Home > Books, Reviews > Waitress, I’d like to return my Katniss and get a Sophia instead

Waitress, I’d like to return my Katniss and get a Sophia instead

Tell someone you don’t like The Hunger Games. Seriously, try it. Turn to the person sitting next to you and say, “I don’t like The Hunger Games.” Humor me and do this even if you want to make sweet love to the trilogy and spoon it for hours afterward.

Be prepared to cower, for if your experience is anything like mine, laser-beam vision will be turned upon you as you’re proclaimed certifiably insane. You’ll wonder if your tongue didn’t slip so that you accidentally said, “Yo, dude. I pretty much hate your mom.”

I don’t care for Katniss Everdeen. I didn’t like what I read of The Hunger Games.

I wanted to. I really did. In the end, I only managed to force myself through 100 pages of the second book before I cast it aside and emailed a friend for her recommendations on YA books I’d actually enjoy. (Happily, she was kind enough not to do Elliot Reid’sI told you so” dance, though she likely very much wanted to.)

How could I not like The Hunger Games?

For me, it’s this simple: I’m the survivor of a very difficult childhood. Almost the entirety of my early life was spent surrounded by people–family and otherwise–who were also focused simply and purely on trying to survive. Forget about trips to Europe, or even an hour away to the coast. The folks around me were trying to keep a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and, in many cases, their violent and/or crazy exes from hurting or killing them or their children. They weren’t strong simply because they survived. They were strong because, despite their hardships, they found the magic in ordinary moments. They laughed and loved despite those hardships.

When I wrote my autobiography for NaNoWriMo several years ago, I laid down what I thought was an accurate accounting of my childhood. I was surprised when my sisters asked me, “Where’s the good stuff?”

“What do you mean, where’s the good stuff?”

“Like, the stuff like your telling us stories about all the magical things that could be if we made it through childhood. Making us laugh with your silly impersonations. Helping us dream. Where’s the good stuff about you?”

[silence]

Katniss isn’t me as a teen. She’s how I remember myself as a teen. She’s caustic, unsympathetic, and driven to survive because–like those around her, and those around me as I grew up–living creatures are instinctively driven toward survival. You wouldn’t be here reading this if your ancestors hadn’t made it through some undoubtedly crummy circumstances because of this very drive to survive.

What’s missing from The Hunger Games are the things that make Katniss someone I’d want as a friend. They’re the good things my sisters remember about me as a teen. One or two throwaway efforts to show Katniss isn’t a robot aren’t enough to make me care for her. It’s not that actively I want her to die, though I don’t care enough to stick around and figure out whether she does. It’s always a good thing when people find the courage to survive.

It’s just a millionfold more interesting to me when they find the strength to go beyond merely surviving and actually live. You can’t always change crummy situations. But you can find and appreciate the grace in passing moments, and in the love of the people who are in the struggle with you.

The Hunger Games is an interesting premise. In the end, it wasn’t interesting enough for me to overcome the fact I didn’t care about its unidimensional protagonist. “Will to survive” isn’t strength, in my book. It isn’t a rockin’ or unique character trait. It’s biologically predetermined.

It’s what a person does beyond just getting by that makes her strong, and interesting to me. Life Is Beautiful, anyone? The Glass Castle?

In the end, I’d much rather have read a story about Sophia FitzOsborne trying to survive The Hunger Games to protect her younger sister, Henry. Sophia may wear dresses, but unlike Katniss, she’s determined to live, not merely survive one more “meh” day. She’s both charming and captivating as she shows the indomitable spirit of a true survivor. That’s what I want to see in my entertainment: who a person is beyond her base survival instinct.

I’m not trying to change your mind. I totally understand why you’d be captivated by Katniss’ tale of survival, even though I don’t share your enthusiasm. It’s just that, having been there and done that in the mundanity of this world’s poverty and hardship, it’s not what I’m looking for in my entertainment.

And for the record? I don’t hate your mom.

Note:
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Reposted 6/20/15

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  1. June 21, 2015 at 5:17 am

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