In the first chapter of Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins reminds us just how terrible everything is. SAD PARTY 2011? It just might be. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.
Oh hey, are you having a good morning, noon, afternoon, evening, or night? Has it been a rather pleasant day for you? Are you thinking happy thoughts and feeling accomplished?
WELL LET SUZANNE COLLINS RUIN ABSOLUTELY ALL OF THAT.
I’m ecstatic for where Collins has taken this story, mostly because it’s so unexpected for me, especially after what I thought the book was going to be about. AND LOOK WHERE WE ARE NOW. ::pinches Mockingjay’s cheeks::
How awesome are my predictions they are pure genius already
I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house. How else could I orient myself in this sea of grey?
BACK IN DISTRICT 12 IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. Fuck yeah, FIRE TRELAWNEY I AM LIVING IN HOGWARTS NOW. I wish Hogwarts was real.
Almost nothing remains of District 12. A month ago, the Capitol’s firebombs obliterated the poor coal miners’ house in the Seam, the shops in the town, even the Justice Building. The only area that escaped incineration was the Victor’s Village.
Ok, I think it’s time for me to stop making bad jokes. Because holy shit there really is no District 12 left. I also knew once Katniss mentioned that this book starts a month after the end of Catching Fire, we were bound to be dealt some of Collins’s signature summarizing. ISN’T IT FUN.
Actually…it is. I was pleasantly surprised by how…not bothered I was by it. I know I criticized the pace in Catching Fire (WHICH I STILL STAND BY, AFTER THE FACT, FOR THE RECORD, FYI, BTW), and I think a lot of it felt weird because it took me out of the moment. However, here in Mockingjay, Collins doesn’t ever seem to take me out of Katniss’s experience inside District 12. As Katniss moves throughout her home and the town she grew up in, she uses the silence and despair to reflect on the past month. Essentially, to me, it feels natural.
Chapter one is gigantic info dump for us and Collins starts off with a whole lot of brain mush. First of all, there are authorities in District 13. So that implies there’s a whole system of organization to the government there, which probably also means there’s a whole lot of people there. And Plutarch is sort of in charge? I still don’t understand how he fits in yet, but I assume he’s working alongside those in District 13.
I also feel a lot of sympathy for Katniss, though I can’t understand the pain and anguish she’s going through. Collins spends a lot of time exploring what Katniss’s mind is going through after the events of the last novel and how that manifests itself physically for her. She’s been suffering from trouble thinking coherently and she mentions that she has also been given a steady supply of drugs to control her pain and her mood.
I’m curious how this is going to play out through the novel, so I’ll avoid saying much now, except that I imagine that Katniss is experiencing some form of post-traumatic stress disorder after her second entry into the Games. (The only reason I mention that is because I’ve suffered from it and, so far, a lot of what she describes seems the same.)
BUT IT’S EARLY SO I WON’T SAY MUCH MORE IN FEAR OF STICKING MY FOOT IN MY MOUTH.
“Katniss. Should I come down?” My best friend Gale’s voice reaches me though the headset the rebels insisted I wear. He’s up in a hovercraft, watching me carefully, ready to swoop in if anything goes amiss.
I’m sorry, this image made me laugh. And I literally cannot explain why. It just seems…silly? Not that Collins intended that or that I make any sense at all, but I am just imagining Gale with a cute headset on, sending coded messages back to the staff at the District 13 base, feeling like a totally useful spy or something, like a post-modern Inspector Gadget. Annnnnnnnnnnnddddd now I’ve lost all my readers. Great.
He understands I don’t want anyone with me today. Not even him. Some walks you have to take alone.
I use the Kindle app on my iPad to read. It has a neat feature that allows you to see passages highlighted by 50 or more other readers. It’s nice to see what other people find significant in a book. Those three sentences were highlighted by 438 people. And to those 438 people, I say:
Honestly, that last sentence is so melodramatic and frivolous that I couldn’t help but giggle wildly. SOME WALKS YOU HAVE TO TAKE ALONE. Like most of them?
Ok, enough poking fun at this. Let’s get to the real shit.
The summer’s been scorching hot and dry as a bone. There’s been next to no rain to disturb the piles of ash left by the attack. They shift here and there, in reaction to my footsteps. No breeze to scatter them. I keep my eyes on what I remember as the road, because when I first landed in the Meadow, I wasn’t careful and I walked right into a rock. Only it wasn’t a rock—it was someone’s skull. It rolled over and over and landed faceup, and for a long time I couldn’t stop looking at the teeth, wondering whose they were, thinking of how mine would probably look the same way under similar circumstances.
OH WAIT. WRONG REACTION.
YEAH. YEAH. What the hell. And, of course, it only gets worse. Turns out that those who weren’t charred immediately died of other causes while trying to escape. Their decomposing bodies litter the ground in what’s left of District 12.
You are destroying me, Collins.
