Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: The Companion Devoted Fans Deserve

The Hunger Games may not be the only series that you are "obsessed" with. Many of us claim to be experts in things like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and others. This list goes on, but perhaps many of you have experienced it yourself: You are wandering your neighborhood bookstore, and find oodles of "philosophy" books of [insert obsession here]. Many unofficial guides and companion books only scratch the surface of what’s going on in the novels and series that they concern. You buy it, you read it, and come to find that the book you just spent some money on tells you absolutely nothing that you don't already know. Where those types of companion books fail, The Panem Companion succeeds. The author V. Arrow is known with fans of The Hunger Games as the creator of one of the most widely known fan-made maps of Panem; she even discusses the inception and creation of that map in the very first chapter. Fans are assured that the author of this companion book is truly one of them, and in her book, she taps into and fleshes out what the fans really talk about.

WARNING: This book is not for the casual fan! V. assumes that those who read The Panem Companion have read the trilogy (probably more than once) and hints at the Internet culture of the Hunger Games fandom (You might have seen V.'s posts around tumblr or even livejournal. yep, that's still there). The point is, she not only really understands the internet culture (are you familiar with headcanons?), but understands the online Hunger Games fandom as a whole and what makes it tick. Where the media would assume that Hunger Games fans obsess over the supposed “love triangle”, V. knows that what concerns us most and what is frankly far more interesting are the ideals and ideas implied in the novel (which by the way, V. explains, isn't even technically a love triangle). She treats The Hunger Games the way an English Lit grad student would treat a classic literary work. She presents theories and topics that are discussed in fandom (Prim’s parentage, class, race and gender roles in Panem’s culture, the roles of family), and though not necessarily saying the reader should believe them, but supporting these theories with textual evidence, even looking to outside sources in the academic world, so that we may at least consider them and make our own judgments. If you are really interested in the culture of Panem and the thoughts and ideas The Hunger Games has to offer, you just might devour this book.

The Panem Companion is a guide for the critical thinker type of fan. It is well researched, and her arguments are pretty sound. Keep in mind that the book deals with The Hunger Games book-verse for simplicity and continuity. There aren’t many YA companion books out there that treat the source material with as much reverence and the fans with as much intellectual regard. The material in this book is not dumbed down and is at times at the college or graduate level, though V. does a great job with explaining more advanced terms for those who are unfamiliar with them so even younger or less experienced readers can follow along. On the flipside to that, V. very much “comes from the Internet”, using terms like “fandom” and “shipping” just as easily.

Knowing what we know about the fandom and how they communicate with each other, it's quite heartwarming knowing the author feels what you feel and understands what the books mean to us emotionally, not just some random dude with a philosophy major who think it's cool to write about what's "in".  Because of the thoughts and ideas that came with The Hunger Games, it brought a big thirst for discussion, hence us looking to the internet to talk with others about this incredible series. I remember an episode of HG Fireside Chat sometime last year where we discussed an interesting blog posting by our friend Sylah from DWTC, and lo and behold we found it cited in the Panem Companion. V. really made us feel as if we have been seeing the fandom shape and grow side by side. 
For any fan willing to go deeper into what The Hunger Games and its fandom is really about, for fans that love theories and discussions and critical thinking, The Panem Companion is a MUST BUY. Get ready for knowledge, get ready for your mind to be blown (Truly, my name is Cinna), and get ready to feel really really smart.

May your bread be toasty and your arrow fly straight,

Courtney & Tiffany

Stay tuned TODAY for a nifty post related to the Panem Companion...