How do I review the conclusion of a series when I have already said the first two books were among the best books that I have read this year? Especially without giving up a bunch of spoilers? Well frankly I don’t know, and this may not be my best review ever, but I have not posted enough here lately, so I am not going to just punt.
The first book, Hunger Games have been frequently compared to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. And not just because of similar titles. Both were among the best in young adult literature of their generation. Both dealt with themes of war, cruelty to children by adults and by other children. Both starred remarkable protagonists that were very well developed. But in Mockingjay’s favor, Katniss was not the uber-child. While I think that Ender’s Game is probably my all time favorite fiction book, the main negative is that Ender can do anything.
The second book, Catching Fire, was unlike many other books, other than that it was necessary to get to the third book. I do not mean that as a slight. I liked Catching Fire even more than Hunger Games. It was the Empire Strikes Back. Not so much for the revealed secrets as the depth of character development, the refocusing of the enemy from the obvious to the deeper enemy behind the scenes.
Given that, Mockingjay had a lot to live up to. In many ways it is quite good. I kept thinking of a fairly unknown series (The Westmark Trilogy) by Lloyd Alexander. Mockingjasy deals with the rebel war against The Capital. And as a young adult book, there are very few that deal with the realities of war and the psychological damage caused by war better than The Kestral and The Beggar Queen. I have not read the Westmark series in a long time, but I remember how vividly war and the damage it causes, especially to the young, was imprinted on me. In many ways, I think that Mockingjay depends too heavily on psychological damage as plot device. Even when damaged, there are (or should be) repercussion for actions. In Mockingjay, there are several times when psychological damage means there are no repercussions.
While I think that Katniss’ youth means that she probably would have been boxed out of decision making and govnermental action, it was really her own actions and immature wandering that left her out in the cold.
I think the end was a bit too neat. It was a messy book and just because it was young adult does not require a clean ending. I was discussing the book with my sister-in-law, who introduced me to the series in the first place, and she wondered what it would have been like if it hadn’t been constrained by young adult expectations.
All in all, I highly recommend the series. I think it was well worth the time. I really am glad that I read them and I think all three books will be in my top 10 fiction for the year.
If you want to watch a video of the author reading the first chapter, go here