But she’s also destroying Katniss. The truth is that Katniss is wrecked with guilt:
But I did. It was my arrow, aimed at the chink in the force field surrounding arena, that brought on this firestorm of retribution. That sent the whole country of Panem into chaos.
I don’t know if there’s anything I could say to counter this. Obviously, Katniss was doing what she could to stay alive. I don’t think I would ever criticize her for that. I get it. She shouldn’t have done anything differently. But she does have to deal with the fact that what she did inherently caused the bombing of District 12.
More than ninety percent of the district’s population is dead. The remaining eight hundred or so are refugees in District 13—which, as far as I’m concerned, is the same thing as being homeless forever.
NINETY PERCENT??? So, over 7,000 people died??? WHAT THE FUCK. That is far more than I anticipated. Now I completely understand why Katniss is so upset about that. Could I live with the fact that my actions caused over 7,000 people to be murdered? Fucking hell. :/
Katniss summarizes a bit more about District 13, as we learn that Gale helped a small group escape past the fence, out into the Meadow, and to Katniss’s lake house, where they watched District 13 destroyed by Capitol aircraft. (For the record, this happened just a mere FIFTEEN MINUTES after the Games ended. Fifteen minutes!!!)
District 13 to the rescue, though. I don’t know how they found the group that Gale, Katniss’s mom, and Prim were helping to take care of, but they did. And all 800 or so of the refugees from District 12 were moved underground in District 13.
District 13…well, it’s not at all what I expected. I don’t know what I think about it. They’re far more organized and rigid than what I’m used to and I’m unsure of their motives. Katniss met someone from District 10 who mentions that they’re merely gathering people to help grow their numbers due to a strange infertility issue. Ok, WHAT. I’m not sure that plan makes any sense at all, but I don’t blame anyone in this situation for being a bit paranoid.
Throughout all of this, Katniss is wandering around District 12 and finally is overwhelmed by it all, so she does something rather foolish: she heads for the Victors Village, which is completely undamaged. Which seems like a bad idea if there’s the possibility that someone in the Capitol is monitoring the place. But, again, I’m willing to cut her some slack after all this. There’s no way I could ever know how I would react in a similar situation because I can’t even conceive of it.
There in the house she spent a year in, she tries to organize her thoughts about her situation, at the persistent request by everyone around her to become the Mockingjay:
I must now become the actual leader, the face, the voice, the embodiment of the revolution. The person who the districts—most of which are now openly at war with the Capitol—can count on to blaze the path to victory. I won’t have to do it alone. They have a whole team of people to make me over, dress me, write my speeches, orchestrate my appearances—as if that doesn’t sound horribly familiar—and all I have to do is play my part.
WHAT THE FUCK. What??? How? Why? What does this even mean? First of all WHO IS SHE SPEAKING TO FOR THESE APPEARANCES? I don’t understand this at all. Also, SURELY THESE PEOPLE REALIZE HOW AWFULLY TRIGGERING THAT WOULD BE TO HER, RIGHT??? RIGHT??? Ok, probably not, since they never experienced that themselves. SO WHY. WHY.
Yesterday afternoon, as the door was closing behind me, I heard [President] Coin say, “I told you we should have rescued the boy first.”
THANKS, PRESIDENT COIN. That vote of confidence is TRULY UPLIFTING.
This whole situation is not as exciting as I had thought it would be. As Katniss continues to fret about her involvement in the rebellion and expresses her reluctance to even be a part of it, I gotta say I side with her on this one. She just survived TWO HUNGER GAMES and Peeta is captured and possibly dead and all these people want is for her to become the mouthpiece for their cause? CAN SHE LIKE TAKE A NAP OR SOMETHING? It strikes me as frighteningly narrow and, frankly, quite rude.
Never did I think that the rebellion would piss me off. Bravo, Collins.
I’m going to skip over the return of Buttercup (WHICH IS QUITE BEAUTIFUL, I MIGHT ADD) and go right to the horrifying discovery that Katniss makes inside that house.
My nose twitches. It’s the smell. Cloying and artificial. A dab of white peeks out of a vase of dried flowers on my dresser. I approach it with cautious steps. There, all but obscured by its preserved cousins, is a fresh white rose. Perfect. Down to the last thorn and silken petal.
And I know immediately who’s sent it to me.
My thoughts immediately went here: OH MY GOD, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, HE’S BEHIND YOU, which is kind of irrational. But oh well. That’s not what it meant. It was merely a sign left by Snow, who anticipated that Katniss would return to her home, even for a brief moment. And as Katniss quickly returns to the hovercraft that holds Gale, we learn what that rose truly means to her:
Positioned on my dresser, that white-as-snow rose is a personal message to me. It speaks of unfinished business. It whispers, I can find you. I can reach you. Perhaps I am watching you now.
And I will leap out from this closet and drink your blood!
No, wait, ok, the vampire theory is silly. Still, that would be pretty cool, right? Mockingjay is totally secretly about vampires, right? RIGHT???