Have you wondered why Suzanne Collins’s books are so captivating? To celebrate her birthday, here are 3 reasons why audiences of all ages enjoy her works.
Looking back at her two most popular works and the impact they’ve had on audiences over the years, it is undeniable that Suzanne Collins is doing things right with her writing, since her books strike cords in both child and adult audiences—a rare and valuable skill not often seen by even the most successful authors. A 14-year-old is unlikely to get hooked by Stephen King, but a family can read The Hunger Games trilogy together and talk about it—or an entire school, for that matter, according to the documentary Extras: Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games Phenomenon.
To celebrate Suzanne Collins’s birthday, we will look at the 3 factors that make her books so compelling across a wide audience margin.
Comparing her two most well-known works, The Underland Chronicles and The Hunger Games Trilogy, one can easily notice the similarities in style despite the different viewpoint orientations. Though the former is written in Third-Person Past-Tense and the ladder in First-Person Present-Tense, the book series are similar in that they focalized wholesomely on one main protagonists. All throughout the 3 books of The Hunger Games, we see and experience the story’s events through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen, and the same rings true for The Underland Chronicles.
The solo-protagonist focalization that Collins’s magnum opus works share give them a deeply personal feeling; we, as readers can’t help becoming bonded to them as the plot plows forward. Reading the first page of a Suzanne Collins book is equivalent to connecting your heart to the main character via a USB cord.
The centralized writing style that characterizes Collins’s books intensifies the emotional highs and lows. Rather than showing multiple different perspectives, as is popular in fiction today, we become so focused and connected to the protagonist that we find ourselves identifying with them. When reading through Katniss’s perspective, it was really easy to distrust Peeta, then quickly change gear when he saved her from the Career Tributes during the first games. Had we been given chapters from Peeta’s point of view, that moment and others like it would have had far less impact.
Collins, whether you realize it or not, is a master of character. That does not simply mean writing fantastic protagonists, like the famed Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games Trilogy; rather, if you look through her portfolio of characters, all of them are compelling in one way or another. Even those of the likes of Finnick Odair, Plutarch Heavensbee, and Mrs. Everdeen (Katniss’s mom) (all who appeared secondary) possessed a high level of importance in relation to the story as a whole.
The key reason behind the level of reality each holds in their own right is how they are perceived by the protagonist. As explained in the previous section, Suzanne Collins’s stories are narrowed in on one pair of eyes. Though we lack the individual perspectives of all the characters in a book series, we are treated to the inner speculations of the protagonist as they interact with them, which is something we all do on a daily basis. We are all able to relate to Katniss’s figuring out of Peeta, Haymitch, and Finick, as well as her fierce distaste toward Presidents Coriolanus Snow and Alma Coin.
Collins has shown herself to be a true master at making the most of the limitations of single viewpoints and showing depth in not only the protagonist, but the secondary and background characters as well.
When first reading The Hunger Games, there was something enthralling about Panem. This sensation is not rare in the genre speculative fiction. Still, there was something different about the way Suzanne Collins wrote it into being.
As discussed in the previous sections, her focus on the character experience greatly contributes to the realism of specific places. Unlike many authors in the science fiction and fantasy genres, Collins employs the term “less is more” when it comes to her world-building. We got only small bits of information regarding the geography of Panem, leaving much of it steeped in mystery. That sense of uncertainty as to how the world functioned worked in the favor of the story, as we were only shown the information that was relevant and that the characters would realistically have access to.
It is not that Panem is more or less interesting than other fictional settings; rather, Suzanne Collins’s ability to control her expository impulses and make the worlds in her books flow out naturally in accordance with the character experience that makes them feel so real and grounded.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of Suzanne Collins or have just recently picked up one of her books, one thing is clear: she is no ordinary writer. Her books have been embedded into pop culture and will continue to be read and enjoyed for generations to come. As the years pass, we can all wait with excited anticipation for the next brilliant book series Suzanne Collins is working on, as it’s sure to change the world.