My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I found this book disturbing in its depression. In Harry Potter, we are taught the healing, protective and redeeming power of love while in this book it shows you how love can break you. When the only person Katniss was certain she loved dies, Katniss fell over the proverbial edge. Coupled with her experience in the Games and how all the deaths and guilt have changed her, she became a broken individual.
The Hunger Games may have started as the reality-show-free-for-all-Battle-Royale, but it ended in a war between the Capitol and the districts with Katniss as the unwilling Face of the Revolution. (Katniss refers to the war as the Game). The person Katniss was at the end was broken–mentally, emotionally, physically. In an act of defiance she killed someone important to the cause. Of course, by doing so, President Snow (Capitol) still won a part of the Game. By exposing ****’s plot to Katniss, he was able to get rid of her through Katniss. It’s not like he was ever going to get back in power but I bet the moment Katniss turned on **** filled his want for revenge against 13. ‘Til the very end, Katniss was a pawn. A game they play in the book to distinguish illusion from reality became ironic as she herself, so broken at the end, could barely tell the difference between the two.
As for action, it was a bit lacking since Katniss as a pawn meant that she was to be virtually unharmed. Even in the climax of the war, Katniss got taken out of commission and did not fulfill what she had initially set out to do.
I’ve mentioned (in my review of Catching Fire) that sometimes it feels like emotional manipulation with Peeta and the epilogue didn’t help dispel my thoughts. For fifteen years, he begged Katniss for children. Not pleaded, not asked, not talked over with. The use of the word ‘beg’ gives me goosebumps because Katniss is helpless to people who beg, helpless to people who are in pain (Gale hints at this, that Katniss will only show affection to those who are in pain and there are several examples that solidify this throughout the three books–particularly when they are dying or tortured).
I also feel that Gale was not given enough credit or character development. For a character who has been present since the first book, this is the only book where his character is explored. And what we saw is a man who has seen enough hurt caused by a greater power and wishes to end it and is willing to fight using the same standards that have been used against them. He stood on no moral high ground because he knew what it took to win, and believed that in winning, things will be better. Here we have someone who has the capacity to care about family, friends, neighbors and the future. Unfortunately, we saw the story from Katniss’ point of view, and at this point, Katniss was outgrowing her childhood friend.
For two people who were in the same position of feeding their families at a young age, being partners in crime, knowing each other inside and out and helping each other survive for four years, their friendship took a downturn in this book. Why? I don’t get why either. A lot of characters–her friends–have Gale’s mindset in the books–Beetee, Haymitch, Johanna, Boggs–but it’s only Gale she got annoyed with at this book from beginning to end. Was it contrived to get Katniss out of the so-called “love triangle” the author put her in? I think so. Their friendship took its final toll when Katniss blamed Gale for coming up with the idea that the head of the rebel forces used to end the war and when Katniss forgets to shoot Gale at a crucial moment and vice-versa. Katniss released a pessimistic thought about this, “Sorry excuses for hunters and friends. Both of us. I’m on my own.” It feels contrived to me, a final break deployed by the author. I wonder why she didn’t think that these two people, who have been inseparable, best friends for years, knew each other inside out and have essentially been helping each other (and their families) live and survive for years after their father’s deaths, and “had each other’s backs”, would not be able to kill each other because doing so would be against everything they’ve gotten used to. They helped each other hunt food to survive. They shared what they had. And in a span of two minutes, did the author think they could honestly summon enough bravado to kill each other? When all those years, they have been trying to keep each other alive?
Katniss’ final bitter thought about Gale ‘probably already kissing another pair of lips’ just irked me. Not because I ship them together, but it feels so out of place and once again put there by the author to stamp Gale out of the “love triangle”. (I’m sorry, but I will keep putting quotation marks over that phrase becuase it was a sad excuse for one and wasn’t needed for the story). And if anything, Gale’s life may not have revolved around a single person and he may not have loved her upon first sight (for which he already earns 10,000 points for each in my book) but he did love her and Collins putting that sentence there just demeans it.
All in all, this book was an intriguing end to the series. It was despondent and had little hope after the war. It could be a realistic take on war heroes–or not. I was surprised the mass grave did not even have a memorial or tombstone or anything to remember the other residents of Twelve. (Are the dead not worthy of being remembered? Do the current citizens of 12 already wish to forget what cost them their freedom?) I also found it confusing that some characters–who had no penchant for survival–managed to live, while other characters who have been through hell and back were suddenly taken out of commission. That said, this book had the singular death which I legitimately sobbed over.
I gave it a 2 out of 5–“It’s ok” on Goodreads–because it didn’t match up in terms of suspense and action with her first two books. It was quite boring at times, although the morality and philosophical discussions were enjoyable. Then you can add the death/s–some of which weren’t needed to advance the plot or even to show war casualties–; the falling out of a friendship that honestly didn’t need to happen; And I guess it jarred me to see how sad it became for Katniss in the end, from being this great female spitfire character, lost all that in the end to become a broken shell of the girl she once was. It’s a very unconventional ending and I did appreciate how that that turn of events to show us how a heroine does not always get a happy ending.
There were also a ton of underdeveloped characters (both main, tributes, and some friends) in the series and I wish we could’ve gotten to know more about them