CBR12 BINGO: Green Square
A book about the making of a narcissistic, ruthless and calculating leader is either the most perfect book to be reading right now or the worst. I really can’t decide.
In Collins’ prequel to her Hunger Games series, the games are pretty primal. The district tributes aren’t all dolled up, given a backstory, housed in elaborate apartments or fed extravagant buffets. They are kept in a cage at the zoo until they are dumped into a war torn arena to duke it out.
Post-war, the capital isn’t the garrish bastion of wealth from the original trilogy. The city and its inhabitants are busy clawing their way back to the glory days and the annual punishment fest is losing its appeal.
As the citizens of Pannem celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hunger Games, a group of young students are selected to help usher in the beginning of a new era. Serving as the first “mentors” to the tributes, teens from the capital are paired with their district peers in an attempt to reinvigorate interest in the games. One of these promising young citizens is Coriolanus Snow, future President of the Capitol. Pre-war, the Snows were a wealthy and established family. In the aftermath of a costly war, however, they are left with only their name and a swanky family home they can no longer afford to pay taxes for.
Eager to secure a scholarship to college and regain his family’s wealth, young Snow is determined to make the most of his “mentoring” position with the District 12 girl, Lucy Gray. When the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul, seems to take an interest in him, Coriolanus leans in. Intrigued by Snow’s malleable moral center, Dr. Gaul, takes him under her manipulative wing. Each time she pulls back the curtain to reveal another sinister experiment or genetically enhanced monster for the arena, Snow is outwardly repulsed but inwardly intrigued. This is the groundwork for the most riveting parts of the novel. Snow’s inner monologues and half-hearted moral check-ins always lead him to the best outcome for himself. It’s a chilling deep dive into moral fluidity.
It is really hard to compare this prequel to the earlier series. This one is more of a psychological slow burn than a riveting action packed story. While it is obviously about a young Coriolanus Snow (who would later become President) it’s also a clever look at the development of the diabolical games that Katniss would encounter decades later. The sophistication and the honing of targeted cruelty begins here. It is also an interesting look at a ravaged Capitol that wasn’t yet all glitter and bad fashion choices.