Bingo category: Book Club (a whole bunch of them)
The prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has a young Coriolanus Snow, the future president and villain of the first three books, as its protagonist. I didn’t really want to read it because. . . President Snow sucks. But I requested from my library anyway, just to see what I thought. And here we are.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place 64 years before The Hunger Games trilogy kicks off, and that right there bothered me the entire time I was reading. There’s only a couple characters from the original novels who are also in this one, but all I could think about was, “So she’s supposed to be pushing 90 in Mockingjay?” Probably not a good sign that I kept fixating on that. Anyway, Coriolanus Snow (called Corio in this one) is a student in the Capitol, not long after the Capitol triumphed over the Districts. Things are a lot messier in the Capitol than they are in Katniss’s day–Corio’s family verges on starvation much of the time, and life doesn’t seem much better there than it does in some districts. The story kicks off when Corio, along with 23 other students from his school, are chosen to mentor the 24 tributes in the upcoming 10th Hunger Games. Corio hopes to be paired with a tribute from a strong district, as this could be his shot at getting into college which he can’t afford otherwise. To his dismay, he’s paired with the female tribute from District 12, Lucy Gray Baird. Turns out Lucy Gray is special, of course, and Corio becomes sort of enthralled by her.
Suzanne Collins is an expert at writing books you can’t put down. While Songbirds took some time to get going, it certainly picked up and was really exciting. By the time I reached the conclusion I couldn’t put it down. Did I like it? I’m not sure that’s quite the word. I don’t know that I needed to spend more time in the incredibly dark and depressing world of Panem, especially not with the series’ Big Bad as my guide. While Corio as a teen and young adult is certainly more palatable than President Snow, he’s still pretty unlikable. The relationship between Corio and Lucy Gray drives most of the action, but I hated their relationship. I guess the point of the book is to show how Snow becomes the monster he is by the time of the first book in the trilogy, and it does accomplish that, I think. I just don’t know if it was necessary.