The Girl Who Was on Fire: Our Hunger Games anthology

By February 21st, 2011

Last season, we did an official introduction post for our Fall 2010 books. This season, over the next few weeks, we’re trying something new: officially announcing our Spring 2011 titles individually, each in their own post. This is the first one, but if you miss any later, you can check them all out here.

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In some ways, editing an anthology is a lot like throwing a party: you send out a lot of invitations and hope a lot of smart, funny people show up and talk about interesting things. And sometimes, you get lucky, and the party goes really well. Everything seems to gel.

That’s how I feel about The Girl Who Was on Fire, our anthology of YA authors on the Hunger Games trilogy, coming out this April.

For me, the perfect Smart Pop anthology is one that makes you laugh, that makes you think, and that makes you cry–and this one does all three. Okay, mostly the second one. But the number of times these essays moved me to tears–even the second, third, fourth time reading through (Mary Borsellino, I’m looking at you)–I ought to declare kleenex as a business expense on my taxes. And I laughed and smiled way more often than I would have expected, too, given the bleakness of Mockingjay.

Take this bit from Sarah Rees Brennan‘s essay, on Gale at the end of the series:

Last we hear, he has a “fancy job” and Katniss speculates about his possible other romances. Gale seems to be doing just fine for himself, and indeed one has pictures of the rebellion reunions in which Gale shows up in a flashy sports car and says, “Katniss, baby, you could have got with all this.”

Still, what I love most about what our contributors have done is the way they shed light into some unexpected corners of the series. Jennifer Lynn Barnes talks about why arguing Peeta vs. Gale distracts us from something way more important: Katniss herself. Blythe Woolston takes on PTSD among Hunger Games “winners.” Sarah Darer Littman looks at the rebellion in terms of the War on Terror. Carrie Ryan talks not just reality TV, but what the Hunger Games trilogy suggests about the media, and why we should be paying attention.

The benefit of a book over a party, of course, is that you can share a book much more easily. This link will take you to our book page, with the full list of essays and contributors (and links to excerpts). It also gives you the back cover copy. But I wanted to leave you with a few extra quotes, as a preview. (And if you’re interested in getting a head’s up reminder from us when the book’s officially available–and updates on giveaways and other book news beforehand–just leave your email in the sign-up box after the excerpts.)

From Adrienne Kress‘s essay on the Capitol’s decadence, and how it led to its downfall:

Food is a huge metaphor in the books. The country is even called “Panem,” which means “bread.” Food is life. We learn that it is what initially brought Katniss and Peeta together as children when he saved her life by giving her slightly burnt bread. Food gave her hope when she and Gale were able to hunt and provide for her family. Food becomes a symbol of strength to her in the arena when, during her first Hunger Games, District 11 sends her bread as a gift of gratitude. Food is what keeps people alive. It’s what shows others that they care. And so when we see food treated as trash, when we see people simply throw food away because they have too much of it, we understand that we are witnessing the ultimate display of decadence and overindulgence: life being tossed aside.

From Terri Clark‘s essay on the power of the fashion statement:

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 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.

From Ned Vizzini‘s essay on media training, both Katniss’ and his own:

Katniss becomes famous because of her realness. When Caesar Flickerman asks her in her first televised interview what has impressed her most about the Capitol and she mentions the lamb stew, the laugh she elicits cements a love affair with her public that she contends with for the rest of the trilogy. Why is this answer so important? It is honest. It shows a lack of concern for what the “right” answer might be (“the architecture,” “the fashion”) and, in a world of tightly controlled propaganda, this is revolutionary. . . Of course, in order to win the Hunger Games and lead the rebellion that follows, Katniss must betray that realness and employ all sorts of calculated gambits, losing herself in a maze of self-constructed imagery . . . Thus the Hunger Games presents us with the kind of hero that not only Panem but America likes best: the reluctant one, unexpectedly brilliant when challenged and then, once famous, desirous of a simpler life.

Finally, let me give a quick mention to our other contributors–Bree Despain, Cara LockwoodLiz Rees, and Lili Wilkinson–all of whose essays are equally worthy of quoting. Maybe closer to the pub date . . .

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