I got to read this book after all. The answer is that when we got to Idaho, my sister-in-law Sarah lent all three books to me, may her name be blessed forever.)
I promise I won't give any overt spoilers in this review. But I understand if you choose to wait to read this post until after you've read the book.
Upon finishing Mockingjay, I was left with a feeling of overwhelming sadness. Not (necessarily) sadness at the events of the book, but sadness that the book itself is over. That's how I know how much I loved not only this book, but this series. Now the only thing left in life to look forward to is a second reading, I suppose.
I take back what I said in my review of Catching Fire about this being a two-book series split into three just for the sake of it. I still think Book 2 has a stretched, unresolved feel about it but there is way more going on in Book 3 than I would have anticipated. So I forgive Ms. Collins for abandoning us where she did in Catching Fire.
I also applaud her for somehow resolving the story, via Mockingjay, in a way that did not make me want to tear my hair out. I'm not quite sure how she managed it. Going into the book, I was sure there was no possible way it could end well. A third of the way through the book, I was even more sure. Two-thirds in: there was just. no. WAY. a reader could emerged satisfied on the other side.
And yet. Here I am, on the other side, feeling OK with how everything went down. More or less. Of course there were things that I wish wouldn't have happened. Things that were hard to read. Things that made me avert my eyes from the page, take a deep breath, and then try again. Above all, there were things that were sad. And friends, I have to tell you that Mockingjay has earned itself the coveted 12th spot on the list of books that made me cry.
(But only a little bit, and only because it did that thing where it evoked sentimental images and events from the past during emotionally charged and/or physically dangerous moments, leading to a heartbreaking connection between two or more major characters, and how does Suzanne Collins even know that that gets me every time?)
Mockingjay is more complex, more imaginative, and more violent than its predecessors. Its heroine is more driven, less conflicted, and a little more grown-up than she was before. I love what Collins did with Gale. I think what she did with Peeta was brilliant. And every time I thought the plot, tension, conflict, etc. were as high as they could go, she kicked everything up a notch. Every time.
Now, because I can't resist, here are some SPOILER review points (highlight to reveal):
I have to say, I loved that Katniss finally realized that the Games hadn't clouded her perception of reality - they WERE her new reality, whether she liked it or not. Similarly, the Games and Peeta didn't push aside or derail what she had with Gale, they destroyed it. There was no way to get back on track. It is true that I kind of wish Gale were dead somehow instead of living on with his sweet job in District 2, but the more I think about it, the more I think Collins took the high, hard road on that issue. For once, a heroine was allowed to make her own decision instead of having one foisted upon her solely through tragedy, or the decisions of others.
That said, I think there were a couple of weaknesses in the story. One, I always felt like the plot point of Katniss having to marry Peeta was a little forced (in Mockingjay's defense, that mostly took place in Catching Fire.) It seemed like Collins had to work a little too hard to make us swallow that one. Second, I think the assassination of President Coin was underexploited. I could have used a little more justification there to convince me that Katniss really wasn't reduced to some ranting lunatic acting randomly.
I have no comment for now on what The Hunger Games series is supposed to be teaching us about war, or excess consumerism, or media. I just know that each book provides great food for thought on all of the above.
However, sentimental sucker that I am, The Hunger Games (Book 1) is hands-down my favorite of the three. I know Catching Fire was ingenious, and obviously Mockingjay was exhilarating, but for me, there's just no getting over that initial thrill of diving into the Games with Katniss for the first time. The wonder of seeing her life change along with everyone else's. The horror of the concept of the Games. And the repulsion of realizing you're just as drawn into the story and glued to the book as the fictional viewers in the Capitol are to their television screens. So delicious.
All right, once you've read it, tell me what you thought!