The Xerox'd (Male) Love Interest
(HG minor spoilers!)
By now, you'd have to be hidden under a rock not to have heard about The Hunger Games. Since there's obviously a thread in these posts concerning romance, I'll be focusing on the "romance"* part of the Hunger Games. Throughout the series, we're mostly with two people, Katniss and Peeta. Because they're competing against one another, there isn't a lot of romance in the first book. Until the last chapter, Katniss isn't even aware that Peeta might not be faking the iwouldtotallydieforyou syndrome.
Now let's talk about reader reaction. Because we're with Peeta (and he's more developed) most of the time, a lot of readers came out of the Hunger Games rooting for Katniss to choose him. Why? Well, according this, even the audience at the screening was overwhelming Team Peeta. And according to this, it seems like there's a certain section in the book where readers were converted to loving The Boy With The Bread.
Peeta, even as described by Katniss, is gentle, warm and not afraid to tell his crush (after a few years of nursing it and then heading into the face of doom of course) that he loves her. While he isn't afraid to announce to the world, Katniss sees it as a strategic move (which, OK, it definitely is). A lot of readers don't see that, though. Especially when Katniss and Peeta are holed up in a cave and he's pretty much delirious over her nursing him back to life, not even thinking that it might be a strategy. He's a bit naive, but he can lie like nobody's business. While described as stocky and strong, he's also a baker and a painter. These two occupations have been regulated as a feminine gender roles for a long time, and this is why ultimately Peeta has become so popular. Why his and Katniss's romance envelopes most people's minds. They subvert gender roles.
After three years of Twilight copies, and Twilight itself, toting muscular, manly, male protectors**, Peeta is like a breath of fresh air. It seems, however, that a lot of authors afterward take Katniss's role as the main reason why the relationship had a strong following, instead of realizing that (just like Ed and Bells) you need to have the dynamic. The groundbreaking subversion. The healthy subversion***. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be changing. It's only, depressingly, encouraged the flames of love triangles in the vast majority of YA novels. Love triangles that remain the same, where the choices are laid-out but don't have that spark.
I really, really would pick up the next book I saw in Chapters if it had a different love interest. I don't care if he's sweet and caring, or nerdy and awkward, or charming and faillable. I just want to have something different. Bad boys are nice and fun, but they get exhausting to read when they're nothing but bad boys****.
(Continued in next post.)
*I do that because in reality, there is very little romance. What Katniss is doing throughout the series is choosing a viable mate-for-life. As a survivor and someone living in basically medieval times, she weighs her options in regards to how choosing someone will affect her long-term. I've never seen anything remotely attracted to romance in Katniss. Peeta, yes. Katniss, hell no.
**This is my opinion, but there's really nothing wrong with liking these characters. Fantasies are subjective.
***Katniss says it all, really. My interpretation: Bad boys are fun and nice at a certain time in your life, but when you're looking for a mate-for-life, you need stability. Even if that stability comes with a guy who's just as broken as you are. (Now I'm going to bawl in the corner.)
****And even worse to read when they're Bad Boy Woobies, who seem to be All The Rage nowadays, sadly.