Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: The Girl who was on Fire edited by Leah Wilson

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 2011

It's about: In the words of the subtitle, this is a collection of essays by "your favorite [young adult] authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy."

I thought: If you remember, a few months ago, I reviewed the entire Hunger Games trilogy, and while I felt very confident in praising many of its merits, I wasn't convinced that the series qualifies as especially literary. In response to that review, I was contacted with an offer to review this book, which takes a critical look at the trilogy to extract its various applications to modern life.

I enjoyed reading this book. Most of the essays were well-written, at times funny, and usually insightful. However, there were a couple of essays that were less interesting or insightful than others, one that was especially lengthy and boring, and one that seemed to use the essay as an excuse to promote the author's political agenda.

Overall, however, this book accomplished the purpose I think the publisher had in recommending it to me -- it made me rethink my opinion of the series, recognize a bit more literary merit than I had previously attributed to it, and want to reread the entire series through fresher eyes. I still generally stand by my original opinion:
"Enjoyable? Yes. Difficult to put down? Yes. Great characters? Yes. But is this rife with literary merit? ...I'd say no. It has its moments, but it is certainly too flawed to be at the level of The Book Thief or even the Harry Potter series in terms of its universality, writing quality, and ability to tie its themes and emotionally frayed edges together into a neat work of wonderfulness."
But I'm definitely more willing to reread the series with greater appreciation for aspects of it I originally may have overlooked.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Reading Recommendations: For the Hunger Games trilogy lover who is also literary minded, this book is a great read!

Warnings: none

Favorite excerpts:
From the introduction (HUNGER GAMES SPOILER ALERT!!!)
"The world is better than it was, but there are hints that this improvement is only temporary -- that the kind of inhumanity we saw in the districts under the Capitol rule is the true status quo, and that the current peace is ephemeral, precious, something toward which Panem will always have to struggle. In other words, the Hunger Games ends in a way that feels surprisingly adult -- bleak, realistic, as far from wish fulfillment as one can imagine. Such a conclusion only emphasizes something YA readers have known for years: that there is serious, engaging, and transformative work going on in YA literature."

What I'm reading next: The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter

*Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review