Monday, January 24, 2011

Nonfiction Monday Review: The Girl Who Was on Fire ed. by Leah Wilson

When I got the ARC of this from Smart Pop books, it included a bit of info on the editor - including the name of her degree from Duke University: Culture and Modern Fiction. Um, can I go back to school for that? Seriously, if money (both to go to school and in terms of making a living later) were no option, I would love to get an advanced degree in something like that. Which is probably why the Smart Pop books in general appeal to me so much, as they combine my love of all sorts of bits of popular culture with light academic reading. So when I was asked to look at Smart Pop's April 2011 title, all about The Hunger Games trilogy, I was allllllllllll over it!

The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy13 YA authors tackle The Hunger Games trilogy, looking at topics as varied as the roles of fashion and the media, to politics and PTSD. There is some really serious stuff in here, which shouldn't be surprising to anyone who paid attention to more than the (gag) love triangle in the original books.

I'm clearly going to be partial to any essay titled "Team Katniss" - after all, that's the team I officially supported with a t-shirt at the Mockingjay release party - and Jennifer Lynn Barnes offers an excellent analysis on why Katniss herself is who we should be most concerned with - not being preoccupied with her love life. On a more frivolous level, I really enjoyed Terri Clark's look at Katniss' (and Cinna's) many fashion statements throughout the trilogy, and how Cinna was able to use fashion as a rhetorical device. Reading it made me think that Cinna would have loved to design for Madeleine Albright. Sarah Darer Littman, who is a political columnist when she's not writing novels like Life, After, writes a devastating essay comparing the politics of the trilogy to contemporary US politics - especially some of the rhetoric used during the Bush Administration to justify the war on terror (I can see that essay inspiring a LOT of negative criticism. Littman doesn't pull any punches - but it might be my favorite).

All of the essays here are worthwhile - those are merely my favorites, but each of them has something excellent and worthwhile to add to conversations on The Hunger Games. I wouldn't recommend powering through this book in one sitting, however. Unlike a lot of other Smart Pop books, the authors only had three novels to work with, which leads to some repetitive passages - talking about the bombs in the Capitol in Mockingjay or Katniss' use of the berries in Hunger Games. The essays themselves aren't repetitive, and all of them make unique points from the same set of examples, but reading one essay after another really highlighted for me how little material, in a sense, the authors had to work with in comparison to the Smart Pop book on Harry Potter.

I said in the intro that I consider this "light" academic reading and I want to make it clear that I don't intend that as a slight, but on the other hand only a few of these essays rely upon any sources outside of the three novels. Most of those outside sources are excerpts from interviews Suzanne Collins gave while promoting Mockingjay. This isn't hard hitting collegiate-level literary analysis, but would serve as an excellent introduction and as examples of just how many different ways one book (or set of books) can be analyzed.

The Girl Who Was on Fire goes on sale in April, and I consider it a must-read for any fan of The Hunger Games.

Reviewed from an ARC provided by the publisher

Nonfiction Monday
This week's Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Great Kid Books. Be sure to stop by and check out the other great nonfiction titles highlighted this week!
Related Posts with Thumbnails