Book Meme 2012: Week One – Book Crush(es)
Well, I know I’ve done something similar to this before. Last year’s book meme had a post called “Fictional Husband.” I still love those characters, but there are other fellas in my life.
But those are my literary loves, not crushes. And right now there’s one character that’s been hot in our pop culture for a few months, but I don’t think I can claim him as anything more than an infatuation.
Call me a sellout, but I have to confess – I am crushing hard on Peeta Mellark of The Hunger Games trilogy.
Just like all the other girls in Panem – er, I mean, America.
- She zips back to the podium, and I don’t even have time to wish for Gale’s safety when she’s reading the name. “Peeta Mellark.”
Oh, no, I think. Not him. Because I recognize this name, although I have never spoken directly to its owner. Peeta Mellark.
No, the odds are not in my favor today.
-The Hunger Games, chapter two
A citizen of Panem’s District 12, Peeta Mellark is the sixteen-year-old son of a baker who is chosen to be the male tribute for his district in the 74th Hunger Games. With his fellow tribute, Katniss Everdeen, Peeta is required to participate in a televised fight to the death. In an interview before the games, Peeta announces that he is in love with Katniss, a revelation that has far-reaching consequences.
Everybody loves Peeta (even Gale Hawthorne)
You can’t help but liking Peeta. Believe me, I’ve tried. In a book like The Hunger Games and a world like Panem, you don’t want to become attached to anyone.
So what’s so great about him?
Beware, there are SPOILERS ahead.
5 Reasons Why Peeta Mellark Is Crush-Worthy:
1. Peeta is romantic.
Peeta could very easily come off as too-good-to-be-true. He’s hopelessly romantic, devoted to Katniss, and he says mushy, fluffy, love-dovey remarks designed to make preteens, teens, and twenty-something girls swoon. Well, unless you’re Katniss Everdeen.
- “My nightmares are usually about losing you,” he says. “I’m okay once I realize you’re here.”
Ugh. Peeta makes comments like this in such an offhand way, and it’s like being hit in the gut.
-Catching Fire, chapter six
Despite the fact that it takes eleven years and his own impending death for Peeta to come clean with the fact that he’s in love with Katniss, once the truth is out, the boy does not quit.
Sadly, he’s in love with Katniss, and Katniss has major trust and abandonment issues. She has no concept of why anyone would find her attractive, let alone lovable.
2. Peeta can make you laugh…
…which is really great when your life is nothing but gloom and doom.
I love a guy who can make me laugh, and I love people who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves.
- “Lean down a minute first,” he says. “Need to tell you something.” I lean over and put my good ear to his lips, which tickle as he whispers, “Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.”
I jerk my head back but end up laughing. “Thanks, I’ll keep it in mind.”
-The Hunger Games, chapter nineteen
3. Peeta is talented – in the kitchen and in the arts.
- “I do the cakes,” he admits to me… “At home. The iced ones, for the bakery…”
“…lovely. If only you could frost someone to death,” I say.
“Don’t be so superior. You can never tell what you’ll find in the arena. Say it’s actually a gigantic cake—“ begins Peeta.
“Say we move on,” I break in.
-The Hunger Games, chapter seven
Bread is a big deal in these books. I mean, a big deal – you’ve got a character named Peeta who is a baker in a country called Panem. Bread is everything.
Peeta can bake all sorts of things – cakes, cookies, pastries, strudel, pies, cheese buns, and bread. Of course, bread.
I love bread.
I really do. You don’t know how amusing I found this trilogy and its obsession with bread.
Peeta could make me baked goods all day long, and I’d keep him well supplied with hot chocolate. We’d be very happy together. Fat, but happy.
Peeta is also an artist, and like all artists, he uses his talents to reach out to people. In book two, when he’s supposed to be showing off his lethal skills for the Gamemakers, Peeta paints instead.
- “I painted a picture of Rue,” Peeta says. “How she looked after Katniss had covered her in flowers.”
There’s a long pause at the table while everyone absorbs this. “And what exactly were you trying to accomplish?” Haymitch asks in a very measured voice.
