First, the age-old debate of too much sex versus too much violence in YA lit. I have to wonder if parents who protest certain (usually very mild) sex scenes in YA books have ever read anything like the Hunger Games trilogy. Because all the books are violent (and yes, Mockingjay increases that violence tenfold...or more). I felt almost assaulted at times by the violent images in this book -- and I usually can ignore violence pretty easily. I skim right over gory descriptions without even trying, but in this one, I couldn't do that. It was too constant and too brutal. Perhaps this is partly why some adults do worry about the sex versus violence -- perhaps they feel that most kids will skim the violence, whereas does anyone really skim through sex? Probably not as likely. However, if I had to choose between giving my kids this book (Mockingjay, specifically) and a book with a graphic sex scene, the sex book would win out. And I'm assuming here that neither scene is considered gratuitous in the book (and that the writing is strong in both, as well). But seriously, I'd much rather discuss sex and its role in our lives versus this kind of horrible violence. And yes, I get that war is necessarily horrible and violent, but I don't need to read about it to know that. Jmho, of course.
Second, what role can love play in truly awful circumstances? Without making any value judgments based on my opinion of this book's response to that question (because I don't want to spoil anything), I'm just going to give my own opinion. Humans have endured absolutely disgusting brutality throughout history. Not only in war, but usually a war of some sort is the trigger (even if it's a war of ideas or of religious philosophies or of 'I'm right and you're wrong'). However, I believe the reason we can endure, not only as an entire species and society, but also as individuals through the tragedies and horrific circumstances of moments like these is because of love. Love offers hope, plain and simple. It doesn't only need to be romantic love, either, but the love of parent and child, sibling to sibling, friend to friend. Those connections we build are what carry us through the depths of despair (to be horribly cliche). When I read books which focus on the horror humanity can inflict upon itself, I always look for that redeeming aspect -- that hope, that truth of love. Did I find it here? Well, you read the book and let me know ;) (However, if you do so in the comments, please mention that you're listing a spoiler, so others who haven't read can skip your comment.)
What do you think? Again, if you want to discuss spoilers, be sure to mark your comment accordingly :)