that it's almost too easy for established authors to 'do what they will' without considering how the public might react. Not that they must tailor their writing for public comsumption, but it would be nice to think that they thought of the people who eagerly stand in line at 12 am to buy their books. I'm certainly not accusing Suzanne Collins of being ungrateful. She's an amazing writer. I'd just love to know, like many others I'm sure, how she made the choices in writing Mockingjay that she did.

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  7. I agree with you and Melissa, I just knew any minute she was going to stop passing out and waking up drugged in the hospital and pull something magnificent out and be the hero again, but was disappointed. I loved the book but after the first 2, I just expected more from her.

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  8. I wanted to come back (after thinking even more on things) and touch on the 'Gale going to the dark side' subject. It seems that quite a lot of people feel as though Gale chose a different side than Katniss.

    I never really thought of Gale as 'choosing sides' so much as simply choosing to be an active part of what was going on. At one point I did question his actions, but in the end, I believe that he just chose to DO something, rather than have things happen to him.

    As for the way he and Katniss came apart, I don't think they were ever really viable as a couple. There was potential, but no substance. Not on Katniss' part. I felt like, throughout ALL the books, Katniss never loved Gale 'that way' until she couldn't get to him/thought she'd lost him forever. But each time she was face-to-face with him, and given the chance to act, she just stood there. I feel as though Gale came to see that Katniss was never going to love him, and we were allowed to see that understanding. Then he just waited for her to prove him wrong. And Katniss never did. She just let things go. And worse, she let herself think it was everyone around her pulling away from her rather than her withdrawing. Even within that final bit between her and Gale where he throws it down, that she's going to blame him regardless, there's a chance for Katniss to relent. But she does nothing. She agrees that she's going to hold him accountable for Prim's death whether or not he actually is. Meanwhile, she never gives any thought to the fact that SHE CHOSE TO COMMENCE WITH THE PUSH. That final push to the president's house was Katniss' choice, one of the only ones she makes in the entire book. And people die because of it. But she never sees that. She never owns it.

    I felt as though Gale saw Katniss as a partner in life, potentially in love. An equal. While Peeta (I did love Peeta even though I rooted for Gale) saw Katniss as the thing he loved unconditionally and eternally, regardless of how she felt about him.

    Anyone who thinks of Gale as 'going to the dark side' feel free to explain. I'd love to know why you feel this way.

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  9. This is so interesting to me. I was especially disappointed by the deaths of Finnick and Prim. I think I could live with the rest, but their deaths felt unnecessary. The big push to the capital ending with her waking up burned in a bed was disappointing - as though the whole purpose of the push was so she could kill Prim.

    I would still recommend the book and still consider this to be one of my favorite series.

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  10. I think people turn to books for heroes and heroines, to get inspiration on how to solve problems and overcome overwhelming obstacles. Don't we do that for our characters? We throw an arsenal of conflict and stumbling blocks in their paths, and show how they make it through.

    True, not all books end triumphantly. It's just inherent in my own personality to do so in all my novels. I love victory! (But perhaps because I don't do heavier themes of devastation and war, and those themes may indicate different endings.) I tend to think that if people want examples of negativity and giving up, they can look to real life instead. Writers have the opportunity to show people how to rise above the disappointments and horror of real life.

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  11. Katniss was never a likable person. She was heroic as all get-out, but if she had not stepped in to take Prim's place, no one would have wanted to hear her story.

    Also, as a person who meant so much to Katniss, we wanted Prim's death to be important and larger story event. As a character, Prim never developed much and was a very minor player, so she didn't command the screen time for a bigger death.

    Suzanne wrote the book she always intended to write. From the very first words of Hunger Games, the story was always about surviving. Not thriving, not living happily, but living to see another day. Suzanne stayed true to that. If she had suddenly given us a neat, happy ending, it would have been a betrayal to the narrative she created.

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  12. My take on Katniss agreeing to the final Hunger Games is that her agreement was a lie, part of a trick. Especially when Haymitch follows up by saying something like, "Whatever she said." I agree with some of the commenters who said that Prim's death could have been more powerful. It seemed more like a symbol than anything else. But I thought that Katniss did make choices, did choose between the two boys, and that the tone, readability, and pacing of Mockingjay was very similar to the preceding books. Overall, I was very happy with the series conclusion. I think it's very realistic that characters who have been through such traumatic events would always be marked by it and could not have a hearts-and-flowers romance.

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  13. *scrolls down quickly*

    Just stopping by to say hi, but I haven't read it yet so I'm leaving...quickly!

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  14. Fascinating survey! I agree that I was at first shocked that Katniss would agree to the Final Hunger Games, but quickly realized it was some sort of duplicity on her part (whether she even really realized it, in her state, I'm not sure).

    Overall, I really couldn't love the series more than I do, and I think the fact that everyone's dissecting it is AWESOME. :)

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  15. I was SO GLAD to see this post. I read all three books in the last week and I've been dying to dissect them with others.

    First, let me say I think Suzanne Collins is a very courageous writer. She did not step away from making difficult choices and "killing her darlings."

    Also, I thought the love triangle ended perfectly and in a believable way. Gale was a part of Katniss' past, which is why she held on to him, but they were both inevitably, irrevocably changed by the events surrounding the hunger games. Peeta loved the Katniss that went into and came out of the arena. I personally felt she loved him all along and just finally let herself realize it and act on it in the end. I didn't look at it as she didn't make a choice. She chose to let Gale go, and she chose to let herself love Peeta.

    That said, I WAS disappointed that Katniss was so passive in Mockingjay. I kept waiting for her to OWN the Mockingjay and not just the outfit, but she never did. She spent half the book lamenting all of the people that were losing their lives because of her instead of realizing that she had the chance to save so many if she would just get out of her head and into her own power.

    Although I commend Collins for making tough choices and having the courage to be ruthless with her characters, I thought having Prim die was gratuitous and contrived. I was upset about Finnick, but I could live with that because I could see the parallel to the arena again and we need to see how war is blind when it comes to who gets killed. But the whole thing with Prim was just too much. I understood that Katniss would be damaged after the war, but not rendered mute and powerless. I just didn't think Prim's death was necessary to the plot beyond shock factor. Also, I do not believe Katniss would EVER approve another Hunger Games. Seemed so out of character for her. Then the whole subject just got dropped.

    All that said, I loved the series and I do not believe the author "owes" anything to the readers. In the end, she wrote the story she wanted to tell - not necessarily the one we wanted to read.

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