Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mockingjay: Readers Report

READER’S REPORT (for publisher)
(Note: I'm experimenting with different styles and this is my version of what I would have said to the publisher, had they given me Mockingjay to critique before publication).

Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games series is set in a post-apocalyptic world, controlled by the iron fist of the Capitol government. Each year, the Capitol takes two children from each District to fight in the ‘Hunger Games’ — a battle to the death where only one child will survive. Mockingjay is the third and final book in the series. It is narrated from the point of view of the heroine, Katniss, and divided in to three parts.

In Mockingjay, the Capitol has led the other districts to believe that District Thirteen has been destroyed. The people of District Thirteen are planning a resistance against the Capitol and Katniss has unwittingly become the voice and image of the resistance. Here she changes from a strong, young woman — determined to look after her family whatever the costs — to a broken shell struggling to cope with daily life.

Collins skilfully creates a world on the brink of cultural and political revolution. Her use of first-person perspective in the present tense pulls the reader straight into the action and is a powerful writing tool for a book of this scope. The persuasive tone of the writing and themes suggests a comparison to cultural and political revolution in our own world.

Mockingjay is aimed at the young-adult fantasy-fiction market. It will sell to teenage and adult fans of the series. It is comparable to the Harry Potter and Twilight series; both of which have had success with the young-adult and the adult market.

Readers of Mockingjay may expect Katniss to build on the strength and leadership she displayed in the first two books of the trilogy. Instead, the story has a thematic shift as Katniss experiences a mental breakdown when she sees the effects of war on her friends and family. She spends part one of the book examining her beliefs and coming to terms with the effects of her actions. 

Katniss is often reactive, letting other characters drive the action. It is frustrating when Katniss, the narrator of the book, is not driving the action. In this case, it slows the pace until part three, where some themes explored in part one and two of Mockingjay are not given space to develop. I suggest having another main character narrate from a different point of view to drive the action and plot forward.

The pace may be improved by restructuring Mockingjay. The rescue of Peta (Katniss’s love interest) occurs in chapter twelve, part two, and the backstories of secondary characters are developed in part one. I suggest beginning the book at chapter twelve, and transposing the backstories of secondary characters to part two. Part three could be better developed, as the ending feels rushed.

There is a disappointing absence of hope in Mockingjay; a theme that was present in the first two books of the series. Mockingjay will sell, based on the success of The Hunger Games, but I doubt readers will be satisfied with Katniss’s development, or the rushed ending.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Kitty Love-struck

 This week I’ve been getting better acquainted with my neighbour Jess’s cat, Skitch. He’s a gorgeous Russian Blue, and one of the most friendly and laid-back cats I’ve met.

I’m allergic to cats, but this kitty doesn’t give me even the smallest of sniffles.  He’s polite to the point of not giving me a reaction.  When dinner time comes around though, wow, this little guy has one loud and demanding meow on him.

One of his favourite games is hiding behind my bedroom door and swiping at my fingers as I poke them through the hinge (holding carefully onto the doorframe). He can do this for ages and I find him so delightful that I’m happy to oblige for a good long while.

He’s not even a bit scared of water (although he doesn’t much like being cold). When it rains I often see him padding through it from my window, happy as the lark or rat he’s planning on catching. If I leave the door ajar to the bathroom when I’m having a shower, he’ll come in and watch the water, holding his paw out to catch it.

If I’m out in the garden he’ll sashay up to me and watch whatever I’m doing. When I water the plants he jumps on the side of the pots to watch the water bubbling up—dipping his paw in every so often. He really is an extraordinary cat.

I recently wrote a short script about a young girl and her cat, called Cat. Skitch was definitely my muse for this creative pursuit. Having a lovely cat like him around gave me a cat-ish personality to work with, for the kitty in my script. He’s been a wonderful study partner, too.

It’s nice to come home to someone who’s really keen to see me (even if he’s also really keen to see the person with the food). Right now he’s sharing the heater with me, and tonight he’ll probably sneak in and share the end of the bed. I think I’m cat-love-struck. If this is what crazy-cat-lady feels like, bring it on! Just, maybe, one cat at a time?