Too Early To Judge? A Pre-Release Discussion of “The Balled of Songbirds and Snakes”

warning: this post contains light spoilers for the final book/movie in The Hunger Games trilogy

Picture this: The year is 2012, a young girl speaks almost exclusively in Hunger Games references, wants to marry a fictional character named Peeta, and her hair is almost always in a single braid along the back of her head — that girl, is me.

Ah yes, 2012 — the year when One Direction was the hottest band and every single book marketed towards teens was either about a dystopian world being controlled by an evil president, or it had like vampires and stuff. Now if i’m being honest, 2012 was probably one of the best years of my life. Besides the fact that i was immensely scared about going to high school, i read The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time that year, and the first movie in the franchise was released in March of that year. needless to say (most of) my anxieties regarding going to a big new school were pushed to the back of my brain as all i could think about was katniss katniss katniss, and peeta peeta peeta.

If you are unaware of what The Hunger Games is, it is a young adult book series written by Suzanne Collins. The first book was released in 2008, and it then had a movie franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence which ended in 2015. It is probably best known for it’s dystopian world where children are forced to fight to the death in an arena that’s broadcasted on television for the rich people of the world to enjoy. And it was also the book series that really got me into reading.

Now, because i am such a big fan of this book series i was more than excited when it was announced in June of last year that there would be a PREQUEL book released in May of 2020. And then in November we got our title and cover: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Although, many people’s excitement started to go down the drain when just a couple days ago we were given our first excerpt of the book — as well as our main character.

In an article by Entertainment Weekly it was revealed that the protagonist for the novel would not be Mags or Haymitch or even Finnick like many had hoped — but would rather star a teenaged (President) Coriolanus Snow.

When i first looked online (mainly Twitter), the responses were somewhat positive. People were upset we weren’t getting a back story for Mags — the aging district 4 tribute from Catching Fire — but they were still interested in what Suzanne Collins would give us. Although, as i kept reading people’s opinions, they got quite negative quite quick. Many people were very upset that Collins would choose Snow to be the protagonist of her book, claiming that she is going to try and make us feel sorry for him. Although, i’d say it’s too early for us to be judging this book– especially seeing as it doesn’t come out for four months.

While i can see where people are coming from with their concerns — I myself am still excited to read this book. One of the most interesting parts of this book will be seeing the games through the perspective of The Capitol, which we really only got a taste of in brief moments throughout the movie adaptations. I am also someone who finds it fascinating to see the backstories of villains, especially when it comes to someone of political power. And in the first excerpt given to us through Entertainment Weekly, we can see that this book will be in the third person rather than first — which is what the original trilogy is told in. This shows that we might not always be in Snow’s head, but rather go into those around him as well. Perhaps showing what others thought of him how, how he might’ve manipulated them, and ultimately how he came to power.

Collins is also not the first person to do a villain’s origin story. Think of the Star Wars prequels for instance — while they might not be wonderful movies, they gave us insight into Anakin’s life and his journey in becoming Darth Vader. (That being said, I will acknowledge that Anakin and Coriolanus are very different. As Anakin was a poor slave and Coriolanus is a rich child of The Capitol, though i will still include this example). And while i’m not a big fan of Todd Phillip’s Joker it gave us an origin story of one of the most well-known Batman villains. Suzanne Collins was able to write a trio of books that showed us the dangers of abuse of power, and in no way made it feel as though Snow was a redeemable character. A moment that really stands out to me is in Mockingjay, when they vote on whether they should hold a new version of the hunger games for the children of the capitol. Katniss votes against it, showing us that she knows that it’s not right and would not be the correct way to end to things once and for all. To me this really encapsulates the story that Collins was trying to tell with The Hunger Games, and will hopefully continue to tell with this novel.

And so, while i understand the concerns that people have for this book — it’s way too early! While it might end up being awful… with four months to go we will continue to get more information on the book, possibly new excerpts, comments from Suzanne Collins, and hopefully some reviews from people who have actually read the book. But, until then, we just have to have hope in what Suzanne Collins has been secretly working on for the past 10 years.

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