This is the third book in the Hunger Games Series, and I’m afraid, not my favorite. But not because the plot or characters weren’t compelling. I just found myself feeling low in part 3, which is appropriately entitled The Assassin.

The book started out well enough with Katniss Everdeen, the heroine, waking up in District 13, an underground rebel District in the fictional country of Panem. She discovers that her mentor Haymitch was working closely with President Coin, the rebel leader. Katniss also discovers that she was a pawn all along in the war between the Capitol and District 13. The fact that she symbolized the Mockingjay gave people hope and a reason to rebel against the Capitol, which exploited the other districts and mistreated people.

Katniss is once again reunited with Gail, her hunting partner and love interest in the Hunger Games. They are very much alike because both of them are warriors that are driven by their anger and hate. They train, plot and fight together, as well as fight each other. Peeta, Katniss’s love interest in Hunger Games and Changing Fire, was tortured in the Capitol, his mind warped with fake memories that lead him to almost murder Katniss because he believed that she was a propagator of war.

The love triangle between Katniss, Gail and Peeta magnifies in this book. At one point Gail declares that Katniss will eventually choose the one she can survive with. This is my favorite part of Mockingjay, and perhaps the whole series. In the end, Katniss does choose one of them, but I won’t tell lest I spoil it for you. The unconditional love that this man shows for her in spite of the fact that she’s damaged, moved me to tears.

But alas, the love triangle is not what Mockingjay is about. Propaganda is described in an entertaining almost reality-type-show way with the costumes and scripts and characters who play directors. The mind games and power struggles mirror real life politics.

Towards the end of the story (and this is why the book depressed me) many of the main characters are depicted as traumatized war victims that are beyond repair. Images of booze, drugs, unkempt hair and incoherent mumbling pervade these last chapters. The symptoms of damage and trauma hit too near to home for me. I originally read this story to get back on the reading wagon. For entertainment. As an escape! But instead, I found myself relating to the pain and trauma that uncontrollable circumstances, such as war, can bring.

Did the book end with hope? All I can say is it wasn’t the Hollywood ending I was craving for.

In her acknowledgements, Suzzane Collins writes–“Special love to my late father, Michael Collins, who laid the groundwork for this series with his deep commitment to educating his children on war and peace.” I couldn’t help but think that I wish I were a middle school teacher using an interdisciplinary approach. This is an entertaining book that could be used as a springboard to deeper discussions on actual case studies of war, their causes and impact. I’m sure that adolescents will find the setting and characters compelling enough to transfer the concepts they learn in Mockingjay to analyze wars, and perhaps choose peace, should they one day find themselves in a position to do so.