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Katniss Everdeen's adventures may have come to an end, but her story continues--especially with the highly anticipated March release of the film version of "The Hunger Games," starring Jennifer Lawrence. Here, 13 YA authors take fans back to Panem with moving, dark, and funny pieces on Katniss, the Games, Gale and Peeta, reality TV, survival, and more.
You could call the Hunger Games a series that is—like its heroine—on fire. But its popularity, in itself, is nothing new. We live in an era of blockbuster young adult book series: Harry Potter, Twilight, now the Hunger Games. It’s more unusual these days for there not to be a YA series sweeping the nation.
All of these series have certain things in common: compelling characters; complex worlds you want to spend time exploring; a focus on family and community. But the Hunger Games is, by far, the darkest of the three. In Twilight, love conquers all; Bella ends the series bound eternally to Edward and mother to Renesmee, without having to give up her human family or Jacob in the process. In Harry Potter, though there is loss, the world is returned to familiar stability after Voldemort’s defeat, and before we leave them, we see all of the main characters happily married, raising the next generation of witches and wizards.
In the Hunger Games, while Katniss may conclude the series similarly married and a mother, the ending is much more bittersweet. Her sister and Gale are both lost to her in different but equally insurmountable ways. 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 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 surprisinglyadult—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, transformative work going on in YA literature. The Hunger Games is more than Gale versus Peeta; there’s so much more at stake in this series than love (and so much more at stake in loving, here, as well). The series takes on themes of power and propaganda, trauma and recovery, war and compassion. It’s about not just learning one’s power, but learning the limits of one’s power as well.
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 grow up and take responsibility both personally and politically for our choices: those Capitol residents we see milling through the streets in Mockingjay, the same Capitol residents who so raptly watched the Hunger Games on television year after year without recognizing the suffering that made it possible, are us. That’s a heavy message to take away from any book series, but an important one for all of us—whether we ourselves would be shelved under Young Adult or not.
The pieces you’re about to read don’t cover everything in the Hunger Games series (they couldn’t cover everything), but they do tease out at least a few of the series’ most thought-provoking ideas. Together, they provide an extended meditation on the series and its world, on Katniss and our response to her, on love and family and sacrifice and survival. But you shouldn’t take this to mean the anthology is always as serious asMockingjayat it heaviest. There’s humor, and warmth, and hope here, too.
Each of our contributors has brought his or her own particular interests and expertise to exploring the series, and topics run the gamut from fashion to science to reality television and real-world media training.
Still, you’ll find these essays tend to return to the same events and the same ideas over and over again. But each time we revisit them our perspective shifts—the same way reality in the series is constantly shifting—letting us interpret old events, old ideas, in new ways. As each writer passes the torch to the next, our contributors cover new ground while pushing our understanding of the Hunger Games as a whole further, toward a greater awareness of everything these books have to offer.
While editing this anthology—both the original collection, and the three new essays included here—I was alternately surprised, fascinated, and moved to tears, a tribute not only to the Hunger Games series itself but also to the talented YA writers whose work is collected here. And I hope that you, too, will find something fresh to feel or think about in these pages—thatThe Girl Who Was on Fireencourages you to debate, question, and experience the Hunger Games in a whole new way.