Mark Reads ‘Mockingjay’: Chapter 26

In the twenty-sixth chapter of Mockingjay, HOW THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING OH MY GOD I AM NEVER GOING TO RECOVER FROM THIS BOOK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.

Out in the hall, I find Paylor standing in exactly the same spot. “Did you find what you were looking for?” she says.

JESUS CHRIST THIS IS SO LOADED WITH SUBTEXT AND MEANING AND I SERIOUSLY WANT TO CLIMB INTO BED AND CUDDLE THE SHIT OUT OF MY BLANKET AND BASICALLY SLEEP FOR A WEEK SO I NEVER HAVE TO FACE THIS EVER AGAIN.

My god, Suzanne Collins, this is so depressing. Beyond depressing. I’m gutted. What you have done here is so unbelievably poetic IN THE WORST WAY POSSIBLE. I mean…this is some deep shit. And I don’t mean that facetiously, either. The way you have just twisted the rebel leadership to be no better than the Capitol…my god. You are a genius.

Somebody hold me.

Strangely, Katniss seems unable to figure out if Snow is telling the truth. However, I get the sense that deep down, she knows he is right. The actions are simply too absurd for the Capitol, and that’s saying a lot.

Suddenly, I’m thinking of Prim, who was not yet fourteen, not yet old enough to be granted the title of soldier, but somehow working on the front lines. How did such a thing happen? That my sister would have wanted to be there, I have no doubt. That she would be more capable than many older than she is a given. But for all that, someone very high up would have had to approve putting a thirteen-year-old in combat. Did Coin do it, hoping that losing Prim would push me completely over the edge? Or, at least, firmly on her side? I wouldn’t even have had to witness it in person. Numerous cameras would be covering the City Circle. Capturing the moment forever.

To be honest, I’d not even considered the possibility. I’d just assumed that it was coincidence that Prim was there, a form of commentary on Collins’s part about how war in unpredictable, brutish, and nasty. But now, I’m thinking about how sadistic and uncaring Coin and Plutarch have been this whole time. This now seems like an entirely plausible (and completely awful) possibility.

Desperate to help figure out the ramifications of what President Snow just told her, Katniss realizes there’s really only one person left for her to talk to: Haymitch. She can’t face Gale, knowing it may have been his bomb that killed Prim, and she doesn’t think burdening Peeta with this will help him at all. (That’s actually pretty considerate of her.)

We learn Haymitch is also living in the mansion and has resumed living in his normal squalor of rotting food, broken furniture, and alcohol. Katniss greets him with a familiar routine, too: waking him up with a pitcher of water. Unfortunately, the conversation is an instant disaster.

“I need your help,” I say.

Haymitch belches, filling the air with white liquor fumes. “What is it, sweetheart? More boy trouble?” I don’t know why, but this hurts me in a way Haymitch rarely can. It must show on my face, because even in his drunken state, he tries to take it back. “Okay, not funny.” I’m already at the door. “Not funny! Come back!” By the thud of his body hitting the floor, I assume he tried to follow me, but there’s no point.

It just all hurts at this point. I feel like Collins has brought all of her characters, all the people we’ve come to enjoy and cherish and even be annoyed by, to a point where they are damaged by the events of the past two years that there’s little chance they’ll escape the pain and the anguish of the Capitol. Even though the rebels won, Collins made sure to show us that it was not a cure-all to everyone’s emotional, physical, and mental ailments. That’s going to take a whole lot more.

The encounter with Snow opens the door to my old repertoire of nightmares. It’s like being stung by tracker jackers again.

As a reader, I just feel helpless. I want Katniss to be happy, more than anything else right now, and I can’t do a thing. Collins, you are making this one difficult read. It doesn’t get a bit easier when, later that day, Katniss is visited by a few surprise guests.

I rise and reach for a towel to smother it, when there’s a tentative knock and the bathroom door opens, revealing three familiar faces. They try to smile at me, but even Venia can’t conceal her shock at my ravaged mutt body.

