This post was written by books intern Anna Minard.
The books section was a little short this week, so there wasn't room to mention the big-deal author coming to town tomorrow: Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games trilogy, will be in town doing signings at Elliott Bay and Third Place Books. If you're interested, you should know that they are signings only (no reading, no Q&A) and that she has a hand injury, so the signing is actually a stamping
. If you have somehow escaped hearing about this series, a quick recap: The Hunger Games
is the first book in a young adult trilogy about a semi-post-apocalyptic future where resources in North America are carefully and tightly controlled by a powerful central government. This government runs an annual gladiator battle, called the Hunger Games, which is fought by the nation's mostly poor and unwilling teenagers on live television. This serves the dual purpose of entertaining the residents of the luxe Capitol district, while terrifying into submission the folks who live out in the producing areas (coal miners, famers, factory workers). Winners (and there can only be one) return home with enough food and money for their family to live comfortably. Losers die, obviously.
The books have gained the kind of attention and print runs that make them an ambassador for their genre, which has been officially labeled "dystopic fiction." Or maybe "post-apocalyptic fiction." Or "dystopian futuristic fiction
." Whatever—the way Twilight made the books media flip over vampire books, The Hunger Games made every library in the country print up So You Like Dystopic Young Adult Fiction flyers.
No one can say exactly why these books have the momentum they have right now. They're really fun books—dark, addictive and exciting. The unsubtle-but-smart commentary is perfectly timely. That just doesn't wholly explain their level of popularity. A phenomenon becomes what it is through some unreproduceable perfect storm—at just the right moment, a book written in just the right way on just the right kind of topic gets out to just the right kind of readers and it builds on itself. Harry Potter was not the first book about a boy wizard, and Stephenie Meyer didn't invent anything but the sparkles. It's always a mystery—not that people don't try, over, and over, to explain it and replicate it.
And why are young adult books in general becoming so popular with grown folks right now? I don't know, but compare them to novels for adults: in YA, the emotions are fiercer, the plots move along more swiftly, and the protagonist is never a white middle-aged English professor
contemplating an affair with a much younger woman. Really, what more could you want?
So the days are getting darker and the weather's getting crappier, and dystopic fiction makes a fine fireplace read. You should really check these books out. And if you don't know where to go after Hunger Games, head over to Questionland, where other people have already asked and answered that question. Or you could go into any library or bookstore and tell someone in the kids and teens department, "So I've just finished The Hunger Games…" They'll start walking you over to the dystopic fiction display before you even finish your sentence.