Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows the story of one of the most infamous literary antagonists, Coriolanus Snow. Set 64 years before the events of the original Hunger Games trilogy, the Capitol is gearing up for its 10th annual games. They decide to throw in a twist this time, nominating twenty-four Capitol Academy students to mentor the tributes and make the overall experience more thrilling and appealing to the people of Panem. Snow, having been plagued by poverty and hunger, sees this as his ticket out for the mentor with the winning tribute would win the Plinth Prize, a scholarship to university, which he otherwise would not have been able to afford. However, the odds would not be in his favor after having been assigned District 12’s Lucy Gray Baird. District 12 was the poorest of all districts and has never produced a winning tribute. Determined to win the games, Snow plays at Lucy’s strengths and turns her into a spectacle that people would come to love and root for. Snow sets the stage, and Lucy performs what she does best. We follow their journey from before the games all the way till the end, watching as Snow weaves this perfect narrative for the perfect girl, all while getting swept up in her storm himself.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is an incredibly compelling novel that examines the complexities and motivations of Coriolanus Snow. Though it is definitely less action-packed and slower-paced than the original trilogy, the focus on Snow and his inner turmoil is refreshing yet pensive. Being able to zero in on his thoughts and hear his line of reasoning first-hand reveals the inevitable faults within his character. We can pinpoint the moments in which his moral compass starts to stray, making us question how different things could have been if he had chosen differently in one situation or another. Collins crafts this intricate story that weaves in commentary on human nature and the things that drive us to the point of corruption. Perfect for any Hunger Games fans, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is an outstanding prequel to an already iconic series, peeling back the layers of the man who would go on to become Panem’s worst enemy and most importantly, highlights how our choices shape us—whether it be for better or for worse.

Review by: Justina E.

Justina is a virtual volunteer at Sylmar Branch Library. She is an 11th grader at Granada Hills Charter High School.

—Dana Eklund, Sylmar Branch Library