...jumbled within the constant drama of edit work on the upcoming release, I managed a spare couple of hours to read "Mockingjay," the third and final installment in the "Hunger Games" series, created by Suzanne Collins.
Before the read, I couldn't help but notice the negative controversy circulating BlogLand in regards to how Ms. Collins chose to wrap up her ever popular, Science Fiction series. Outraged bookworms voicing their opinions, claiming injustice after remaining forever loyal to her work. Others a bit more understanding, yet guessing that perhaps the writer wasn't sure herself on how to finish the series, thus resulting in a less than stellar performance.
And so I opened the book, having already enjoyed the first two installments, attempted to clear my mind of any bias, and returned to the land Panem, amidst a civil war, the Districts rising up against the intolerable Capital and their evil dictator, President Snow.
I finished the book a day or two later, realizing what went wrong for Collins. It wasn't how she finished the series, that one climatic moment scribed into the final fifty pages that left every reader throwing their arms into the air in blasphemy.
Nope, under normal circumstances, in any other novel, from any other writer, that scene would've not only been just fine, it would've been considered a stellar piece of fiction. The final prose was perfect, Collins's penmanship a rare beauty, her talent in storytelling unequaled in young adult fiction.
The problem revolved around the life of a girl. Seventeen. Described as anything but gorgeous. Hair a bit mousy for anyone's taste. Her legs unshaven. Thoughts of bathing put on the backburner for another day. Gifted with the reckless bravado of most men, preferring a day in the woods, armed with bow and arrow, to an afternoon in the hair salon.
And yet, her attitude, an undying loyalty to her sister, to her closest friends, a survival instinct gleaned sharper than the tips of her arrows, a simple girl from District 12, Katniss Everdeen, won over the hearts of readers from the shores of one ocean, to the faraway coast of another.
Katniss Everdeen. A girl created by Suzanne Collins, and thus, the reason behind the fallout.
Following "Hunger Games," and "Catching Fire," the love affair for Katniss shared by fellow readers had reached a point of chaos. Fan mail arriving on Collins's doorstep by the truckload, her email inbox locking up from overburdened use. Everyone congratulating her on the creation of an earthbound hero, a normal girl from the back alley who finds herself thrust into the limelight during a time of rebellion. A girl we may pass on the street without noticing. Just a girl.
Yet in those letters and emails were everyone's thoughts on how the story should end. What they would do. The final showdown between Katniss and Snow. How the war should end. Who should die. Who should fall in love in the closing moments. So many ideas. Requests by the thousands. Pressure building. A frozen pipe, its seams flexing.
I have no idea how Ms. Collins decided on the fate of Katniss Everdeen. How could anyone?
This was the question I considered after closing the book, studying the falling snow through the window next to my chair. My very own District 12. A world enslaved in ice.
How would it feel to create a character like Katniss Everdeen? A simpleton from any side street, perhaps just around the corner, a person brought to life through your very own fingertips...a person devoured by her readers. An instant celebrity. An icon for both young and old to marvel. Readers staying up at night, scouring the pages a second time, a third, restless and kicking off the sheets...wanting to be her. Would slip into her shoes in a minute if the offer were to arise, regardless of the tumultuous storyline, of the bloodshed. Just to be her. Or him. The character you created.
That's the blessing, and in itself, the curse of popularity. How to end the story? A story beloved by millions. How to keep the reader happy. How to dot that final period, in hopes of bringing tears of joy, prayers answered, the story finishing up exactly as everyone envisioned.
Pressure. Success. Together they entwine like strands of rope. As writers, it's our dream, but if not careful, our dilemma as well.
"Mockingjay" did not finish as I'd hoped. For those who've yet to read it, I won't argue the spoils and ruin the finish. Would I have done something different, were I in Collins's shoes? Probably. Could I have pulled it off? Probably not.
Regardless of how it ended, Suzanne Collins created one of the best characters I've come across in a very long time. Katniss Everdeen. Just a girl. Perfect in her struggles. Her simpleness far withstanding that family of vamps from Seattle. (Actually, I think Katniss and Edward Cullen could stir up quite an interesting plot if ever they were to cross paths during a hunt:) (See my earlier post, "Katnisssss," if curious)
As writers, that's our challenge. Creating our own Katniss Everdeen. She's in there somewhere...perhaps right on the edge of our fingertips, just aching to leap onto the page...where her story awaits.
Thanks for reading:)