The One in Defense of the Baker

I have this policy (thanks to Harry Potter) that I try to avoid reading a book series if I know that it's A) addictive and B) going to be while before the final book comes out. Which is why I didn't even bother reading Twilight until the day I could turn around and buy New Moon if I decided I liked it enough to keep reading the series. Which is also why I didn't read The Hunger Games until last night. First of all, I am DUMB. I took a nap after work because I felt like I was in the midst of a sinus infection, only to wake up around 9 unable to fall back asleep. Which is fine, because my solution to that is always the same: read a book. EXCEPT I CHOSE THE MOST SUSPENSEFUL, GRIPPING, FAST-PACED BOOK IN OUR APARTMENT.

Ahem. Anyway.

I would like to take this journal entry as an opportunity to declare that I am firmly TEAM PEETA, and defend this sweet kid again all of you Gale fans who think he's a wuss and that Katniss deserves the manly muscled and reserved Gale. Actually, I'm mostly TEAM KATNISS DOESN'T NEED YOU BITCHES HOLDING HER DOWN, but I digress.

SPOILERS. SPOILERS. SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. I might have had a different reading experience than others, having just written a book about a girl who (somewhat) struggles with her feelings for a best friend who has the potential to become something more and the unknown force that suddenly steps into her life. I think Suzanne Collins was a hell of a lot more successful in depicting this than I ever was, because I cannot--for the life of me--figure out who Katniss is going to end up with. Granted, I haven't read Catching Fire yet, but I don't think my opinion is going to change. I'm not the type to switch teams after I get something in my head, and I'm totally annoyed by my obsessive need to predict plots/character deaths/romances (I predicted most of the major character deaths in Harry Potter, including Lupin and Fred). This is honestly the first time in a very long time that I haven't been able to get an absolute sense of where a story is headed. Again, will report back after I read Catching Fire.

That said, I just want to say how annoyed I am by how some people are quick to dismiss Peeta because he's a baker and not a hunter, or because Gale has been friends with Katniss and he hasn't (and, for the record people: Gale and Katniss have only been friends for four years, not their entire lives--if you believe Peeta, he's been crushing on her since they were kids), or because he was chilling in the mud while she was getting fireballs thrown at her.

First of all, Gale is at a disadvantage in my brain because we don't see much of him, and a large part of what we see is filtered through Katniss' I-Miss-Home lens that occasionally makes even the worst parts of her life seem not that bad at all. Having just finished The Hunger Games last night, I honestly can't tell you ANYTHING about Gale. Maybe it was intentional (probably?), but he was le boring. He was like a tall, dark, handsome wall that Katniss was using to prop herself up with because it was safe and comfortable.

Peeta is the unknown. He's confusing, seemingly untrustworthy in the beginning, but almost always full of (good) surprises.

I blitzed through the beginning so fast (and I'm too embarrassed to take the book out of my bag to check), but aren't Katniss and Gale described as being somewhat physically similar? Something sparked in my tired brain earlier when Anna and I were talking about the merits of Peeta vs. Gale: Katniss and Gale are very much alike. In fact, I would like to argue that they're maybe a little bit too much alike, and that's detrimental to Katniss and what she has the potential to become (or, really, what it seems like others will need her to be).

As Anna so wisely put it: at the beginning of The Hunger Games Katniss is all about instinct and survival. And thank goodness, because she wouldn't have lasted more than a few days in the arena without these qualities and skills. She shares this with Gale, and I do think he's a representation of this trait. Katniss notes in the beginning, she used to get annoyed at the attention he received from girls, not because she was jealous, but because she was worried about losing a good hunting partner. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this wouldn't have been enough for her to "win" the games, and it certainly isn't enough for what she has to do at the end of Catching Fire (did you really expect that I wouldn't spoil myself??). In that same way, I seriously doubt that Gale would have been able to win the games if it had been his name that was called instead of Peeta's. Peeta's ability to play to the crowds and cameras--something that comes naturally to him--is absolutely invaluable and shouldn't be looked down upon. Would Katniss have won without him and what he did for her? Maybe. Probably not.

For as nervous and wary as Peeta made Katniss (and me!!) in the first half of the book, it's clear by the end that he has his own type of courage and is fiercely, fiercely loyal both to his own heart and the people he cares about.

What really struck me last night was that yes, Peeta puts her at a physical disadvantage as he spends most of the games in one crippled state or another, but it doesn’t mean that he’s useless. I think what I appreciate about their relationship over hers and Gale's is that Peeta challenges her expectations and heart in a way that Gale, apparently, doesn't. He's one of her conduits for change. I was so frustrated by her reverse snotty attitude with Peeta in the beginning, but it seemed to me that a BIG reason why she was so close to Gale was because they had suffered and struggled together. They have that common experience. But, honestly? I find her interactions with Peeta to be so much more compelling because he's the one that inspires her to look deeply into her heart and examine what it wants and needs--he's the one that's helping her change and to become the person she can and should be. If Gale is a representation of her instincts, then Peeta most definitely represents the feeling part--the part of Katniss that's shut down and tried to block out because of the sadness of her early life.

Anyway, sorry for rambling at you all. I guess what it comes down to is that I believe that true love can't be found in a mirror image of yourself, but in the person that challenges you to become the best version of you. He might not be the bravest, or strongest, or even the most cunning, but he, more often than not, is the one with the best heart.

P.S. I am of the opinion that Peeta is being set up for a Big Damn Hero moment in the third book

P.P.S. Come on, admit it: you would totally choose the guy who brought you cupcakes over the one who brought you a squirrel to eat.