Collins’ final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy is a little different than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. For one thing, Katniss is losing her mental stability after all the emotional and physical trauma she and her loved ones have endured, and Collins explores the psychological effects of these traumas throughout the novel — not just through Katniss, but through Annie and Johanna as well.
In addition to that interesting element, Collins also takes the reader on a much more in-depth exploration of the role of children in society. The people of District 13 have lost a lot of their children — and their fertility — to a smallpox outbreak. So there’s the militant civilization there that is unable to reproduce in any significant way and is therefore slowly dying out. There’s also the use [SPOILER ALERT!] of children at the end of the novel when the Capitol falls and Katniss’ little sister, Primrose, is killed by a bomb that may or may not have been designed by Gale. And of course, there’s Katniss’ consistent questioning of the merits and ethics of bringing a child into this world (and I was greatly disappointed to find that she did, indeed, decide to reproduce at the end of the novel — I don’t think that we needed her to marry Peeta and have children, and it just seems like a bit of a disappointment to have this sharp character decide that kids are okay now that things are…well, not exactly better at all, since she’s imprisoned in District 12 isn’t she?). So I think there are some very interesting ideas at work here, even though in the end I was disappointed by Katniss’ shift in perspective (maybe we can chalk it up to her worsening stability of mind?). But the ideas about how the media uses children and how the rebels used their deaths to win the war remain relevant.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel just as much as the other two. It was nice to take a break from the Hunger Games, and the comparison between war in the Capitol and the Hunger Games in the Arena was an interesting one. The fact that many dear characters die and the remaining ones are clearly damaged and, in some cases, unable to find happiness or function in society, pushes against the myth that war is glorious and when it’s over, it’s over. These characters — good and bad, survivors and participants alike — are all damaged. No matter what their role was in the war, they’re damaged by it. They’re not the same. They can’t be who they were, they can’t go back to life as usual, and they are incapable of maintaining relationships that really matter. I appreciate a commentary like this at a time when war is so broadly justified and glorified in our nation.
GOOD FOR: Fans of a rebellion of the people, people who are interested in the role children play in our society, and anyone feeling particularly critical of our current global political situation.
BAD FOR: People who hate disorder & chaos, people in need of an uplifting read, and those dealing with enough in their real lives right now that they don’t need to be worrying about a host of fictional characters and their civilization.
COMPATIBLE WITH: 1984, V for Vendetta (the comic or the movie), and A Clockwork Orange.