Let me just get one thing straight: Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen are perhaps my favorite literary characters of all time. Not as a couple and not as a team, but as individuals.
My love for Katniss is obvious. She's a survivor. She's a badass. She is woman, hear her roar! But what makes her truly brilliant is that she is devoid of an emotional connection to nearly everyone and everything around her. She's so in her head all the time that she hardly ever has time to be in her feelings. I, on the other hand, am constantly in my feelings. Reading about Katniss is refreshing in a weird way because she's so different from every other female protagonist out there and so very different from me.
And then there's Peeta. He is unapologetic about being just who he is all the time. He cries on the trip to the train station because he needs to cry because he's about to go into the em-effin Hunger Games. He likes decorating cakes. He loves Katniss with his entire being and he's not afraid to say it to her or all of Panem. He likes to bake and paint pictures and doesn't feel emasculated by Katniss's superior hunting skills and he loves the color of orange at sunset. And perhaps most endearing, he helps Katniss stay alive (without actively keeping her alive) when everyone else was thinking only of themselves. Even when he's been hijacked by the Capitol, somewhere deep inside he knows who he is enough to know he loves Katniss.
Gale is an okay character, but I don't like who he becomes in Mockingjay and I was never that excited by him in the other books, either. As a character he didn't really intrigue me or keep me on my toes.
Yes, I like Peeta more than I like Gale. But that doesn't make me a t-shirt-wearing, poster-board-waving member of Team Peeta. Because I also like Peeta more than Haymitch and Finnick and Effie...and Jay Gatsby and Harry Potter and Atticus Finch, for that matter.
The reason I'm not Team Peeta is that these books are about so much more than a girl picking out a boyfriend. They're about survival, growth, and being true to who you are. I'm not Team Peeta and I'm not Team Gale because I'm Team Katniss. I root for her because if there's anyone who deserves to survive, it's her. It's the girl who has done nothing but take care of others all her life. And ultimately, Gale is right, she ends up with the guy who she can't live without. She doesn't need someone with whom she can be angry at the world. She needs hope. She needs the first dandelion of spring. She needs a loaf of bread when her family is slowly starving to death. She needs Peeta. She never truly had a choice because, in my humble opinion, she always knew she needed Peeta. She doesn't need him to physically survive because we all know she's got that covered, but she needs him to make life worth living.
Perhaps I'm most angry about this whole Team Peeta vs. Team Gale nonsense because Team Boy vs. Team Other Boy was born with Twilight, a book about how important it is to have a boyfriend. There was no Team Harry vs. Team Ron because the Harry Potter books were about a lot more than that, as are the Hunger Games books. So let's just quit it, please? Pretty please? For the sake of the integrity of the books, cut it the eff out.