In an essay on the tenth anniversary year of The Hunger Games, YA author Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes) discusses her hero, Katniss Everdeen, and the altered YA landscape in the wake of the series’s success.
Along with Tahir, Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles) and Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows), too, contributed to what made Katniss and the books a phenomenon.
Read excerpts from the essay below:
“Katniss Everdeen’s name always booms through me like a firework,” says Dhonielle Clayton, author of “The Belles,” and chief operating officer of We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit organization. “A bright reminder of what is required to change the world: defiance, irreverence and a stubborn determination. I needed to read girls like her; girls who weren’t so nice; girls so angry that their rage could topple anything in their path; girls that could face the dark; girls who could never be contained.”
Indeed Collins’s vision for a heroine was uncannily prescient, as is so much else in the series. Katniss’s story is set in Panem, ruled by the Capitol, which uses propaganda to turn the populace against each other and hang onto power. Class divisions are rife, and the economically disadvantaged are forced to become participants in their own oppression. Rebels are quickly silenced. The Capitol’s cunning media encourages an obsession with perfection that permeates every aspect of society.
To survive all this, Katniss adapts. Her enemies do not expect her to. Again, they underestimate her.
Leigh Bardugo, author of the forthcoming “King of Scars,” recalled the scene in “The Hunger Games” where Katniss gets a makeover. “Collins spoke to aspiration and commodification all at once, and the larger way Katniss is forced to transform in order to survive. She has to become a girlfriend, a proto-wife, and then a prospective mother to garner the sympathy and interest of the crowd. She has to belong to a certain kind of narrative to be seen as valuable at all — and that’s something young women and girls soak up every day from the media and on their Instagram feeds.”
Read the full essay here.