Review: ‘The Girl Who Was on Fire’ by Leah Wilson (Editor)

by Kim on May 11, 2011 · 13 comments

Post image for Review: ‘The Girl Who Was on Fire’ by Leah Wilson (Editor)

Title: The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy
Author: Leah Wilson, Editor
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2011
Acquired: From the publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: I’m at a loss for writing a summary for The Girl Who Was on Fire, so the description from the back of the book will just have to suffice for now:

Katniss Everdeen’s adventures may have come to an end, but her story continues to blaze in the hearts of millions worldwide.

In The Girl Who Was on Fire, thirteen YA authors take you back to Panem with moving, dark, and funny pieces on Katniss, the Games, Gale and Peeta, reality TV, survival, and more.

  • How does the way the Games affect the brain explain Haymitch’s drinking, Annie’s distraction, and Wiress’ speech problems?
  • What does the rebellion have in common with the War on Terror?
  • Why isn’t the answer to “Peeta or Gale?” as interesting as the question itself?
  • What should Panem have learned from the fates of other hedonistic societies throught history — and what can we?

If anything in that description sounds at all interesting to you, go and get yourself a copy of this book because it easily delivers on the premise.

The Girl Who Was on Fire is what I’d consider “literary criticism light” — it’s not so theoretical that it’s dense or hard to read, but it’s not simple enough that I’d already considered all of the arguments in the essays. I really enjoyed exploring the series again through a more critical lens, a lens that I couldn’t find myself when I read and reread the books. They’re so gripping, it’s easy to lose yourself in the stories.

My one disappointment with the collection is that a not-insignificant number of the essays focused on or mentioned extensively the connections between the Hunger Games and reality television. It’s not that the essays were bad, just that I think those connections are more obvious than some of the other essays which talked about the politics of Panem, the connections between fashion and rebellion, and the characterization of Katniss herself.

On the whole though, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I read through it in just a couple of days, and I’m planning to check out a number of the other books in BenBella Books Smart Pop book series. If you miss The Hunger Games, I think The Girl Who Was on Fire is a worthwhile way back to the story.

Other Reviews: The Reading Zone | Books and Movies | Presenting Lenore | 5 Minutes for Books | The Zen Leaf |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda May 11, 2011 at 6:51 am

I agree with you on the reality TV essays. There was one that brought up a couple of interesting points, but for the most part, it was the sort of thing mentioned in most regular reviews. I preferred the new stuff.

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Kim May 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Amanda: It felt like reality television came up in every one of the first few essays. The comparisons are valid, just not quite as interesting to me because, like you say, it sort of came up already in a lot of the reviews I read.

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Trisha May 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

I am really looking forward to reading this one – sometime this month I hope – so I’m glad to hear it’s worth it. I am a bit worried about the reality tv connection as I refuse to watch any reality tv and hence know very little about it (outside of the obvious basics).

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Kim May 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Trisha: I don’t think you need to know anything about reality television to “get” the comparisons — it’s more about the culture reality tv creates, the relationships between participants and viewers or between entertainment and truth.

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nat @book, line, and sinker May 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm

i just finished the trilogy again (on audio this time) and have to say that i really enjoy the stories and characters. i didn’t realize there was a lit crit book out about the series but would be interested to give it a read. the tv comparisons would be lost on me–we haven’t had tv at my house in 11 years. i know about some of the shows on tv but haven’t watched any since the real world or road rules in 1999 or early 2000. since then the landscape of tv has changed dramatically. i prefer to read! :)thanks for the tip on this book–hope my library has it.

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Kim May 15, 2011 at 7:15 am

nat: I watch a fair amount of tv, but not reality television much at all. But like I said to Trisha, I think the book is more about the idea of participants an viewers and the constrictions of reality television, which even people who don’t want tv would have some idea about, I think.

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Leeswammes (Judith) May 12, 2011 at 3:04 am

Sounds interesting! I’ve been wondering about the society that The Hunger Games take place in but not too deeply. This book would probably do that for me.

This book sounds like it’s for an age range starting higher than the age range for the Hunger Games books (e.g, something like 18-99 instead of 12-99). It’s not written for the younger group, is it?

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Kim May 15, 2011 at 7:16 am

Leeswammes: Yes, there are a couple of good essays on the people of Panem and how their society works that were really interesting!

I actually don’t think the book would be too hard for the age range of the books. There aren’t any critical theory terms that would be confusing, and the prose is very accessible. It’s more a discussion of the book on its terms, which curious readers of any age would probably like.

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Jennifer May 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I have seen this book around and have been considering whether or not I should pick it up. When my book club read the Hunger Games we had a hard job looking at the book through a critical lens. I’m definitely intrigued to see what critical approaches are introduced in this book. A huge part of me still wants to talk more about these fabulous books and I’m thinking that maybe this book might be a great place for me to do just that.

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Kim June 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Jennifer: I think those are great reasons to read this book 00 it got me thinking about the series more which I really liked.

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Natalee March 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I don’t under stand did Suzanne collin write the book cause I am in love with her I love the hunger games

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Natalee March 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Oh and do you think a 10-12 year old can read it????

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Kim April 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm

No, Suzanne Collins didn’t write this book. It’s a companion with essays by other authors. I think it might be a little complicated for a 10-12 year old, but it would depend on the kid, I suppose.

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