It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes. (Goodreads)
For many The Hunger Games trilogy is a source of nostalgia. I, for one, was required to read it in school and when the films came out it became a field trip for my class to go see them. Like with Twilight, The Hunger Games marked the beginning of an era. Dystopian ruled the world of YA with titles like Divergent and The Maze Runner. None would ever reach the glory of the games.
Ten years after we watched Katniss fight in the 74th, then 75th titular Hunger Games, Collins decides to teleport us to the 10th hunger games. But rather than have us follow a tribute, we follow none other than a young President Snow. When the news of this book’s release broke and it was announced it would be following Snow, many people were immediately turned off by this. I, on the other hand, was not. The idea of learning about our villain and what made him the man he was in the original trilogy seemed exceptionally interesting. After reading the book, I’m disappointed to report that is not what we get.
What we get in A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a hot mess of non-existent character development, lacklustre “Easter eggs” (if you can even call them that), annoying-to-read names, and so much irrelevance. There was an abundance of irrelevant description and details that I found myself wondering why it was even allowed to remain in the book, and ultimately the whole plot just… seemed for naught. We watch Snow go through all this hardship only to remain this horrible Capitol patriot. There was no nuance to his journey, cause he didn’t change, ever. He just continues to remain the horrible person we saw from the start.
The romance of the book is probably the one of the worst parts. It didn’t make sense, and ultimately served no purpose. It seems as though it was an attempt to garner the reaction such a romance would have gotten ten years ago, but as a result of the current social climate did nothing but ruin the reading experience. The book would have definitely benefited from removing this subplot in favor of one more politically driven one.
We do get a chance to see the behind-the-scenes of how the Hunger Games become what it was in the original trilogy. This however was simply high school students making suggestions to their teachers and their teachers agreeing it would be a good idea and then implementing it. It’s that easy. We don’t see the issues that follow with implementing many of these ideas. No thought goes to how to organize these ideas, nor how to fund them. The Hunger Games seemed so unimportant that aspects of how it is executed is left to mere students to figure out. For a national event of such supposed importance this felt a bit like a slap in the face, not only to the readers but to the tributes.