It’s been four years since The Hunger Games was first published and a week has passed since it first made its way into the big screen. Though it’s not the first Young Adult (YA) series to garner loads of attention, what I think sets it apart would be the richness and variation of themes present in the story. Yes, there is that teenage love triangle bit BUT it was set within the context of a struggle for power, propaganda, violence, war and social inequality. To dismiss the series as a rip off of the Japanese novel, Battle Royale, would be ridiculous – you’re simply not giving it enough justice.
The series didn’t just entertain but it has actually spawned debates and lengthy discussions about the themes that emerged. The nerd in me is delighted to hear teenagers, adults, men, women and even scholars in the academe discuss their own interpretations and arguments about the series – debates that go beyond Team Gale vs. Team Peeta, thank God. ;D
While reflecting about ideas in the book, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the book called The Girl Who Was on Fire.
The anthology features different essays written by YA authors about The Hunger Games series. The essays in the book would be the kind of writing output that any English teacher would dream of reading. Now if you’re the kind of person who wished that s/he was in a book club so that you could talk about all the ideas in your head, this book is the next best thing! Below is a sneak peek or an excerpt from my 5 favorite essays from the book (in no particular order).
Essay #1: Why So Hungry for the Hunger Games? by Sarah Rees Brennan
“The romance also further displays the complexities of reality versus illusion: Suzanne Collins does not go the easy route of condemning illusion in favor of reality. Peeta, the golden boy of the series, the main character whose morality is the strongest and who is always the spokesperson for decency, is actually an accomplished liar… It is an interesting juxtaposition, because if the problem between Katniss and Gale is reality, the problem between Katniss and Peeta is always illusion. ”
Essay #2: Team Katniss by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
“I’m not Team Gale or Team Peeta. I’m Team Katniss, and in the next few pages, we’re going to take a closer look at her character and explore the idea that the core story in the Hunger Games trilogy has less to do with who Katniss ends up with and more to do with who she is – because sometimes, in books and in life, it’s not about the romance. Sometimes, it’s about the girl.”
“As I’m writing this, I just keep thinking that Katniss never gets to sacrifice herself. She doesn’t get the heroic death. She survives – and that leaves her doing the hardest thing in the world: living in it once so many of the ones that she loves are gone… She chose to love – again. She’s scarred, but she survived – and she loves her children just as fiercely as she loved Prim.That’s who Katniss is, underneath all of the masks – and if we’re picking teams, I’m on hers.”
Essay #3: Your Heart is A Weapon the Size of Your Fist: Love as a Political Act in the Hunger Games by Mary Borsellino
“‘Love’ is not synonymous with ‘passion.’ Hatred is also a passionate emotion. When I say ‘love’ here, I mean compassion, loyalty, empathy, and the bonds of friendship, family, and romance. All these things are present in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. So too are greed, selfishness, hatred, and fear. That the protagonists are able to put stock in love, even while given so many reasons to hate, is what gives the Hunger Games a note of hope despite the suffering of the characters.”
“When the love you feel is against the laws of those in control, then love is a political act. It’s true in the real world, true in Nineteen Eighty-Four and true in the Hunger Games… that choosing love over survival is the ultimate act of defiance Katniss can make. It’s not one or the other; the love and rebellion are one in the same.”
Essay #4: Crime of Fashion by Terri Clark
“No one better understands the philosophy of fashion than Suzanne Collins’ fictional character, Cinna. All of the Capitol stylists are well practiced at polishing and presenting their contestants, but Cinna takes this craft to a whole new level. Not only is he genius at creating provocative, memorable costumes, he utilizes his fashion artistry as a political platform that subtly plays on his audience’s sensibilities. He gives the people of Panem a heroine to root for, plucks at their romantic heartstrings, and fires up their indignity over injustice, and he does it all through fabric.”
Essay #5: Panem et Circenses by Carrie Ryan
“…the greatest trick Reality TV producers ever pulled was convincing the world what it’s watching is real. Even the term Reality TV itself is part of the trick: it presumes Reality TV is an accurate representation of reality, when in actuality there is a difference between what is presented in these shows as reality and what most people would consider to be objective truth, which operates on several levels.”
“… It shows a culture’s obsession with the dramatic, even if it is false, can lead to a complete abdication of personal responsibility in exchange for continued entertainment. We are responsible, as citizens, to look beyond bread and circuses and not to accept information as it is handed to us but to search for a deeper truth… In the end, if there is one truth that can be taken away from the Hunger Games it is this: we, the reader, tuned in and boosted its rating. Even while Katniss rails against the Games as disgusting and barbaric, we the readers turn the pages in order to watch them. We become the citizens in the Capitol, glued to the television, ensuring there will be another Game the following year. Thanks to us, the ratings are just too high to cancel the show.”
Those are just some of the themes discussed in the anthology. The other essays feature topics such as genetic engineering, politics, psychology and more. This anthology is a wonderful example of how powerful literature can be. I’m excited that there are publishers such as Smart Pop that decided to come up with collections like this one – it provides consolation for non-book clubbers like me. Do grab a copy of The Girl Who Was on Fire. 🙂