Analytical Essays on Your Favorite Fandom

September 2011 Jenna Hathaway

I first discovered analytical essay collections when I laid eyes on The Girl Who Was on Fire, a book of just that, meant to dissect The Hunger Games trilogy. I thought it might be interesting to read especially because I recognized some of the author names. I rarely, if ever, touch non-fiction literature willingly, but as someone who discusses fiction all the time, I figure this would just be my kind of non-fiction reading. And indeed, I quite enjoyed The Girl Who Was on Fire. On it I found many thought-provoking essays that made me think about the topics and themes in The Hunger Games that I probably would never have thought of and would have missed otherwise, as well as discussions about its characters and what made them that way. It helped me understand them better, why they made their choices, and just generally know them in a way that was even deeper than before.

Of course, sometimes these so-called analyses could be wrong. After all, these people aren’t the original author. And, in fact, in Demigods and Monsters, a collection of essays about Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Rick Riordan himself said in his introduction that he once heard another author analyzing his writing, claiming that he’d made an excellent symbolism, when he himself was utterly confused and admitted that he hadn’t done any such thing at all. I think we all have had that moment when we’re feeling frustrated by our English Lit teachers who seem to think, as in the most common example, that the blue curtain in a story symbolized something about the character who put it up, whether they’re feeling blue or calm or peaceful, when actually the author simply meant the curtain to be blue and nothing else.

Still, these essays are quite interesting to read for those who would like to dissect their beloved fandom on a deeper level. Of course, part of why I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl Who Was on Fire is because The Hunger Games is such an interesting world in and of itself. It’s a dystopian world where everything is different from the world we know it, so there’s a lot to analyze and explore. So it’s probably not so surprising that A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls, another such book I read about The Vampire Diaries (the show, not the books), didn’t provide much new insight or interesting ideas. Mostly because while the show’s good, there’s not much to dissect that we can’t already figure out on our own just by watching the show. After all, their world is, albeit supernatural, one we’re already very much familiar with.

Demigods and Monsters is somewhere in between for me. It’s moderately interesting but once again because it largely explores the Greek mythology side of the Percy Jackson series. There’s even additional information about the various aspects of the mythology itself and its gods that I hadn’t heard before, so that’s always a plus. In conclusion, reading these essay collections could be a fun experience, but I’d recommend that you only pick up the ones which original source material is something you enjoyed. Otherwise there’s no point in torturing yourself with even more of it, is there? And of course, there’s no point in reading them if you’re not familiar with the subject they cover at all. These books are meant to be a companion of sorts, just the kind that tickles you to think beyond the obvious and look a little bit deeper into your beloved fandoms.