Like Hunger Games and Catching Fire, this book is gripping. Page-turning, intense, and best read in one sitting, since everything else in life will have to take a backseat to Katniss, Gale, and the rebellion that is poised to overturn the tyrannical Capitol, putting a stop to the oppression.
For the most part, there is much to like. Katniss — when she’s not drugged, injured or in the hospital — is still an engaging character. Strong, willful, and unlikely to be controlled, she will handle her role in the rebellion her own way, shunning the scripts that others want her to follow. Initially, the direction the rebellion is taking, and Gale’s role, are intriguing as he sinks more and more into hatred for the Capitol and authority. It is Peeta, however, who makes the most change, and not always for the better. There are touching moments and some kick-butt moments. Collins generally kept me guessing as to where the plot was going, and she laid the foundation work for something absolutely incredible to happen. There’s a lot of good anti-war stuff in there, how rebellions don’t always work right, how killing ourselves isn’t always the answer. The book gets more and more gray as it goes on, more complex.
There are some things missing, though; elements I wish Collins had included: I missed Cinna, I wished Haymitch had more to do. There are several new minor characters — Boggs and Finnick especially — that I wish she had spent more time on. I wish she had done something more with the District 13 government. Those are minor quibbles, though.
Until the last 45 pages. Then the book completely and totally falls apart. There’s a moment near the end — and if you’ve read the book, you know where it is — where I was on the edge of my seat, disbelieving. However, in the pages that follow, Collins makes choices — with characters, with the plot, with narrative — that completely derail the rest of the book. It would have been so much better if… but it isn’t. The whole ending is anticlimactic, and takes the book in a direction that feels forced, even though, at the same time, it is understandably “realistic.” I ended up feeling dissatisfied with the whole book. I wanted something with moral weight — she is telling a fable, an allegory, after all — some sort of consequence, rather than just stuff that happens.
Which, unfortunately, left me with a less-than-stellar reaction to the book overall. And that’s too bad. Because it’s a great series: thought-provoking and intense. I just wanted something better to end with.
Rated: Moderate for violence. There’s a whole lot of it.