“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.”
Published in 2009, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games has become a phenomenon for kids of all ages. A year and a half of anticipation after the first film in the trilogy was released, Catching Fire finally hits theaters today. Jen Smith rereads the novel and shares her take on the book’s surprising lessons in becoming Superbly Single. *This review contains spoilers.
A friend once told me that we don’t have to love an entire book, as long as we find that one nugget, that one lifelong takeaway that we can forever use to benefit ourselves. To my surprise, in rereading Catching Fire, I realized that the book offered more than just one nugget—it was a complete guide to becoming an independent girl.
Most people know the general premise of the first book in the series: a girl volunteers as tribute to save her sister, participates in a game that is a fight to the death (in order to win her starving district a year of nourishment), and wins against all odds. What many don’t see is that the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is so human, so real, that the reader cannot help but connect with her. The second novel, Catching Fire, picks up after Katniss’s participation in Panem’s Hunger Games competition and follows her through the close of the games in the following year. Many non-readers see this second book as just another book with a deadly game; however, Collins spends the first two-thirds of the second book focusing on developing Katniss as a character and building her into the leader that is necessary for the third and final book of the series.
During the course of the first and second books, Katniss spends much of her time worrying, but through the second book, she slowly learns that she needs to share her burdens with her teammates, Haymitch and Peeta. Since each has experienced the games (Haymitch, a drunken, middle-aged former winner, and Peeta, Katiniss’s partner from their first games) they can provide support and insight into Katniss’s feelings. By voicing her concerns and troubles, she alleviates some of the burden from her own shoulders, allowing herself time to grow into this new role as a leader.
Despite the fact that Katniss continuously believes she is selfish, she is far from it. She repeatedly places herself in harm’s way to protect those she cares about. She starts displaying her selflessness in the first book by breaking the law to feed her family and sacrificing herself to save her sister Prim from being forced to participate in the 74th Hunger Games. In the second book, Katniss again displays selflessness when she steps in front of the Head Peacekeeper, Thread, to protect her best friend Gale from being whipped and inadvertently takes a whipping to the face. She is determined to keep Peeta alive during the 75th Hunger Games in which they participate and does everything in her power to do so. She consistently shows that she cares more about her family, friends, and teammates than she does her personal safety, demonstrating that she is a true leader.
Katniss struggles with the person she has become—she considers herself unrecognizable. She doesn’t see her qualities of courage, selflessness, or determination that others see. But what she doesn’t realize is that no one changes overnight. Adjustments have to be made in order to cope with changes that everyone faces in life. Collins created situations in which Katniss slowly learns to be comfortable with the person that everyone else sees.
The main character of Katniss is far from perfect, but she is a role model that every Single Girl can strive to emulate. Katniss is constantly learning and growing. She learns to share her burdens with others to ease her troubles and find time to concentrate on other things. She is selfless and puts her family and friends first. She slowly accepts the changes that are happening in her life, and when the time comes she steps up to lead. Katniss Everdeen is fierce and fearless, and we can all learn a thing or two from her (even if it’s just how to shoot a bow and arrow).
Jen Smith graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Art History, is currently the Operations Manager at Beverly Hills Drink Company, and volunteers her time with several organizations.