Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Book #0)

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Format:

Physical book

Page Count:

517

Release Date:

5.19.2020

Overview (Spoiler Free!)

So, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to even get into this book, but I let you all decide if I was going to and since 90% of you wanted me to…here we are!

I initially wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this prequel because it’s been so long since I last read The Hunger Games, and based on my experience with the addition of Rebel to the Legend series, which you can read about here, I wasn’t sure if I wanted more from a series that I didn’t really feel like I needed more from. Also, I wasn’t really all that interested in President Snow’s backstory because throughout the series he seemed like one of those pure evil villains who you never see a shred of humanity from.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I definitely wouldn’t say it was the best book I’ve ever read, or even that it was as good as any of The Hunger Games books, but in my opinion, it did add something significant to the background and development of the Hunger Games universe. It gave me a much better understanding of the creation and purpose of the Games, and surprisingly made me somewhat understand how Snow became so messed up. The first half of the book was pretty exciting, and I felt connected to the protagonist, but there was a clear slowing down of the plot near the end that made it a bit difficult for me to get through the entire 517 (!) pages. The book also left me feeling a bit confused about the characters and the plot, but overall I would say it was a worthwhile read to any fan of the original series.

Summary

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

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

What I liked:

“You can blame it on the circumstances, the environment, but you made the choices you made, no one else. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s essential that you make an effort to answer that question. Who are human beings? Because who we are determines the type of governing we need. Later on, I hope you can reflect and be honest with yourself about that you learned tonight.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Learning more about how the Hunger Games came to be. My hands-down favorite part of this book was that it helped me better understand the political climate in the Districts and in the Capital, and how it ultimately developed into the climate we saw in the original Hunger Games books. I could tell Collins put in a lot of time and effort into explaining this throughout the book because the descriptions of Snow’s inner philosophical musics were extensive and obviously well thought our on her part.

“People aren’t so bad, really,” she said. “It’s what the world does to them.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • The philosophical discussion of human nature. The conflicting opinions on human nature and what is ethical were central to the primary conflict in the book. I might even say they were the primary conflict. What was lacking in character development and plot was obviously replaced by extended discussion in this area, and it was quite interesting to read and process.

Some of it was kind of “yeah, I’ve heard this a million times before,” but there were some sentences and paragraphs that really made me think, and really painted the reader a picture of what the inside of Coriolanus’s head must look like.

“I think there’s a natural goodness built into human beings. You know when you’ve stepped across the line into evil, and it’s your life’s challenge to try and stay on the right side of that line.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • The cover. Love the cover! It stayed true to the theme of the original Hunger Games books yet added something new and unique.

What I didn’t like:

“The strain of being a full-fledged adult every day had grown tiresome.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • The character development. Not the entirety of it, but for me, the last half, or third if I’m pushing it, of the book were a bit confusing in terms of how many of the characters–especially Coriolanus–developed and ended their arcs. I think the book did a great job of helping me understand how the Hunger Games came to be, but not so much how President Snow came to be. I just felt like I didn’t understand how things escalated so quickly and was very confused about his decision-making, and it felt more like there was a time crunch to get him to become a horrible person so it was sped through (**cough ** Anakin Skywalker vibes if you know what I’m saying **cough**), which is interesting given that this book was anything but short.

I’m not sure how I feel about…

  • The plot. Kind of in line with the character development, the plot felt like it was going somewhere until about halfway through the book. It was interesting enough to keep me reading (which, honestly, is saying a lot these days), but also not interesting enough for me to not skim certain sections. Very mixed feelings.

Overall:

Overall, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was an okay book, and definitely a great addition to The Hunger Games series. It definitely could have been better towards the end, but I’m glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the development of villains trope, something more political than a lot of YA, or to anyone really into The Hunger Games universe.


Have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts/opinions/feelings down below!*

*Make sure to leave a warning if your comment contains spoilers!


Thanks so much for reading, and have an AMAZING rest of your day ❤

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