*note* This review is written more for people who have already read the book, so there are spoilers ahead. I won't bother recapping the first two books. If you haven't read them, I highly recommend the series but suggest starting with The Hunger Games. For a review of the first book in the series, click here.
In Mockingjay, Collins basically keeps the Hunger Games going, except she loses the arena and the limited number of players. The Hunger Games is now everywhere and has become everyone's reality. And it doesn't get any easier for Katniss, who finds herself the reluctant face of the resistance.
Instead of Snow, this time Katniss is being used by Coin for her own purposes. Purposes which may or may not overlap with Katniss' own desires. Instead of having a team of stylists, Katniss' outward appearance (despite her inward struggles and demons) is made acceptable by a small film crew shooting propoganda pieces for the resistance. And Katniss continues to struggle with her own identity. Is she of any value to the resistance? To Peeta or Gale? Does her life have any meaning beyond her role in the civil war and her ultimate goal, which is not to serve the resistance, but to kill Snow?
I thought Collins did a great job of showing how truly innocent, good people, can become completely changed by life's events. Katniss and Peeta are hardly the same people they were in the first book. You see their tragic evolution from unblemished to completely destroyed, both physically and emotionally. Then there are character's like Haymitch, who you only know after the Hunger Games has changed him. After my journey with Katniss, however, by the time I finished the book, I was forgiving of Haymitch for his alcohol abuse and almost understanding. In fact, if Katniss had decided to become an alcoholic, I can't say I'd blame her.
I also liked how Collins kept Katniss strong, but not infallible. She was a reluctant Mockingjay, she was motivated by hate and revenge, and she voted to hold another Hunger Games. True to life, Collins doesn't provide much explanation for some of Katniss' actions. You just have to guess as to why she does certain things.
Then there's the issue of who Katniss ultimately chose to spend the rest of her life with. How much of it was choice and how much was circumstance? What if Peeta had not gone back to 12 and Gale had? Did she choose Peeta because of the pain they shared? Sure, they had both been subject to horrifying events, but could Katniss truly understand Peeta's point of view, or he hers? Did Katniss blame Gale for the death of her sister? Was that more unforgivable to her than anything Peeta had done? And did Katniss choose Peeta because she loved him, or did she grow to love him after making her choice?
Maybe the answers to these questions are not what's important...maybe some of life's questions can never be answered...and maybe that's okay. Because as Peeta and Katniss have learned, there can be a fine line between what's real and what's not real. The thin thread that holds our lives together can be easily broken by things like excess, fear, hate, and war. But holding fast to simple truths like loyalty, patience, and hope is what kept Katniss, and can keep all of us going.