Susan Collins – “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”

I was introduced to “The Hunger Games” about a decade ago. I was teaching at LHS at the time, and I remember I was covering someone’s class for some reason. One of my students was nose deep in a book, and that caught my interest because that particular student was NOT an avid reader. I remember asking her what she was reading, and she just lit up with excitement, telling me all about Katniss and what was happening to her. If a student who rarely read was excited about a book, it had to be good, and thus I decided to check it out.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is Susan Collins’ fourth book in the series. It’s actually a prequel to the original trilogy. I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading it, because I thought the original trilogy ended on a rather bland note with “Mockingjay.” The first two books were amazing, but the third was rather lackluster. When I initially heard the rumors of a 4th book being a prequel, I thought it was going to be about Haymitch and his experience winning the games. That turned out to be wrong. This book focuses on Coriolanus Snow, the guy who would go on to become the president of Panem during the main trilogy.

It had been quite a while since I had read the original books, so I had to refresh myself with some of the lore. (What was an avox again?) I found myself interested in the early days of the games and how the mentoring program started out. Unlike the original books, the mentors here were students in the Capitol rather than former winners, which makes sense given that it’s only the 10th games and there aren’t that many winners yet. The book focuses on the role of Snow and his assigned tribute, Lucy Gray from District 12, as they work together to make it through the games.

It turns out Coriolanus Snow, despite living in the Capitol, is pretty poor and desperate, but just like some people today, he puts on a good show of trying to pretend to be upper class. Apparently his family was fairly well off prior to the war that ultimately gave birth to the Hunger Games. I can’t recall exactly what happened to their wealth, but Snow and his cousin repeatedly utter “Snow falls on top” as a reminder that they’ll end up better than they currently are. (Obviously that does happen, given his status as president later on.)

I should note that the book is made up of three parts. The first two were pretty enjoyable. They focused on the lovable Lucy Gray as she makes her debut at the reaping up through her time in the games. Snow is there to help, and he becomes a likable character. The third part, however, goes in a completely different direction. I’m not sure what Collins was thinking here. Furthermore, the ending of the book seems ridiculously rushed, like she was just trying to make a deadline or something. I was definitely not satisfied there, and, if I’m being completely honest, it was just as disappointing as “Mockingjay.”

Was this book worth the read? Yes. Did I enjoy it? For the most part, yes. Do I think it could have been better? Absolutely! I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of the originals, but be prepared to be somewhat disappointed with the last part of the book. I certainly don’t want to provide any spoilers, but you’ll know what I mean when you get there.

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