Warning: Potential for mild spoilers ahead
I enjoyed The Hunger Games and recently flew through the next two books. I’d heard from other people that they didn’t like the second and third books as much as the first, and the more I read, the more I found myself agreeing with them. Whereas my first impression of Katniss was that she was a great role model, a strong female character who faced suffering and still managed to survive with her spirit intact, I began to grow weary of her indecisiveness and passivity. Gale vs. Peeta. Districts vs. Capitol. Become the Mockingjay or not. Katniss rarely seemed able to actually make a decision on her own. Instead situations forced her to act. Finally I just wanted to shake her and say dammit, just stand up for yourself and what you believe and be the Mockingjay, on your own terms!
I also kept comparing her in my head to Sydney, the heroine from my book. Okay, Sydney’s nineteen so she’s got a couple years of experience on Katniss, but she’s also a strong female character who’s suffered and has to face her inner demons in order to become a leader in the rebellion. Sound familiar? I know I’m a bit biased because Sydney is my character and near and dear to my heart, but she does share some similarities with Katniss. Sydney grows and changes tremendously throughout the course of Thief of Hope, and I really wanted to see that kind of growth in Katniss. She had so much potential and fell short, in my mind.
So here’s a little compare/contrast of our two heroines.
Loss of a father: Katniss loses her father in a mining accident. Sydney’s father figure, Edgar, is hanged for being part of the resistance. This one is close. But unlike Katniss, who still has her mother and Prim, Sydney has no other family to fall back on. Point to Sydney.
Street smarts: Another point to Sydney. She’s survived on the streets of Last Hope all of her life. It’s not a pleasant place. Katniss is resourceful, but she can’t maneuver through the back alleys like Sydney can.
Wilderness survival: Okay, this one goes to Katniss. She can hunt, she knows plants, and she can clearly hold her own in the wild. Sydney would be pretty useless in this environment, although she’d hang on as long as she could.
Knife vs. bow: Sydney’s pretty good with a knife and Katniss is an expert with her bow. This one might be a tie because it really depends on the situation. Hand to hand I’d bet on Sydney, but long distance goes to Katniss.
Watching loved ones die in front of you: The body count gets pretty high by the end of Mockingjay. Sydney loses quite a few people as well. This one’s probably a draw.
Drug problems: Katniss sees firsthand how easy it is to escape into the world of drugs and for a brief time, feel no pain. She never quite succumbs, though. Sydney does have a problem with drug addiction for that very reason-she uses it as an escape because the pain of losing Edgar is too much. But she gets through it and refuses to go down that path again, as tempting as it might be. Point to Sydney for overcoming her addiction.
A villain you love to hate: President Snow was a great villain. But Katniss loses a point here because the resolution made me want to toss my Kindle across the room. Luckily I value it too much for that. Schrammig is Sydney’s nemesis in Thief of Hope, and yes, I’m quite partial to him. He doesn’t have as much power as Snow, although he has a lot of power over Sydney because of what he’s done to her and the people she cares about. Sydney gets a point for having to face Schramming and all of the fears associated with him.
Boy trouble: Katniss has the whole love triangle going on. I started off Team Gale but switched to Team Peeta about halfway through. And once I began reading Mockingjay, I guessed correctly who she’d end up with. And in one of the many annoying elements of the ending, Katniss STILL doesn’t really choose, it just falls into her lap. Point taken away from Katniss for sheer annoyance. Sydney, on the other hand, doesn’t always make the best decisions where men are concerned (Zared is the prime example), but she comes to a realization about that. And when she has a chance at finding love with someone who is worthy of it, she takes it.
Leadership skills: Katniss has the mockingjay fall into her lap and still doesn’t know what to do with it. Again, she’s indecisive and very passive. I don’t think it’s just because of her age, either. There was potential for her to be a real leader with real power, and it was wasted potential. Sydney has plenty of doubts about her own leadership skills and her dubious past makes people doubt her. Yet she proves to herself and to others that she can stand up and fight for her beliefs and be an example for others to follow. Definitely a point for Sydney.
Pretty clothes: All right, we’ll give one more point to Katniss. Both Sydney and Katniss are pretty casual about their appearance. Katniss has stylists and some really amazing dresses. The dress in Catching Fire was one of my favorite scenes (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. Sydney is lucky to get a pair of new boots.
So you can see where some of my criticisms of Katniss lie. I would still say I enjoyed the trilogy overall. It’s unique and has a refreshing point of view. I know it’s YA, but man is it dark, especially the last book. I was worried I might have nightmares after reading that. People can argue that Katniss is just a sixteen-year-old girl; she’s not perfect. That’s all well and good, but she’s also a heroine who deals with extraordinary circumstances. She survives the Hunger Games. She is the Girl Who Was on Fire. And she transforms into the mockingjay. She’s a lot more than an ordinary girl. She’s a hero we can look up to, and that’s why I hold her to a higher standard.
What do you think? Are you on Team Katniss? Or have I made you a convert to Team Sydney?