90-second review: 'Mockingjay' by Suzanne Collins
Synopsis: In the third and final installment of The Hunger Games series, heroine Katniss Everdeen takes on the mantle of the rebellion against the Capitol, becoming the titular Mockingjay. Determined to defeat President Snowe, save her friend and possible love Peeta, and keep everyone she loves safe at all costs, Katniss feels the pressure of keeping the rebels' hopes -- and herself -- alive.
Review: In dystopian Panem -- and for all you scholars of Ancient Rome, yes, that is a wink at the "panem et circenses" that signaled the empire's doom -- the fabled District 13 is leading the other 12 in a civil war against the cruel Capitol. Katniss is still reeling from the destruction of her home district, 12, and the loss of Peeta, a prisoner of the Capitol.
The themes of the series, including physical hardships, loyalty in extreme circumstances and traversing morally ambiguous terrain, are continued at an even larger scale. In past books, Katniss deals with personal acts of violence and betrayal against and by individuals. While those actions may have symbolically touched the lives of thousands, now she is literally leading those thousands to war. While she feels she can't trust the leader of the resistance, President Coin, she knows she wants to kill the Capitol's President Snowe.
Meanwhile, her confused feelings for lifelong friend and sometime-romantic interest Gale are tested further as they butt heads on how far you can go in war. The ethical differences between Gale and Peeta are clearly delineated, as Peeta begs the rebels for a cease-fire and Gale's projects focus on forcing the enemy to surrender through blood and loss.
The series ends on an ostensibly happy note, but the heartbreaking effects of war and loss aren't sugar-coated. This is one YA novel that will leave you thinking about the ramifications of war on society, not just the coming-of-age of a young woman.
If you liked this: You'll want to graduate to Margaret Atwood. While Atwood's works rarely include the fleeting moments of young happiness found in The Hunger Games trilogy, the difference that an indvidual can make on society, and vice versa, are reminiscent of Atwood's best works.
Avoid this if: You're at all squeamish about violence and bloodshed. Literally thousands of people die in this series, and the final book doesn't leave Katniss' inner circle untouched.