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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins: A Review

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

“The show’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games”, the enormously popular book series (and one of my favorites) turned movie giant touched the world just over a decade ago. Suzanne Collins’ bleak dystopian world is set in Paneam, where the Capitol controls all twelve districts after the end of a gruesome war many years ago. A male and female child from each district are chosen on the day of The Reaping after which all selected tributes are sent to fight each other the death in The Hunger Games- a national event obsevered by all in Paneam. You may remember that Katniss Everdeen volunteered to be a tribute after her sister Primrose was selected. President Snow, the main antagonist in the story, was the minipulative and cruel leader of Paneam. I know I was not the only one who wondered what his back story was. In Suzanne Collin’s newly released novel, we see the world through Snow’s eyes.

In the prequel to the Hunger Games series, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” we find that Presidents Snow’s story was not a what we may have predicted. In the other books of the Hunger Games series we learn some information about what happened in the war that desomated Paneam and caused the Districts to be punished by the Capitol for a seemingly indefinite time. However, this was all seen through the lens of Katniss Everdeen, a member of the poor and lowly district twelve. In this novel, we taken back many decades before Katniss was born, and we are able to see the aftermath of the war through the lens of Coriolanus Snow (who we know to be President Snow in the other books.)

Without spoiling anything, there still much to talk about. Coriolanus Snow is eighteen years of age, and is in his senior year at his academy. His parents are died years before and his remaining family had lost almost all their fortune after the rebellion of the districts. All he had left was his cousin Iris and his Grandma’am. Most of his concern is to keep appearences in order to maintain a good name for his family. Although they barely had enough money for food, they managed to keep their family home and their reputation. I could see early on that it is Coriolanus’ desire to make something of himself and rise to the top- but this seems to be more out of ambition and self-preservation. He desires to be seen and known, but also to care for his cousin, grandmother, and himself. His goal is to be able to attend a top university in the Captiol after he graduates, but they do not have enough money to pay for that education. Therefore, when he gets selected to be a mentor for a tribute in The Hunger Games, it’s his chance to be noticed. If he does well enough and his tribute wins, perhaps he will get a scholarship. However, the odds are set against him when he is given the task to mentor the female tribute of District 12. Her life and his life are in thick of it together, for the fate of Snow lies in the success of this lowly girl’s popularity and success in The Hunger Games.

What I loved about this novel is was Collins’ ability to have the readers root for Coriolanus, although most of us know how he will end up. The evolution of the character was well thought out and very surprising, and there was not a moment where I felt I actually knew what was going to happen. Also, there were so many correlations to the rest of the books, which I felt were great tie-ins. Furthermore, I felt it was intersting how see how different the games, the capitol, and the districts were at the time. I found myself quite shocked to learn how the games truly began, and why they were in fact called “The Hunger Games.”

I would give this novel a nine out of ten if I were to rate it only because I feel there were a few questions I was left with unanswered. I am not sure if Suzanne Collins is planing on writing a sequel to this prequel, but I have the feeling she may not. I absolutely recommend this book to those who already read the rest of Hunger Games series. Perhaps one could make sense of all in this book without reading the others first, but I feel that the significance of much that occurs in the other books can be more appreciated when reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes after the rest of them. If you are haven’t already read the Hunger Games… what are you doing?! I suggest purchasing or borrowing a copy as soon as humanely possible.

I hope this review encourages you to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, becasue I highly recommend it to all YA book lovers out there. Feel free to share your opinions with me about it too, but be careful not to spoil the story please! Thanks for reading.