So this will probably be like Mockingjay review bajillion-and-three this week. No spoilers in my review (but I'm going to assume that spoilers are fair game in comments).
I liked The Hunger Games very much, so much that I blazed through Catching Fire, and found book two mildly disappointing. It was the usual middle-of-the-series slump, where there wasn't really a whole lot of new stuff happening, nor any real forward momentum or character development, although the story was entertaining enough.
Still, there hasn't been a book that made me sit down and read it, needing to finish it and know what happens, since I read the entire Harry Potter series over the course of a month several years ago. (I had never read any of the books until Deathly Hallows came out.)
I was feeling pretty smug about predicting what was going to happen (and a bit annoyed at some of the predictability and recycled ideas from the first two books), and then in the last third of the book, Collins suddenly pulled it off. This strangely-compelling series rose about the level of "pretty good for YA" and became an epic story fit for grown-ups.
Collins did a better job than Rowling did ending her series. Where Rowling pulled her punches and gave us a squeaky-clean happily-ever-after ending, Collins wasn't afraid to deliver a gut punch or two, and she doesn't let her protagonists off easy. The world may be better off than it was in the beginning, but it (and the surviving characters) are still damaged and scarred. I've got respect for a writer who's not afraid to knife her babies, 'cause that's the kind of writer I am...
There are still things that annoyed me about the book because of its YA-ness ("here's another bright and shiny plot device I pulled out of my ass to drop in the middle of the story" and total military/strategic!fail when it came to the whole war against the Capitol), but it redeemed itself with the ending.
Even though I totally guessed wrong about who Katniss would end up with.
I'd be annoyed about that, too (because if you'd told me the ending before I read it, I would have said "Fail! Completely goes against established characterization"), except that the way Collins worked it out, it actually ended up making sense.