Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book Review - Suzanne Collins: Words on Fire


Suzanne Collins: Words on Fire

By: Marcia Amidon Lusted
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761386384
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 2013

When Suzanne Collins, according to People magazine, “blends fantasy, romance and political intrigue,” she creates the perfect formula for a successful series. Of course they were talking about her best-selling trilogy which began with none other than her phenomenal book, The Hunger Games. The timing was right and her young audience was literally hungry for yet another series they could get excited about. Even authors like Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer were awed by the series as it began “attracting a serious and loyal following.” The appeal appeared to be universal as not only girls were drawn to it, but also boys. Just where did Collins get the inspiration and ideas she needed to create such a monumental series?

Suzanne was born in the early 1960s, a turbulent time for everyone, including children. Her father had been deployed to Vietnam, but the experience left him scarred. His children heard him cry out during the night when nightmares unexpectedly struck. His fascination with military history and war led him to teach his daughter about “history and especially about the horrific effect of war.” Like many modern-day survivalists, he also “taught her about hunting and finding food in the wilderness.” Indeed, her main character, Katniss Everdeen, was named after a plant that could be scavenged and eaten by someone trying to survive in the wilderness.

With the sudden rush of fame as a literary superstar, Suzanne was naturally guarded about her personal life. She was, however, not new to writing. She wrote for Nikelodeon and once friend, James Proimos, convinced her that writing books could prove to be a nice lifetime venture, she was hooked. “Gregor the Overlander” sprung to life as well as a picture book. One night when she was “channel surfing,” an idea came to her. Suzanne would “place her character in a futuristic world that drew heavily from both Greek mythology and Roman history,” both topics that had wowed her as a child. Once the idea came to fruition, The Hunger Games came to life. In this book you’ll also read about the inspiration for the plots, criticism aimed at her for copying a similar storyline, her writing style, why she chose an unhappy ending, how she deals with fame, the screen writing collaboration, and you’ll learn many other interesting facets of Suzanne Collins and her writing. This is a fascinating look into the life of Suzanne Collins, a writer who can set “words on fire.” Of course not only young people are drawn to the Hunger Games trilogy, but also older ones, something that makes this type of series especially appealing. Collins tersely states that, “I write about war, for adolescents,” but obviously the appeal is much broader. This biography captures her gentle spirit while at the same time delves into the hows and whys of her writing career.

Fans who are captivated by trivia and can tell you the name of not only her children, but also her cats won’t glean much from this well-researched biography (FYI, this information is in this book). The book is interspersed with full-color photographs, period USA Today articles, and numerous informative sidebars. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a brief overview of her books, a timeline (1962-2013), source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you or anyone in your family was wowed by The Hunger Games, this is an excellent glimpse into the life of its creator, Suzanne Collins.