Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Girl Who Was On Fire. Complete with a GIVEAWAY!!

SPOILER ALERT:  This review includes spoilers for The Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven't read all three books, please go do so now because they're incredible!!! And then come back and read this review :) 

It's no secret that the booknerds LOVE The Hunger Games trilogy (well, except for Jacque, who has yet to read them. But she's new, so we're giving her a little time to get them read before we volunteer her as a Tribute.)

So, needless to say, we were super excited to hear about The Girl Who Was On Fire, a collection of essays all about the books from several authors we know and love. I (Flo) was lucky enough to receive an Advance Readers Copy of the book and spent the entire time while I was reading it remembering just how much I loved the trilogy, as well as looking at things I'd thought about before in lots of new and different ways.

Thirteen writers, including Sarah Rees Brennan, Lili Wilkinson, Bree Despain and Carrie Ryan discuss The Hunger Games in regards to topics that range from politics to fashion, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to science. I thoroughly enjoyed every single essay. They were all very different, and each one led me to at least one, if not several, new ways of thinking about the trilogy.

As a whole, I picked up on two main themes that kept recurring in the collection. First is the idea that we, as readers, are the Capitol. Leah Wilson, the book's editor, first mentions this in her Introduction, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd spent the entire time I was reading the books in disbelief about the lifestyle and heartlessness of the Capitol's citizens. But, as Wilson says:

"Because, at its core, the Hunger Games is a coming-of-age story, and not just for Katniss--it's a coming-of-age story for Panem, and in a way for us, its readers, as well. The series pushes us to take responsibility both personally and politically for our choices: those Capitol residents we see milling through the streets of Mockingjay, the same Capitol residents who so raptly watch the Hunger Games on television year after year without recognizing the suffering that makes it possible, are us. And that's a heavy message to take away from any book series, but an important one for all of us..."

Whoa. But Wilson is not alone in her thinking; this idea of us as the Capitol resurfaces in Sarah Darer Littman's essay on The Politics of Mockingjay, and again in Carrie Ryan's essay Panem et Circenses, where she comments:  "But for the viewers' participation, the Hunger Games would not exist in the same way that, but for our tuning in, Reality TV wouldn't exist...the only difference between us and the viewers in the Capitol is that we have the agency to turn off the television at any time; we just choose not to."

This leads right into a second theme I drew from the collection of essays: that while it seems quite extreme, The Hunger Games is really not that far off from reality. Littman also speaks to this point. Adrienne Kress, in her essay The Inevitable Decline of Decadence, compares the plastic surgery of the well-known "Cat Lady" to Tigris in Mockingjay. Cara Lockwood, in her essay Not So Weird Science, tells us, "Not only are scientists making muttations -- 'mutts' for short -- already, but the stuff real scientists are doing is far wackier and sometimes scarier than what see in the Hunger Games."

My personal favorite essay was Terri Clark's Crime of Fashion. Wilson's introduction to the piece summarizes, "Great fashion, Terri Clark points out, does more than look good in the Hunger Games series: it saves Katniss' life, and sparks a rebellion." Clark herself goes on to write, "He [Cinna] 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." As well as: "With lace and feathers, pearl and veil, a war is begun." I love it!

But I really loved all of this book. My copy is completely highlighted, underlined, written in the margins, and dog-eared. You don't know how many times while I was reading it I said emphatically to myself, "Yes!!" as I underlined or highlighted a quote or passage.

At first I thought that these analytic essays may not appeal to teenagers, but I've since changed my mind. Littman quotes an interview with Suzanne Collins where she says she hopes the series will encourage debate and questions in her readers. "Katniss is in a position where she has to question everything she sees. And like Katniss herself, young readers are coming of age..." In another interview, Collins says she hopes readers will come away with "questions about how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. And, if they're disturbing, what they might do about them."

The Girl Who Was On Fire comes out on April 5th, 2011


  1. Awesome review (as usual) for an incredible book! Ours is coming next week!

  2. Awesome! More I hear about this book the more excited I get!

  3. I haven't read The Hunger Games yet, but its next in my TBR pile to read. I'll be definitely adding this one to my collection for when I finish the trilogy.

  4. Great review, this is the first one I've seen for this book :)

    thanks for the giveaway.

  5. This sounds amazingly interesting! It's the first review I've seen too. I can't wait to get a copy!!