OH MY GOD KATNISS’S PREP TEAM SURVIVED!!!!! Oh my god A HAPPY MOMENT. I WILL ACCEPT IT. I DON’T CARE.

“Surprise!” Octavia squeaks, and then bursts into tears. I’m puzzling over their reappearance when I realize that this must be it, the day of the execution. They’ve come to prep me for the cameras.

How horrifically ironic is this? Katniss went to the Capitol to kill Snow so she’d never have to participate in this charade again. And here she is, about to execute President Snow and she has to get made up again.

Fucked up. This is so fucked up.

In the bedroom, I find another surprise. Sitting upright in a chair. Polished from her metallic gold wig to her patent leather high heels, gripping a clipboard. Remarkably unchanged except for the vacant look in her eyes.

“Effie,” I say.

Ok, so I was literally in such a fragile state from the shock and terror of this book that when I read this, I almost burst into tears at the very concept that Effie was still alive. Good god, I missed her so much.

“Hello, Katniss.” She stands and kisses me on the cheek as if nothing has occurred since our last meeting, the night before the Quarter Quell. “Well, it looks like we’ve got another big, big, big day ahead of us. So why don’t you start your prep and I’ll just pop over and check on the arrangements.”

“Okay,” I say to her back.

“They say Plutarch and Haymitch had a hard time keeping her alive,” comments Venia under her breath. “She was imprisoned after your escaped, so that helps.”

Oh, Effie. So much suffering. UGH SERIOUSLY, I AM SO FUCKING SAD RIGHT NOW.

No, wait, I’m not. Before we get to more sad, I had to laugh at this.

“I brought you this.” Gale holds up a sheath. When I take it, I notice it holds a single, ordinary arrow. “It’s supposed to be symbolic. You firing the last shot of the war.”

“What if I miss?” I say. “Does Coin retrieve it and bring it back to me? Or just shoot Snow through the head herself?”

LOL LOL LOL I WOULD LITERALLY ASK THE EXACT SAME QUESTION BECAUSE I WOULD SERIOUSLY MISS. Oh god, thank you for this part so much, Collins.

“You won’t miss.”

Oh. Done with the LOLs.

“You didn’t come see me in the hospital.” He doesn’t answer, so finally I just say it. “Was it your bomb?”

“I don’t know. Neither does Beetee,” he says. “Does it matter? You’ll always be thinking about it.”

He waits for me to deny it; I want to deny it, but it’s true. Even now I can see the flash that ignites her, feel the heat of the flames. And I will never be able to separate that moment from Gale. My silence is the answer.

“That was the one thing I had going for me. Taking care of your family,” he says. “Shoot straight, okay?” He touches my cheek and leaves.

ENDLESS. FUCKING. TEARS. I can’t even. I just want to sob for days. THERE’S STILL MORE TO THIS BOOK AND I’M ALREADY A FUCKING WRECK.

And this is when Collins does something that is so shocking, so mind-numbing, that I had to put down the book and take a walk because it upset me so much. Before taken to the execution, Katniss is lead to a room where there are six other people: Peeta, Johanna, Beetee, Haymitch, Annie, and Enobaria. They are the only seven surviving rebel victors. Coin arrives to announce what’s going on: Snow’s execution is just in a few hours. Hundreds of people are awaiting their execution. But Coin worries that this is not enough for the victims, that it is not enough to even remotely make up for the suffering the citizens of Panem have gone through. She does not want to kill all Capitol citizens, out of fear of being unable to sustain a population. She proposes her idea:

“So, an alternative has been placed on the table. Since my colleagues and I can come to no consensus, it has been agreed that we will let the victors decide. A majority of four will approve the plan. No one may abstain from the vote,” says Coin. “What has been proposed is that in lieu of eliminating the entire Capitol population, we have a final, symbolic Hunger Games, using children directly related to those who held the most power.”

no no NO NO NO NO!!!!! ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS!?!?!?!?@?!?!?!?!? THAT WAS THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF THE GODDAMN WAR OH MY GOD I THINK I JUST DROOLED ALL OVER MYSELF IN HORROR

THERE IS NO WORSE PLOT TWIST IN THE HISTORY OF PLOT TWIST. WHAT THE FUCK, COIN. HOW COULD YOU ASK THESE PEOPLE THAT. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. OH MY FUCKING GOD.

