Recommended Reading: The Girl Who Was On Fire
I, like nearly everyone else it seems, has been caught up in the Hunger Games fever. While the film was finally knocked from first place at this weekend’s box office, it’s already grossed a more than respectable $365.9 million. I’ve been delighted to bond with several people over our mutual fondness for the series. But now that a month has passed since the film’s debut, and the release date of Catching Fire has yet to be announced, what is a fan to do? There are only so many times you can argue the sparse merits of Peeta vs. Gale, or philosophize over the fact that by being excited by the film, we are placed in the same position as the bloodthirsty Capitol citizens.
For those of you craving a more thorough analysis of the world of The Hunger Games, here is my recommendation: the completely engrossing The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. The book is made up of 16* essays edited by Leah Wilson and focuses on a wide variety of topics, from stylist Cinna’s role in making the people of Panem notice and root for our heroine Katniss (in Terri Clark’s “Crime of Fashion”), to how modern science has already given us a world full of muttations (in Cara Lockwood’s “Not So Weird Science”).
As someone who has a tendency to read too quickly, I encourage any of you planning on picking up The Girl Who Was On Fire to read only an essay or two a day. Nearly each one has enough content for you to mull over for quite a while. My favorite essay in the book, “Your Heart is a Weapon the Size of your Fist” by Mary Borsellino, has been present in the back of my mind for the past week.
In her essay, Borsellino discusses how the villain of The Hunger Games trilogy, President Snow, sees Katniss as a girl who either is in love, or is a rebel. What President Snow fails to realize is that in the post-apocalyptic world of Panem, loving someone and showing that love is literally revolutionary. “With every interview and appearance,” explains Borsellino, “[Katniss] declares herself loyal to something other than the Capitol. And love has already proved to be more powerful than the Capitol, because both of District 12’s tributes have survived the Games.”
Borsellino goes on to compare The Hunger Games to other stories where to love is to rebel: V for Vendetta, and more interestingly (and one of my personal favorites), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. While the love between Winston and Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four failed, the love Katniss felt for Peeta and Prim drove her onwards and is eventually what made her triumph in the end.
Not every essay is an absolute gem. Some are perhaps a bit shallow; one or two failed to wholly capture my attention. But there is more than enough substance in this slim book to keep a fan satisfied for quite a while. Personally, I think Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ breakdown of how the Peeta vs. Gale debate may actually be about which side of Katniss the reader prefers (a girl who loves and cares for others vs. a revolutionary) is worth the price of the book alone. Her throwaway line about how we should really be Team Buttercup is just icing on the cake.
*Be sure to buy the newer “movie edition,” as the first edition has only 13 essays. I bought the first edition, and am genuinely upset about not being able to read Brent Hartinger’s delightfully titled essay “Did the Third Book Suck?”.