Wow. Just finished it. I'm still reeling and trying to make sense of it all. This was a journey. A burtal, heart wrenching, beautiful journey full of all the vunerabilities of what it is to be human. It stripes away the idea of glory and leaves behind a raw visage of the darkness that is war. It was impacting and breathtaking and my hat is off to Ms. Collins for having the courage to not write a simple, pretty tale to appeal to today's youth, but a complex, visceral powerhouse that is, in my mind, important to read during our current time of warfare.
I've never been one of these Team Peeta/Team Gale people... the whole Team This/Team That thing, in fact, pisses me off. I'm not interesting in such shallow musings. I want to get to the core. To the heart of the ideas and themes the author is presented. If you are more focused on teenage love triangles, have fun reading any number of vapid, inane paranomral romances out there. That's not what this story is about though. It's about looking into the human heart. No bravado. No glory. Just an honest, hard look at the nature of humanity.
There were some big surprises for me but I like that. I like that the author dared to be unpredicatable. There was no safety. Prim's death, in particular, took be by surprise. It was a huge blow to my heart.
I'm sure it wasn't the safe, pretty happily ever after many people wanted. I'm sure plenty out there wanted Katniss to embrace her role as Mockingjay. Wanted her to become some idolized Robin Hood. I'm glad that didn't happen. I'm glad they showed the darker side. I'm glad she was kept as a very real and believable teenager. She was a normal girl in extraoridnary circumstances with an insane will to survive. Katniss is such a refreshing antidote to all the lame, asinine, doe-eyed Mary Sue's in YA literature out there.
I am content with the end and if I think about it, it was the most satisfying option. To make it a happily ever after (as much as I adore fairy tales) wouldn't be right. But if there had been a complete robbing of victory, I also would have felt cheated and that it was all in vain. Instead we get a bittersweet middleground.
My only complaint is that I would have liked to have a bit more closure as to exactly what happened with Gale, Annie, Enobaria, and Beetee. I also was really hoping that Cinna would show up since his death was only rumored. I loved Cinna, so I was so sad when I realized at the end that he really was dead, just like Madge. Most authors would have those characters come back in some way, but I think it's brave that she had them actually be dead. So as much as I would have liked to have seen Cinna, I praise the author's bravery for sticking to her guns.
All in all, a fantastic journey. Thank you, Ms. Collins. Finally a series with a truly satisflying end.
EDIT: 9/13/10 (Spoiler heavy)
Now that I've had a few days to stew over the book and read some reviews, I had to bump down my original 5 stars to 4 stars, because I relaized that there were too many unsatisfying elements and wonkiness to not go unnoticed.
After reading the reviews of others, I noticed that the main elements readers disliked were Katniss's overall demeanor throughout the book, the lack of closure to several characters deaths, the slow pacing and, of course, Peeta "winning out" over Gale. So I wanted to address these issues now that I've had time to think it all over.
I do think Katniss did not become who many fans wanted her to become. She was in a very introverted/PTSD style shell shock throughout most of the book - crawling away from reality on a consistent basis. While I do understand that it can be disheartening for her to never really embrace her role of Mockingjay, I think it was interesting that Collins choose to show a darker side of what this situation does to a young person. So I think she opted for realism as opposed to the normal heroics one would expect. I like that she choose a different and unexpected angle, but I think this combined with the slow pace made the book drag. There really is too much time spent with Katniss being emotionally stunted. While, that is consistent with her personality, we never see her blossom or grow. She becomes stagnent and its hard to connect to her after a while. She doesn't ever truly become a likeable character in the end. An interesting one, for sure. But likeable? No. She becomes hard to empathetize with after a while and I think that caused many of the fan base to disconnect from the character after a while. I think this could have been solved by having less time focused on her constant emotionally turmoil and get more to action and other characters in her world. The pace was just too slow. Things don't pick up until the very end. And by then it's a bit too late.
Off screen character deaths. Yeah, the more I think about this one, the more unsatistified I feel. Espeically in regards to Cinna. As "realistic" as it may be, I feel cheated out of closure. I really wanted to see this character again. Get a final goodbye. The same goes for Madge and Finnick. I think we all wanted a bit more closure for them and never got it.
The Peeta-Gale situation didn't phase me. I didn't care one way or the other, to be honest. Agin, I don't buy into the whole "Team-This"/"Team-That" mentality. As long as things made sense, I was fine. And I am fine with Katniss ending up with Peeta, actually. I think the breakdown of Katniss and Gale's realtionship was heartbreaking and realistic. Gale hits the nail on the head when he says that he knows it would always be in the back of her mind that Gale may be responsible for Prims death. He knows that is something she will never be able to shake, and Katniss does too. That is a rift too far. She doesn't cast him off, it's just something that she'll never be able to not think about. It's very sad, but I think it's very truthful and honest. In the end, I think Peeta was what Katniss needed. She needed to be nutured, and Peeta gave her that. In the end, it was probably the healthiest decision.
One huge problem I had was with Katniss's decision to continue one last Game. It seemed completely out-of-character for her. It really made no sense. I tried to make sense of it and the only thing I can think about is that she did it to lower Coin's defenses so that Coin would be an easy target to kill. And being killed off so quickly, Coin would never have the chance to announce the plan. However, this whole thing was left unresolved, so we never know if the Games happened or not, nor do we have any clear knowledge of why Katniss made her decision because it's the only time the author doesn't take us into her head. And it's the most crucial point. We NEEDED to be in her head to know exactly why she made that decision. It was vital, but something we never get. It was a HUGE mistake on the authors part and can make Katniss even more unlikeable than she already was.
Overall, I don't think this was perfect. It was much weaker than the previous two. I think Hunger Games started off with a bang and then slipped away a bit in Catching Fire with Mockingjay being the weakest of the triology. I would rate this a 3.5, but since that's not an option I am going with a 4 because I still find the writing quality and the overall message and themes to be very gripping and kept me glued. And really any book that fuels this much discussion deserves some recognition.
In the end, though, I still enjoyed it. However, I felt I needed to address the areas that were lacking that I left out in my original review. It wasn't perfect, and I would have liked more out of it, but I enjoyed the the honesty and I enjoyed the overall ending. So while I am not completely satisfied, I am content.
Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know... 9 months after my last edit and I'm making another edit....but, I feel as if I need to. I feel awful, but I think I need to bump down the rating to two stars. After talking it over with so many people over these past few months, I just can't justify a high rating. My main problem lying with that fact that I don't think that Katniss nor Peeta were present in the book. They just weren't -them-. Katniss never really developed and she was in the hospital more than anything else. She never sh*t or got off the pot, so to say. Her character growth became so stunted. She never really stepped up and choose her path, but rather drifted around passively and sat in the hospital for most of the book whining and being miserable. She just didn't become a likeable character. I wanted to see her transform and become...more. And Peeta? Don't get me started. He wasn't in the book. That wasn't Peeta. It reminds me of the last season of Buffy when whoever the heck those writers were totally changed Xander's character. Same thing here. Peeta was just not himself. And I do get that it's about the harshness of war and all that. But with so many deaths occuring either offscreen or glazed over so quickly... and with so many loose character stories never really resolved (Cinna and Madge being the two biggest, IMO) ... with all things considered...I dunno. I just feel that the end was rather unsatisfying. Not that I wanted it to end happily ever after and have everything be all sunshine and smiles... but I just don't think there was enough of a resolution nor character devlopment which I think we the readers were due.
The writing is still brillant. Collins is a master wordsmith, no doubt. But I just can't overlook the dissatified feeling I get when I think of how unresolved everything is.