* Update, my friend Zina posted her thoughts here, if you can't get enough discussion!
1. The Hunger Games series was set in a post apocalyptic world that needed a serious change. We can't effect serious change without the sacrifices of a successful revolution. The story was specifically about Katniss and her family, but not just them. It was so compelling because as you pulled for the protagonist, you pulled for a whole society to change from a group of people who could condone the institutionalized violence and inhumanity of the games to a people who would not tolerate it. While I was very upset that Prim died in the end, I thought it was appropriate. For me Prim represented innocence. Katniss tried to protect that innocence, but the prices she paid over and over to protect Prim still didn't protect Prim. Prim became wise to the society's situation. Prim even advised Katniss at a crucial point early in the book. Prim became the Yoda/Obi-wan/Dumbledore, who of course Must Die. In Prim's wisdom, her innocence was lost. For me that was the point at which Katniss's fight became a fight against the wrongs of society rather than a fight to protect Prim.
2. While I don't wish to understate the importance of Gale to the story, I thought Peeta was the right one for Katniss. I didn't think so at first, because the kissing was better with Gale. But kissing is not the thing that Katniss "couldn't survive without," as Gale so presciently points out in the third book. Katniss could not live without the boy with the bread, who saved her life and gave her hope to live when her family was starving. She could not survive without the man who experienced the Hunger Games as only she had experienced them. Peeta, as her savior, was a big part of her life even before Gale's friendship made her life tolerable and her freedom valuable to her.
I think Collins hinted at their destiny with the pearl, a symbol of Peeta's love, which Katniss accepted and treasured. In the third book especially, Katniss is always preoccupied with Peeta, how he is doing, if he is being tortured, etc. Gale is there for her, but he is right. She only kisses him when he is injured, or in other words, when she is motivated by pity. When she wakes up from dreams in earlier books, it is Peeta she wants to hold her—another hint from Collins that Peeta is the really right one for her. Peeta tells her she would make a great mother, and she goes on in her mind about how she knows he is the one who would be a great father. She refuses to consciously think about him as a potential mate because she denies to herself that she will ever survive to that point or even consider being a mother.
The events of the third book also clinched that through the games Gale and Katniss had grown apart. Gale's violent and unsympathetic streak make him harder on the inside than Katniss. In spite of the fact that she has faced the Hunger Games twice, she remained compassionate and soft-hearted even toward enemies. She will never be able to forgive Gale for inventing the technology that killed Prim.
3. I thought Collins did a great job of making the third book into the third set of Hunger Games, with Coin as the Game master. I would like to hear everyone's thoughts on why Katniss approved the Hunger Games for the Capitol children. Was it because she knew she needed to approve in order to get in front of Coin with a weapon? I think so. I think she wanted to end the Hunger Games in all forms, and voted yes only so that she could kill Coin. I think she decided in that moment that Coin would continue the games in some form or another, and all of Katniss' work breaking the psychological hold of the games in the first book and the physical hold of the games in the second and third books would have been in vain. Does anyone think Katniss really approved? I think she thought those games wouldn't be held or would be forgotten if she killed Coin. Or maybe she was just in survival mode and knew she needed to get on that stage with a weapon, and that Snow would die anyway because of his health problems.
She does say "For Prim," so I could see it going both ways. It could be irony, meaning "I will kill Coin in revenge for Prim's life," or she could mean "The Capitol must experience the pain, grief, and loss of innocence that the rest of us have experienced at their expense."
So what does everyone else think? I think I wish I had read the first two books again right before I read this one. I loved it.