MOCKINGJAY (The Hunger Games #3)
This review contains no spoilers.
Katniss Everdeen has faced death more times than she can count. She's survived not one, but two Hunger Games, and has become the poster girl for a revolution. But her survival and her unwanted celebrity status have come at a price: she has lived while others have died in her name and at her hand, and that is a heavy burden to bear.
In the wake of the first public wave of the revolution, Katniss finds herself ensconced in District 13, once thought to be annihilated by the Capitol for it's defiance. Her family and best friend Gale are safe, but Peeta Mellark remains in enemy hands, and Katniss is struggling with his absence.
The revolution needs her. Her family needs her. Peeta needs her. Everyone needs something from her, but Katniss only has so much left to give. There are few around her whom she can trust, and a war is brewing whether she wants it to or not. It's time for her to make a decision that will irrevocably change the face of Panem forever.
Intense doesn't seem to be an adequate enough description for the final installment of this profound trilogy. It starts out a little slow, almost as though Collins is giving us time to fully grasp the enormity of the decision Katniss must make, and is allowing us to catch our breath before Katniss chooses to either embrace her public persona, or fade into the background while the rebels surge forward without her. Collins is certainly not one to coddle her readers or cocoon us in a protective bubble with vague allusions to violence and promises of a better life. No, she thrusts the savagery and cruelty of a society that would sacrifice it's own children for sport right in our faces so that we cannot defensively shield our eyes, but must remain riveted to the page as the horrors unfold one after the other.
Katniss is a changed woman. She still stokes the fires of rebellion with a relentless fervor, but the strength of her conviction seems to have waned, replaced now by confusion and weariness. She's escaped the physical arena only to be catapulted into a political one where the attacks are stealthier and more insidious, the enemy less recognizable, and the endgame nearly impossible to ascertain. No matter which direction she looks, she is but a pawn in someone else's ploy. She's the essential piece in a war not of her making, yet one where responsibility can be ultimately laid at her feet. Her mind is constantly churning, the questions are endless, and those she thought she knew best reveal new colors.
This story is dark. Light is not a luxury Katniss, nor the reader, is afforded. We are confined to underground tunnels with her, and together we all frantically try to claw our way out of the suffocating blackness and find a sliver of hope to which to cling. But we aren't given one. That hope is continually just out of reach, there are no breadcrumbs to follow that lead to home and safety, and there is no guarantee that any of the characters we so love will live to see the end result of their fighting. To be so fully submerged in such desolation is disorienting, unnerving, and completely mesmerizing. It's thrilling to not know which way is up, who to trust, or who will lay down their life for their cause.
My only wish for this story is that Katniss own her emotions a little more. For so long she's been told what to wear, what to say, who to be attracted to, who to stay away from, and ultimately who to be for the camera that's it's robbed her of the ability to decide for herself. We got brief moments of real, genuine emotion from Katniss with regards to Peeta and Gale in the previous novels, and I was hoping that she would step up in this last book, disregard the cameras and the prep teams, and take control of her feelings so that no one else could lay claim to them ever again. She ultimately does make a romantic decision in the end, but it lacks the confidence she shows in other areas.
Though the story is bleak and by the end of her ordeal Katniss's blazing fire has been forcibly extinguished, we are left with the knowledge that the embers have yet to lose their warmth and with the right conditions and a little coaxing, a new flame might flicker to life.