Book Review: The Panem Companion
Companion books are a tricky subject. Most of them come from professional companion book creators who look to make a quick buck by tossing together a weak analysis of other people’s work and pissing us of by claiming all their ideas are original. Or the books are aimed at the casual fan, thus feel totally predictable and bland to anyone who’s taken part in our online community. Either way, there’s a huge disconnect between the writers and the fandom.
The only book that we ever really liked after more than a couple chapters, after much convincing from fandom friends, was The Girl Who Was On Fire, a series of really smart essays from popular authors about the books (and later, the movie). Still, we were skeptical when the publishers behind it said they’d be making a full-on analytical companion… until we saw that the author was V. Arrow.
For those of you who don’t know V., she is a very passionate, very active member of The Hunger Games fandom. She’s been a panelist of Hunger Games Fireside Chat. She’s talking about the series on Twitter, Tumblr, and hell, even LiveJournal! And nobody even uses LiveJournal anymore! …Anyway, there are a lot of people paying attention to what she has to say. True, we once accused her very popular map of Panem of logic-ing us to death and ignoring the possible speed of futuristic hovercrafts, but after seeing some recent, more official maps of Panem… we could go for more logic. Either way, V. has street cred. Lots of it!
Lucky us, we were given a chance to review the book four months early! So now, instead of rambling to death, we present… OUR REVIEW OF THE PANEM COMPANION BY V. ARROW!
Let’s start by saying this is NOT a book about the movie. It’s about the book series and that point is made very clear. That still leaves us with loads to dive into! Because V. is active in the fandom, this book is not a 200-someodd-page lecture about obvious themes. She certainly talks about important themes– racism, classism, sexuality, parallels between the books and real life, character origins, etc.– usually in more detail than what we’ve seen in the past.
However, she also talks about the nitty gritty fan details, some of which we don’t agree with (like Prim being Mr. Mellark’s child or a possible Finnick/Cinna relationship), but there’s plenty of other “fanon” that we believe in too. So really, there’s something for everyone. V. not only admits that these ideas are part of the fandom, she quotes and references other fans’ thoughts. It’s super gratifying to see an author who recognizes they’re part of something bigger than their own opinion.
On a scale of 1 to 10 between “This was written by a chimp, apparently” and “I’m dying, this is a textbook”, we’re going to just this companion a SEVEN. V. is a lot smarter than us, to put it lightly. We’re big on very simple vernacular, but she pulls out the big kid words and plenty of research. At the same time, anyone with a ninth grade education should do just fine, because the language isn’t off-putting and usually helps validate each topic. We never thought “Urgh… I can’t even read this because my brain is working too hard to find any joy in it.” And we think that about books far more often than we’d like to admit.
There’s a reason ya don’t often take us seriously: We goof off and use words like “shizz”. V. doesn’t because she is a professional, dammit! But she also does it without boring us to death. Don’t let the intro scare you– it’s the part that reads the most like a term paper, but it’s much smoother sailing after that.
We really enjoyed The Panem Companion. It’s unapologetically smart and refuses to trivialize the series or its fandom. You just don’t see that around these parts anymore!
If you’re not into companion books at all, that’s cool! We get it! But if you’re going to read one, we suggest you go for this one. And if you decide to do that, pre-order now and save yourself a gajillion dollars! Deal? Deal!
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