Katniss isn't the kind of hero we're used to seeing in fiction. She reacts more than she acts, she doesn't want to be a leader, and by the end of , she hasn't come into her own or risen like a phoenix from the ashes for some triumphant moment that gives us a sense of satisfaction with how far our protagonist has come.She's not a Buffy. She's not a Bella. She limps across the finish line when we're used to seeing heroes racing; she eases into a quiet, steady love instead of falling fast and hard.
There's an episode of that I've been thinking about a lot while writing this essay. In it, Buffy sacrifices her own life to save her sister, and right before she does, she tells her sister that the hardest thing to do in the world is to live - ironic words coming from someone about to kill herself for the greater good. As I'm writing this, I just keep thinking that Katniss never gets to sacrifice herself. She doesn't get the heroic death. She survives - and that leaves her doing the hardest thing in the world: living in it once so many of the ones she loves are gone.
Firecracker Gale and dandelion Peeta are so different from each other that it's easy to imagine that a girl who would choose Gale is a completely different person than one who would choose Peeta. When people sit around debating who Katniss should choose, maybe what they're really debating actually her identity - and the romance is just a proxy for that big, hard question about the ever-changing, unaware girl on fire.