My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I finished this third and final book on the plane down to Cancun a few weeks ago. I didn’t get a chance to review it on account of the travel and then the end of the semester. Up front: I liked it, although not quite as much as I enjoyed Catching Fire. All kinds of spoilery thoughts on this book and the series as a whole below the cut.
I clearly see why some people were disappointed with the ending. I just wish they hadn’t mentioned that opinion before I got to this book, as even that relatively spoiler-free bit of information colored my reading experience.
For one thing, as a huge fan of Neal Stephenson, I am well aware of how frustrating it is to run into a disappointing ending. I think that, generally speaking, wrapping up a story in a satisfying way is very difficult for writers, not just because it’s hard to say goodbye to their characters. To me there are three major approaches: write an ending that makes you happy, write an ending that makes the fan happy, and write an ending that makes sense in the context of the universe you’ve created. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in this case, (2) and (3) ended up being incompatible.
Specifically, I believe fans wanted a “victory for the good guys” sort of ending, in which Katniss ended up with Gale, Prim lived, Snow was toppled, and a brave new world of warm fuzzy freedom was had by all in Panem. I claim that this would not have been compatible with the rest of the trilogy, given the fairly dark setting and large amount of personal and social tragedy present throughout.
I actually expected one (or possibly both) of Gale and Peeta to die, thus motivating Katniss to complete her story. That both lived, and that she chose Peeta, was a bit of a surprise, but also understandable given that Gale (indirectly) killed Prim. As for Katniss killing Coin, it was pretty clearly established in the beginning of the book that Coin in power would have been a return to the status quo before the first book, with perhaps a slightly different flavor of autocracy, so it was necessary for Katniss to be a “greater good” sort of hero.
I don’t know what Collins’ point was with the trilogy overall, in the grand scheme of dystopian fiction. Brave New World is one of my favorite books, and I’ve enjoyed others such as 1984 and The Giver. To hazard a guess, it would be something along the lines of “in war, there are no rules” and/or “killing someone changes everyone”. I hope that it will jumpstart the market for quality YA fiction again, as HP did a decade ago.