“Are you joking?” asks Peeta.

RIGHT?!?!!?!?!?!?! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!

“Was this Plutarch’s idea?” asks Haymitch.

“It was mine,” says Coin. “It seemed to balance the need for vengeance with the least loss of life. You may cast your votes.”

“No!” bursts out Peeta. “I vote no, of course! We can’t have another Hunger Games!”

“Why not?” Johanna retorts. “It seems very fair to me. Snow even has a granddaughter. I vote yes.”

“So do I,” says Enobaria, almost indifferently. “Let them have a taste of their own medicine.”

WHAT THE HOLY SHIT FUCK DAMN FUCK WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING. YOU GUYS HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. WHAT ARE YOU DOING??????

I CAN HARDLY BREATHE.

“This is why we rebelled! Remember?” Peeta looks at the rest of us. “Annie?”

“I vote no with Peeta,” she says. “So would Finnick if he were here.”

“But he isn’t, because Snow’s mutss killed him,” Johanna reminds her.

“No,” says Beetee. “It would set a bad precendent. We have to stop viewing one another as enemies. At this point, unity is essential for our survival. No.”

Three against two. Oh god, Katniss and Haymitch, please don’t vote yes. Katniss realizes that this must have been what happened seventy-five years before, with people arguing over murdering children just like this. This is exactly it. History is repeating itself.

I weigh my options carefully, think everything through. Keeping my eyes on the rose, I say, “I vote yes…for Prim.”

No. Katniss. No. You can’t do it. Oh my god, my heart just shattered into a trillion pieces. Please don’t get revenge like this. Please don’t murder children to get back at Snow.

A furious Peeta hammers Haymitch with the atrocity he could become party to, but I can feel Haymitch watching me. This is the moment, then. When we find out exactly just how alike we are, and how much he truly understands me.

“I’m with the Mockingjay,” he says.

I can’t. I cannot even. In a million years, I would have never guessed this ending. They have come full circle to continue the very thing they have been fighting to end. I can’t. I cannot deal with this.

There’s no time to mull over the dull terror spreading through me as Katniss is rushed through prep and taken outside the mansion to the City Circle, the same place where she watched her sister burned alive. Only now it’s frigid, freezing cold from the winter air, and I can’t help but feel that the contrast in weather/temperature is a commentary on how frozen these people’s hearts have all become. This is the tragedy to end all tragedies. My god.

I feel the bow purring in my hand. Reach back and grasp the arrow. Position it, aim at the rose, but watch his face. He coughs and a bloody dribble runs down his chin. His tongue flicks over his puffy lips. I search his eyes for the slightest sign of anything, fear, remorse, anger.

It’s really happening. The end is here. And I do not feel any surge of joy or ecstasy over the murder of Snow. Instead, I feel dead inside. This solves nothing, the war was fought to perpetuate the same ideals as before, just to a new “enemy.” I’m reminded of when I cheered so hard for Cato to get killed and then felt awful when he was.

But there’s only the same look of amusement that ended our last conversation. It’s as if he’s speaking the words again. “Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.”

He knows. He knows that he won. He knows that this is a pointless gesture. Jesus christ.

He’s right. We did.

The point of my arrow shifts upward. I release the string. And President Coin collapses over the side of the balcony and plunges to the ground. Dead.

WHAT.

THE.

FUCK..

I’m sorry. This is worst plot twist in the history of all plot twist. I am in complete shock.

NEVER. PREPARED. EVER.

A quick note about next week’s scheduling. Here’s how it will go down:

Monday, March 7: Chapter 27
Tuesday, March 8: Epilogue/Final Thoughts/Series Wrap-Up
Friday, March 11: The beginning of Mark Reads The Book Thief

EXCITE!!!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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