“I’m not sure. I just wanted to hold them accountable, if only for a moment,” says Peeta. “For killing that little girl.”
-Catching Fire, chapter eleven
4. Peeta remains true to himself.
Peeta is remarkably self-aware. Besides convincing Katniss to fall in love with him and that little matter of having to fight to stay alive, Peeta’s main concern is to keep himself from being changed into a pawn or a monster. He doesn’t want to become like his parents, Haymitch, Finnick, or Joanna.
This is a theme many characters in the trilogy face, but it is played out in Peeta’s development.
- …Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self. “Do you mean you won’t kill anyone?” I ask.
“No, when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,” says Peeta…
“…No offense, but who cares, Peeta?” I say.
“I do. I mean, what else am I allowed to care about at this point?”
-The Hunger Games, chapter ten
This is what makes the third book Mockingjay so tragic. Honestly guys, by the time I was nearing the end, I didn’t actually care if Peeta ended up with Katniss or not – I just wanted him to be healed, whole, and happy. I was a wreck.
5. Peeta is the light in the darkness.
I seriously doubt his creator intended this, but Peeta Mellark embodies several Biblical truths. In a trilogy that conspicuously avoids all mention of the supernatural and religion, Peeta is startling because he is truly not of his world.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, NASB
Peeta is not perfect. He lies, he manipulates, and when we see him again in Mockingjay – well, it’s not pretty.
However, Peeta’s determination to not be changed by the rules of the game, to not be the Capitol’s monster, means that he draws his internal strength from something more than vengeance and the basic need to survive.
- It’s because he’s being kind. Just as he was kind to give me the bread.
The idea pulls me up short. A kind Peeta Mellark is far more dangerous than an unkind one. Kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there. And I can’t let Peeta do this. Not where we’re going.
-The Hunger Games, chapter four
Peeta is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and these traits cause him to be selfless in a selfish world. It makes his actions more revolutionary than that of his friends and allies. They are fighting because of their fear, anger, despair, and brokenness. Peeta is fighting out of love and hope.
But in Panem, such traits are weaknesses, and for Katniss, Peeta is a liability. She knows this should concern her and frustrate her, but instead she finds herself more willing to protect him.
Their relationship brings to mind another Bible verse:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…
Ephesians 5:25-26, NASB
In The Hunger Games, Peeta’s strategy is never to save himself but to save Katniss. At the end, when it’s down to just the two of them, he begs Katniss to kill him so that she might live. In Catching Fire, Katniss has come to love Peeta enough to know that she can’t let him die for her and so plans to sacrifice herself for him. However, Peeta plans to do the same for her, and not just to save her life. He tells her to live and to love – he gives her the freedom to be with someone else if that’s what she wants.
In Mockingjay, Peeta is taken prisoner and tortured by the Capitol. The consequences of this are devastating for Katniss. Yet – in Katniss’ darkest moment, Peeta’s love for Katniss prevails over every horrible thing that has happened to both of them, and he is unable to let her die.
Katniss says at the end of the trilogy that to her Peeta is hope – hope for life, hope for a brighter future, hope for healing, hope for love, and for trust, which echoes yet another Bible verse:
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
…now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:7, 13
Katniss is fiercely independent. She is not interested in having a boyfriend. She doesn’t want to get married. She definitely doesn’t want kids. But at the end of the story, she needs Peeta – not because he will save her, (let’s face it, if there’s a damsel in distress in this story, it’s Peeta), but because he will help her heal. Together they can be made whole.
And that’s beautiful.
Love or Crush?
Goodness, after writing all that, maybe Peeta isn’t just a crush after all. But here’s the thing about literary characters – they’re not real. They’re models for us to learn from. And for me, it isn’t so much that I want to find a man like Peeta as it is more that I want to be like Peeta. There’s just enough of Katniss in me to scare me. Peeta causes Katniss to grow and change, to care not just for the people she trusts and lets into her life, but for humanity as a whole.
I want to be like Peeta.
Next Week: Theme Songs – To what books would I give a theme song?