I am the self-proclaimed biggest Hunger Games fan. I remember sitting in my 6th grade science class reading The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. My teacher had to tell me to put the book away during class because I was more focused on reading it than I was paying attention to anything else!

The series sparked my love for the dystopian genre, which ended up being the genre of the novel that I wrote in 2020 called, The Last One. Without reading The Hunger Games, I probably wouldn’t have learned about the genre…so I give the series much credit for my start as a writer. 

All of this is important for me to preface before I get into this review because I hated The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. 

(Photo courtesy of @songbirdsandsnakes Instagram)

Though the prequel was released in 2020, I didn’t read it until a month ago. It’s not that I didn’t want to but as I said in previous book reviews, I didn’t start pleasure reading until 2022.

Even then, there were other books that took priority for me. I didn’t have a ton of desire to read about the President Cornelius Snow’s past. Of all the side characters in the main series, I cared the least about him. However, after the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie, I pushed the book to the top of my list. 

I was hesitant that this book would try and justify Snow’s actions in the main series. I was pleasantly surprised that he was still an annoying, privileged and brainwashed character, 50 years before Katniss Everdeen took part in the Hunger Games. 

However, just because I was pleasantly surprised, didn’t make it an easier read. The book was about 600 pages of him whining for whatever reason and then making the problem worse. It was tolerable for the first 200 pages, but then it got to the point where it was boring and irritating to read.

This issue may have been redeemable if the side characters were given more depth, especially Lucy Gray Baird, who is supposed to be the main love interest of Snow. After reading the book, I felt like I knew nothing about her. She had so many opportunities to be a complex character with an interesting backstory. She was the one who was actually in the Hunger Games, after all. But all I learned about her was that she sang, and the songs weren’t even good. That’s it.

Many of the book’s pages were filled with the characters’ ridiculous names. I’m all for unique names, but I spent half of the time trying to figure out how to pronounce “Lysistrata,” “Gaius” and “Vipsania.”

This book would have been better if it was split up. The first half takes place when Snow is mentoring Lucy Gray for the Hunger Games and the second half is the aftermath of it all. I don’t know why it was all crammed into one book; it ended up making the thole thing feel rushed and lacking detail. The most interesting part of the story should have been the tributes fighting in the arena, but you don’t even see that because the tributes are in tunnels the entire time. 

I gave this book two stars because of the character Sejanus Plinth. He was the only well-written character in the story, and he had so much depth. I really felt for him throughout the story because his situation is so relevant today: wanting to do something about injustices occurring and knowing there isn’t much you can do. His story is also one of the saddest that I’ve read in a long time, but I don’t want to spoil it. 

Ultimately, I would not recommend this book at all, but I haven’t seen the movie yet…maybe that’s more redeemable!

By Liz Morin

English (Creative Writing) and Digital Journalism || Politics Minor

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