Collins, Suzanne, Mockingjay, Scholastic, 2010
Hats off to Suzanne Collins; she’s an excellent storyteller. The moment the first page of Mockingjay is turned you’re whisked off into the world of the Hunger Games and plunged into the rebellion against the Capitol and President Snow seen through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Katniss Everdeen. Few authors manage to produce such a deep immersion of the reader in a story. You burst from the waters at its end and collapse on the verge gasping for air.
One newspaper critic quoted on the cover of the book praises the plot and the pace. Not satisfied that the power of Suzanne Collins storytelling lies solely in the story structure, I plunged back into the book a second time, furiously making notes to avoid being carried away again. I wanted to explore her use of words and sentences. There’s no way you can watch out for such things when fully immersed in the story. And that’s our clue. The words and sentences don’t get in the way of the flow of the story. Nothing fancy or outlandish in her choice of words or the turn of her sentences. She uses sentences of varying lengths but frequently cuts them up into shorter sentences, accelerating the rhythm. Rather like the sparing use of food in war-stricken District Thirteen, Suzanne Collins tolerates no digressions or wordiness. A reference to a past event is dismissed in one sentence. Nothing must get in the way of the flow. Personal thoughts and feelings emerge between two sentences, adding to the story. And we move on. Inexorably to the end.
Another cover snippet sees the book as thought provoking. It is indeed. Terribly so. But the continual immersion in the story leaves us as readers no place to voice emotions. No distance to think. We have no choice but to take part. The story is! And we are part of it. Only when we step outside and look back can we reflect on what is happening. This might explain why, as reader, I felt I had been taken on a ride against my will. But Suzanne Collins is careful not to alienate the reader. Even when incendiary bombs slaughter innocent children as a key twist to the plot, we shudder with the emotions but can only move forward with the story. The story is all. And we as readers give it life with our emotions.
(Credit to Frederic Kaplan for the idea of reading as immersion)