I don’t consider myself a literary critic by any means, and I’m too self-deprecating to think anyone really cares about my opinion on most anything, but I am an avid reader, a lover of good stories, an educator, and a mom of two girls, so I feel compelled to attempt to put in to writing my thoughts on these two fictional young women. And why other educators and moms should choose wisely when suggesting a “good read” to impressionable young women.
I may give away details of either saga so if you haven’t read The Twilight Saga or The Hunger Games Trilogy beware. I may ruin it for you. Let me also say up front that I’m not a big fan of the romance genre. I tolerate it at best. So those of you that know me well know that when I say I suffered through The Twilight Saga…I mean it. I took one for the team and read ALL. FOUR. BOOKS. To be fair, let me start by comparing the teens: Bella & Katniss. They are both teenagers struggling to decide between two loves. Both would consider themselves loners and not very friendly to their peers. And at best, both girls are strong-willed and stubborn.
The similarities pretty much end there unless you want to add that they both have long dark hair, but who really cares about that anyhow? Now, let’s look closer at each girl and their redeeming, heroic qualities they bring to the literary world. I mean, we all love a good heroine right? We want our daughters reading about smart, strong women that better humanity and kick ass when needed…right?
So, Miss Bella Swan…what do I say about you then? You fall in love with the wrong person, you put your friends and family at risk, you are constantly told he’s not the right guy for you (even by him), you string along another guy (who in all honesty, has his own issues)…and you what? Hmmmm…ah yes, that’s it, you continue to put those you love at risk to get your way. You endanger both of your parents, your entire city and state (plus innocent victims in other states), you give up a college education so that you can be with the guy of your newly 18 year old dreams. Really?! This is who Stephanie Meyers decided would be the female lead in her saga? I’m appalled. What are Bella’s redeeming qualities? Where is her sacrifice? Where in any of books can I point to a page or paragraph or sentence for that matter and tell my own girls or students, “See that right there? That’s awesomeness at its best. Strive to be THAT.” I haven’t found it. This huge factor leaves me *glowering* at Twilight lovers and Meyers herself.
Katniss Everdeen. Troubled youth. Rebel without a cause…until about chapter 4 of book one. Here is a young woman who despite her own issues, and yes she has many, is introduced to us as a girl who stepped up to provide for her family when her father died. She has lived the past two years of her life taking over the parenting role for not only her little sister, but her mentally tired mother; and who spends the next two years of her life fighting to bring down the evils of the world. She, without hesitation, takes her sister’s spot to be publicly beaten, killed, and tortured: she is unaware of what the future will hold, but she knows it will be bad and painful. And that is just in the first few chapters! I’ll give you this: Katniss does have a troubled love life, but it sickens her and she hates herself for it. And the reader knows if life didn’t suck so badly for her, she wouldn’t be the girl to lead a guy on.
Miss Everdeen, you are badass. You are a fighter. You are brave. You are loyal. You care about humanity and what that term even means. You try, despite despicable circumstances, to right wrongs and fix an ugly, evil world. You are a warrior, and I’m glad I have never been in your shoes. They would be hard to fill. There are so many things to love about Katniss; and so many things for young girls to admire about her. Go on girls, read this trilogy and pick out just a few bits of awesomeness worthy of emulating.
I’m not one to prohibit children from reading books. I love reading banned books. I read a lot of books just so I know what all the hype is about. I think it’s important for us to read and discuss with our children and other youths what makes a good book and what makes a good character. So, go ahead and read both series and decide for yourself. But remember there is a generation of young ladies out there itching to find a role model. Don’t push them toward Bella. We don’t need anymore Bella Swans to deal with.