Forgive me, Mark, for stealing your phrase.  It perfectly sums up how I felt about this series first, second, and now third time around.

But even so, it was especially the last book book in The Hunger Games Trilogy, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, that made me feel as if I had to use this phrase.  I read the trilogy long before I read the MarkReads reactions, but immediately realized that unprepared was exactly how I felt when I finished.

For the third time, Collins does not do happy endings.  But I appreciated this.  After spending three beautiful, action packed books in post-apocalyptic America with almost no sense of hope, I would feel cheated by a happy ending.  This does not say the ending doesn’t have an element of positive, but it’s tempered by the horror of what has happened in the series.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As for the book summary, this is the easiest to be close to spoiler free: war.  Despite the best efforts of a desperate Katniss and a plotting president, war breaks out.  And Katniss has to play the focal point for the rebellion because she already became that with her previous actions.

Crappy summary, but I really am trying to avoid spoilers in this series.  Some of these are inevitable (Katniss survived the Games in book one, or there would be no point to book two), but I’m really trying here.  Of course, the solution to the bad summary is read the series.  Hee hee hee hee.  Evil plan in place.

Remember how I said the series made me think in the review of the first book?  Well this book is always the one I find myself coming back to.  I feel like the character’s choices in this book are much more ambiguous, morally.  War, something I fear with all my heart and yet something that is part of my daily life, makes it difficult to draw those clear lines and say what is right or wrong.  Collins doesn’t shy away from those moments.  In fact, the most powerful scene for me in the book where there was no clear line.  The war was over and the victors were deciding what to do with the losers.  There were good arguments on both sides and it is easy to sympathize with the terror and the compassion.  But both options weren’t satisfying.  One had too much mercy, the other too much justice.  Those are the decisions made in war.

I feel bad that I haven’t talked much about the characters.  They’re all so very pivotal.  Talking too much about them makes for spoilers.  I hate to spoil this series.  So, in general, the characters are extremely well realized.  It’s funny, but I sometimes forget the books are written in first person.  Not that Collins slips up and makes Katniss omniscient, but that the other characters are so well realized and, perhaps, a bit over-emotive, that I never lose track of what’s going on in the other characters’ heads.  I think the over-emoting is actually a well used tool, as it’s not melodramatic, but telling emotions.  It may be that in “real life” people don’t act that way, but to make characters that stand against the first person blinkers, sometimes they have to be a bit larger than life.  It’s a relief that the characters stand out, but do not overpower Katniss, either.

I love these books.  I love this author.  I would highly recommend them to anyone.  Her action scenes are stunning and she doesn’t shy away.  Those two things on their own are invaluable in a YA book.

Why this series is challenging for me:

  • I’m constantly surprised.
  • The moral debates in the literature are phenomenal and truly keep one thinking.
  • Suzanne Collins does NOT BACK DOWN.  It tears you apart as a reader, yes, but it builds you up, too.