White ash & bone dust
along with the falling snow
& white rose petals.
Let me start with a comparison to the previous books-- not a pithy one, just a straight up greater than or less than. I liked this less than The Hunger Games but more than Catching Fire (though maybe not the other Catching Fire). I have been developing a theory, something born into being by this book. The Master Theory of Young Adult Protagonists. I think YA characters fall on a spectrum, & slide up & down the spectrum as the story progresses. Damage <-------> Competency. I think those two poles are the poles of the genre; or at least, of the people in the stories. I prefer the character's bent towards "Competency," (see also The Queen's Thief series & Pierce's Trickster's... books) but I can handle a little of the damage, if it is deserved-- which is where Hunger Games falls (& for instance, the Graceling books). Catching Fire was much more muddled, much more damaged, & frankly, I was over it. There was too much re-tread ground, not enough character growth. Frankly, I thought Catching Fire would be the book that Mockingjay turned out to be. For a second, I thought it was going to be full of Katniss waffling back & forth, but before too long she got some guts. Not enough guts, though, & not enough discipline. I've complained about the petulant & needlessly rebellious adolescent before-- some readers excuse it because "hey, isn't that what teenagers are like?" Maybe, but they also aren't post-apocalyptic survivors of elaborate gladiatorial scenarios. I wanted this to be the book about Katniss being a grown-up; about Katniss understanding that people are dying & suffering for her, & not squandering their lives. There was a little of that, but what I really wanted was a little more steel in Katniss' spine. My favorite characters, then, were the adults-- as with the whole series. Boggs, Cinna, even Haymitch. Even Finnick, who has damage enough to go around, ends up moving forward. Then again, being in love will do that.
I shouldn't leave you thinking I didn't like it! I did, I really did. I liked how different its tone was. I like how the "high-tech" science-fiction crept in-- Katniss in her ninja armor with her science bow, hovertanks, that kind of thing. That was an important facet of the world & one I was glad they revealed. The dystopian District 13 with its tattooed schedules & caloric monitoring hiding in the semi-functional bunker-city really worked for me, especially in comparison to the Neo-Dark Age District 12 & the Fading Sun Capitol. The integration of Capitol & 12 character's worked too; the pierced tongues & dyed hair, the homespun charm & big appetites, the communalism & militarism-- it worked. The worldbuilding of this book was great, the best of the three, & that means a lot to me. & personally, I found the ending satisfying. I even ended up liking Peeta, as he gets some excuse on the Damage/Competency scale for being really badly broken-- & for being a side character. I would have liked Katniss to be a little more aware of her agency, but I've already stated that I didn't like where her button was on the Damage/Competency scale. Katniss shown on camera & failed in person-- that was the story & I got it, but it left me feeling sour. The climax of the book? & the final resolution, before the epilogue? Of course it had to end that way; I always knew. First, I was happy Collins kept referring to President Snow's mouth smelling like blood. That was an amazing piece of imagery-- maybe the best piece in the whole series. I don't know what the buzz is about the conclusion, I don't know what people are saying-- there were no galleys! Not even for the publicist!-- but I liked it. Some of it might be seen as gratuitous & I might agree with that. I liked it. End of story.