Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.
Thoughts: I’ve now followed Katniss’s tale from beginning to end, and I can safely say that I understand what all the fuss has been about all this time.
Katniss returns to her role as the semi-willing catalyst for revolution, only this time it’s far more direct, having been rescued by those in the secret District 13. Katniss is turned into the face of rebellion, central to the propaganda used to incite others to join the fight against the Capitol, and unsurprisingly, feels like she’s being used for entertainment just as much as she ever was while participating in the Hunger Games to begin with. But she’s not the type to take things sitting down, and her refusal to stay away from the front lines of battle make her loved by those who can help her, and hated by those who are in power… on both sides of the line.
Katniss spends a good chunk of this book either suffering from PTSD or recovering from injury, and while that’s definitely high on the realism scale, it doesn’t always make for the most interesting read. I had started to play a little game with myself, predicting how certain situations would go. Katniss would demand to go help somebody, make a speech, get injured, spend time in the hospital, then go hide in a closet for a while. It’s clear that Collins did some heavy research into how untreated post-traumatic stress disorder can affect people, and I have to give her serious commendations for that, but when you can turn Katniss’s reactions into a slight running gag because the same routine plays out at least three times, maybe it’s time to cut back on those scenes a little.
Collins also managed to sum up the entirety of war within this book, quite skillfully. Lots of propaganda, and long periods of boredom followed by bursts of mind-numbing terror.
One very interesting point about this book is that it stays very true to the notion of casualties of war. In many stories, you know that the people surrounding the main character are all going to live, with the possible exception of one or two of them, who will die in such a way as to spur the main character on to more decisive action. Not so here. In addition to a very literal “rocks fall, everyone dies” situation, Collins makes it clear that no named character is really safe. Characters you’ve come to know and love end up dying, sometimes in a way that can spur Katniss on, but most of the time they die in the background, providing a distraction so that Katniss can get away. If there are any characters you really like, be prepared for the chance that they won’t make it to the end of the series.
Katniss also gets the chance to really evaluate whose side she’s on, and comes to the conclusion that she’s really only on her own side. Flanked by the Capitol, who wants her dead, and the leader of District 13, who wants to use her and then kill her when she’s outlived her usefulness, Katniss ends up using District 13 as much as they’re using her. They provide her with training and access to get her revenge on President Snow, but she makes no secret of her dislike for President Coin or her methods. It’s an interesting situation from the reader’s standpoint, and underscores the fact that in war, “good” is often subjective, and therein brings the debate of whether the end really does justify the means.
I know some people reading this are waiting for my take on Katniss’s romantic situation, and here it is: I want to smack Gale. Not because I think that Katniss should end up with Peeta, but because of his reaction to realizing that he wouldn’t be the one she chose. He basically takes the standpoint of, “There’s nothing here for me, so goodbye.” He tosses aside their years of friendship because he isn’t going to be the one Katniss falls in love with. Yes, he had a point when he said that Katniss may never be able to stop wondering whether it was his plan that killed a bunch of children, including Katniss’s sister, but the way he doesn’t associate with her again really puts forward the impression that his romantic feelings for Katniss were actually more important to him than her safety, happiness, or their history together. Peeta tried to kill Katniss with his bare hands. More than once. And she still forgave him and managed to live with him. Gale’s reaction seemed ultimately selfish and shallow, and given the character development he had over the course of the series, I really didn’t think he had that in him.
While I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as the rest of the series, it was still a fantastic novel, and a spectacular conclusion to the trilogy that ignited the fires of justice in many young hearts. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend that you do.
(Book borrowed from Lendle.)