** spoiler alert **
I can't think of one other book that I've put down sometimes and exclaimed "I hate this novel" and had to pick it right back up to see what was going to happen next. The Hunger Games caught me, Catching Fire tighten the noose and Mockingjay kicked the chair out from under me and laughed while I was hanging. It is because of this that these novels are so amazing and they hold such a special place in my heart.
Collins goes farther than any other novel series I've read. She pushes all of her characters to their absolute limits, takes a step back to assess what they truly fear, and then makes it ten times worse. Just as the precious Hunger Games she created, no one escapes her brilliant cruelty. And it is because we see these characters sink to the lowest they can possible go (and way beyond) that we truly relate to them. The best part about this is no character is exempt from this rule and often times, the characters that do die are in a far better place than those who continue on.
Katniss is a complex, real heroine if I ever met one. Weighed down by each life her decisions take, she a mess trying to sort through the past two games, the destruction of her home, the capture of Peeta and the pain this causes Gale. Rather than taking this all on at once, she hides, often relying on her own form of the bottle (sleep or morphling) to take away the awful truths that have just begun to surface from her previous torment. She battles with the essential question-- how can I lead when I'm not able to face up to the consequences? No matter what she does, lives are going to be lost. She relies on her friends but her strength, her unpredictability (think the berries) and her ingrained knowledge to always question the motives of those around her are what always gives her the edge. I love that we finally get a heroine who understands what comes first. At times, her inability to figure out who she wants to love got somewhat annoying, especially since at the heart of her character she's pretty calculating and decisive, but her reasoning for being unable to think about it during such an extreme period of time make a lot of sense. After all, love has never been a necessity in District 12.
The plot wouldn't allow me to put the novel down for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this novel came right as I was going through one of those reading lags and that kept me away a bit but this in no way is the actual novel's fault. I raced through the pages (mostly to see when I was finally going to get Peeta back) and just as with the last two, could never guess where I was being lead. Every time I thought I was catching on, the twist came throwing me off the trail. Collins writes herself into a corner, pulls a brilliant hat trick and before I know it, we're out of it and moving on to the next thing. I was particularly impressed with Peeta's cruel but completely engrossing journey in this novel.
As always, I enjoyed the bare minimum style of Katniss's voice. Her descriptions of people, places and situations are always almost on a need to know bases but what I love is we get one or two amazingly perceptive details that we can file away for later and most of the time, they come into play. For instance, Gale's a hunter at heart and we know he's good with traps because that was his role to play in their hunting pair back in book one. In this book, his trapping skills come into some powerful plays and cause some pretty catastrophic, if not effective, results. I also loved that we got to finally see Prim. We saw Prim in The Hunger Games but during this time, Katniss thought of her as a child still. Mockingjay brings us a fully realized adult version of the 13 (I'm pretty sure that's her age) year old and I have to say, I'm in love with her! Katniss makes a fascinating observation about Prim saying she got the best of all the family traits-- "her mother's healing hands, her father's level head, and her [Katniss's:] fight" and then goes on to say "there's something else there as well, something entirely her own. An ability to look into the confusing mess of life and see things for what they are" (Pg. 184). For some reason, this out of all the other things Katniss observes really stuck with me and while before, Prim was just the little girl with blonde hair, she became an entire and whole character right before my eyes that I desperately wanted to know.
I've heard that there has been some discontent over the ending. I honestly can't think of a better way to end it than the way it did. Katniss finally learned the ability she credited Prim for, to pull out the truth in life, and used this knowledge to thrust the entire world back into the hands of those who really want change. After, she just is. There is no going back, no erasing the thousands of lives she feels responsible for. She can never feel completely secure because she felt that before and had everything taken from her. Katniss learned to live-- maybe not a well adjusted life-- but a life that was finally mostly in her control. The only thing I wish we'd gotten a little more of is Katniss and Peeta finally falling in love. We get this lovely little game of "real or not real" along with that memory of what the love was between them "always" but we've just spent the entire book watching Peeta not be his old lovable self and I would have liked to see a little more of that transformation to believe their new life.
In my opinion, a good book will feel good even after you close it. A great book will be there forever. A permanent part of you that you'd never dream of severing. Mockingjay, and really the entire set of books, has taken hold of me and it will never let go.
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