Suzanne Collins, 2008-2010,
(1) Hunger Games, (2) Catching Fire, (3) Mockingjay
YA science fiction
Note to filmmakers: Please use the tagline “the revolution will be televised” and make these movies sleek, dark, gritty, and grimy—the cinematography and overall tone should be Blade Runner, not Tim Burton. In other words, notch up the realism and naturalism and tone down the surrealism and camp.
Note to talk show hosts: Please interview Suzanne Collins alongside former contestants of competition reality shows like Survivor or Biggest Loser. Ask them what it really feels like to be on camera all the time, how the camera (and the expectations of the viewers and show creators) shape how they present themselves, what kinds of personas they feel pigeon-holed into, and whether they have felt used or exploited. Then have Collins talk about Katniss’s behavior during the televised parts of the Hunger Games and, later, the Districts’ uprisings.
Note to teachers: Put the first book on a summer reading list and/or ask your librarian to facilitate a book group. But please do not teach it in the classroom; instead, teach about actual oppressive governments and real-life uprisings and revolutions. Keep teaching Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies. And keep teaching critical thinking and analytical skills related to media literacy and gender roles.
Note to YA authors: In our post-Harry Potter world, the doors are wide open—young readers will read longer books and producers and moviegoers are ready to spend. In our Twilight and True Blood cultural moment, it is smart for female protagonists to have two handsome love interests (are you on “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale”?). And it always helps to think ahead of time about the kids who will dress up as your characters for Halloween. Make sure you describe their costumes in great detail so the marketers can have them on the shelves in time.
OK, 24 hours later, I am thinking–dang, why am I so cynical? Clearly I have been engaged enough in this series to read the whole thing, and I have enjoyed these books. I like Katniss, and I also like Gale and Peeta. It’s just that the whole thing seems a little too movie and merchandising-ready. And for teachers, I think there are better books out there. Maybe that’s me being a literary snob rather than a YA enthusiast, but I’m still learning how to read YA. So there you have it.