Reading for Fun: Not Your Mother’s YA Continued

MockingjayAs promised, I downloaded Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, the third and final book in the Hunger Games series, to the Kindle app on my netbook the day it came out. In spite of being incredibly busy, I read it pretty quickly, because Collins is gifted at that most important writing skill: making the reader desperate to find out what happens next.

It’s a dark book. I’d contend that, in some ways, it’s darker than the first two. I won’t say more than that — it’s too hard to write about this series without including spoilers. Just go read it, but not until you read the first two books first. This is a series that absolutely must be read in order. In fact, it’s really one book broken up into trilogy format for bookselling reasons.

Mockingjay isn’t yet on The New York Times YA bestseller lists, but give it time: Catching Fire is currently number 1, and The Hunger Games is number 3. Having read all three books, I continue to be amazed that a series of stories about a particularly nasty bleak totalitarian future society that holds an annual event in which teenagers kill each other on television is the most popular YA series out there. I’m not displeased — these are wonderful books and I think they’re quite suitable for teenagers — just puzzled.

Obviously I don’t understand the rules of publishing. I keep trying to imagine the “elevator pitch” for these books — which in my mind is American Idol meets the Roman gladiator arena, with teenagers in the starring roles — and wondering how Collins pulled it off.

But I’m glad she did.

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Brewing Fine FictionI have two essays in the lastest Book View Cafe anthology, Brewing Fine Fiction. My 51 flash fictions and a few other stories are available on Nancy Jane’s Bookshelf, and anthologies containing some of my stories are available through Powell’s. The free, chapter-by-chapter version of Changeling starts here. And check out my stories in the Book View Cafe anthologies The Shadow Conspiracy, Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls, and Dragon Lords and Warrior Women.
And you can also read my latest story — “Or We Will All Hang Separately” — on Futurismic.

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Reading for Fun: Not Your Mother’s YA Continued — 6 Comments

  1. Oh yes, it’s like the Lord of the Rings, really one book.

    She got the idea from two contrasting TV shows she was flipping between.

  2. I don’t know anything about Battle Royale, the film or the book, but I confess to a lot of skepticism when people start making claims that something is a rip off, especially when that something is wildly popular. One of the things I really like about these books is that Collins makes it clear the harm that is done to Katniss and others by the violence they commit to survive — something that is often lacking in stories that show a lot of violence, and is particularly lacking in movies, sad to say.

    As for the Theseus myth: I can see how it might have provided the beginning of an idea (many of the things that give me ideas come from places that no one else would recognize by the time I do something with them), but my first thought — after “American Idol” — was the death as spectacle of the Roman arena. That these young people are turned into the phony superstars of their time, and then sent off to kill each other, is a major part of these books. The television interviews, the carefully designed costumes, the ways of getting outside help, coupled with death as spectacle are a large part of what makes these books work so well.

  3. Nancy Jane, I agree that the premise of the Collins books is close to the Roman arena spectacle. The differences from the Theseus myth are fundamental and obvious (to me, at least).

    For the rest, as Dostoyevsky said, there are just two stories: Someone goes on a journey, and A stranger comes to town. Authors have always cheerfully appropriated others’ stories (Shakespeare is a very obvious example), and copyright is a recent invention/concept. Personally, I don’t mind much as long as sources are acknowledged.