Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Girl Who Was On Fire

It probably took me ten or so pages to absolutely fall in love with the Hunger Games a couple of years ago. I devoured the first book, then held off on reading Catching Fire because I had heard it ended with a cliffhanger, and I don't have a good track record with unfinished series. But the pull was too great, and I dove into book 2 well before Mockingjay came out. And you better believe book 3 was waiting on my doorstep the day it came out.

I routinely try to push the series on readers who come into the bookstore, even one older woman, who was going on vacation and seemed to like everything else I suggested for her. When parents say it sounds too scary or gory (I have a whole rant on this, believe me), I assure them that the themes of the book are much larger than gore, and that I think the whole series (really, the third book, but you can't get there without the previous two) will be taught in schools one day. Most of them don't believe me and choose books for their kids that are "safe." But I digress.

I have been a big fan of the types of books that look at pop culture through a more academic lens (The Simpsons and Philosophy was the textbook for a class I taught in college about our favorite yellow family and American society). So when I heard that there would be a Hunger Games equivalent, I couldn't wait to read it.

The Girl Who Was on Fire is not another Steig Larsson book, but it is a dive into the world of Panem and the Hunger Games. The assorted essays from authors of all sorts and edited by Leah Wilson touch on the topics of reality TV, politics, the science behind the muttations, why the Capitol should have realized that Katniss might not be the best person to act as Tribute, and a variety of others.

My two favorite essays are "Bent, Shattered, and Mended" by Blythe Woolston and "Team Katniss" by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Woolston examines the instances of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) throughout the series and shows how the events in Panem affected the characters in different ways. Barnes creatively turns our society's willingness to turn books like this into battles between the love interests (Team Gale vs Team Peeta) into a look at why Katniss' pick of a partner has less to do with who she loves and more to do with her discovering who she really is.

Some of the book is repetitive, but that's always true of compilations in which the authors don't necessarily know what the others are writing about. If you were left unhappy by Mockingjay like so many people were (I was not among that group), this book might help resolve some of your issues by helping you see why certain events actually made sense (the PTSD chapter was particularly helpful in this, I feel).

4/5 Stars

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