Katniss Everdeen is what some might call a strong female character. While still a child, she managed to keep her family alive despite all odds (even her mother, who had mentally checked out) in a very treacherous world where many a strong person would have failed. That’s why it irks me that she is written to be so needy and clueless so much of the time. Had this book been centered around a boy instead, he would not have been at the center of a love triangle of girls willing to sacrifice themselves to keep her alive and safe. He would have probably done a better job at reading his potential enemies and allies (Hmm – these people I don’t know are willingly laying down their lives for me instead of killing me – that’s odd, I just can’t figure it out… Really?).
How I wish a writer would create a strong female character who doesn’t willingly surrender all of her power to a boy the first chance she gets (I’m looking at you, Bella Swan) or who isn’t referred to predominantly in terms of what boy she should choose (Team Gale!…no, Team Peeta!). Maybe someone already has, but no one is reading their books. That would be sad. Please let me know if I am missing any strong-girl gold. And maybe I’m being unfair – she is, after all, supposed to be a child.
The author works in television, so maybe her foreshadowing would be less “clobber the reader over the head” if we were viewing this on screen rather than just “hearing” the internal dialogue of a single character. And on a positive note, she does a fairly decent job of character description even with a single narrator – we know quite a bit about the main characters, and enough to care about several supporting characters as well. For example, I am crossing my fingers for Cinna, Haymitch, and Finnick.
Despite the teen romance angle, this book puts us smack dab into what the series is really about – war and revolution. And it’s not pleasant; it’s ugly and people die. Sometimes authors shy away from killing off characters we have come to like and, while it’s true she introduces people in this book just to off them in the arena, it’s uncomfortable to read about their passing (this is true of the first book as well). Also, even though we can be fairly certain of their ultimate survival, she does not make things easy for the main characters. At all. Those Gamemakers are some serious sadists – I had to quit reading for a day after the fog scene and I still haven’t quite recovered from the zombie mutts in Book 1, to be honest with you.
I really hope the final book does a decent job of answering the many lingering questions I have. I would like to know more about the roots of the rebellion – when it began, and what role Haymitch played in it (I like him). What really happened in the global war? The rest of the world was destroyed, right? Panem is the only inhabited place? Where did the idea for the medieval torture devices used by the peacekeepers come from? They have those fancy guns, but they shackle and whip people instead – did someone read about these techniques in a history book or on the Internet, because given the absurd level of stupidity displayed by the capitol (although perhaps it really is just arrogance), I kind of get the impression that no history books have survived the initial war or the “Dark Days.”
Oh, and what about the fact that Peeta can’t get a decent prosthetic, but Katniss can get high-tech body polishes which rid her body of all scars? I’m curious, because it’s the other way around in 2012. I guess all of the world’s medical technology must have been destroyed in the global war that took all of the history books and useful computer files. (I guess computer technology was completely obliterated, leaving the future with only land-line phones and old-school television, but I digress.) Or maybe it’s simply less objectionable to let the heroic pretend boyfriend have a potentially fatal disability than to allow our
pretty strong girl to have a few battle scars.
I hope I haven’t given the impression that I’m not enjoying these books, because I am. I prefer Catching Fire to the first one, only partly because of that dreadful zombie mutt business. Katniss might not be the strong girl character I’ve been hoping for, but she has her moments. We can’t forget that she VOLUNTEERED for the Games in order to save her sister (and the scene where she goes over the electric fence and frustrates the peacekeepers – just, wow). And maybe she’s just socially inept because she has been so focused on survival for all these years. I quite literally have hundreds of papers to grade this week, but I have been trying to sneak a few minutes here and there to read The Mockingjay, and so far I am impressed with some of Collins’ choices in that novel.
On that note, I understand a trip to the cinema is in order this weekend – I am trying to remain hopeful about the film, even though I have already read a lousy review. Already I see the characters from the movie in my thoughts as I read the third installment. Especially Donald Sutherland – he is also haunting my dreams. (And he smells like blood and roses in my dreams – uh oh, please tell me he’s not a vampire.)