Book Reviews · POPSUGAR Reading Challenge · Young Adult

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020: Week Twenty-Two

Good morning, everyone! It’s hard to believe we are only a couple short days away from the beginning of June, but here we are. My grandmother’s condition continues to remain about the same. She is continuing to receive hospice care at the retirement home where she lives, and they are doing their best to manage her pain. This has been helpful, but she has had a few very rough nights this week. If you could continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers over the coming week, we would greatly appreciate it.

The majority of my week has been spent reading new titles. I had the chance to read some absolutely amazing books this week, including the newest titles in both The Murderbot Diaries and The Hunger Games series. I was also able to complete one additional POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt, bringing my total number of completed prompts up to 39 (out of 50).

A book that’s published in 2020…

One of the books I was most excited to read this week was The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to the novels of Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, and takes place during the 10th Annual Hunger Games.

“Snow lands on top!”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins (page 9)

The novel follows the story of an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, who is in his final year at the Capitol’s prestigious Academy. The Snow family, once extremely wealthy, is now trying to keep up appearances after the destruction of District 13 cut off their source of income at the end of the war. Coriolanus is determined to end the school year by winning an award that will allow him to attend the University for free.

As the time for the Hunger Games approaches, Coriolanus and 23 of his fellow classmates are selected to mentor this year’s tributes. Coriolanus is assigned to mentor a girl named Lucy Gray, a singer who lives in District 12. While he doubts that she will be able to win the Hunger Games, he does his best to support her…motivated partly by his desire for the prestige her victory would bring him, but also by the feelings he’s beginning to develop.

I found this book very impressive, and really enjoyed reading it! The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a great story, which not only allows readers to get a glimpse of President Snow’s past, but also provides a look at the evolution of the Hunger Games themselves. The 10th Annual Hunger Games is when the Hunger Games begin to transition from a (rarely-viewed) reminder of the Capitol’s power over the Districts, to the media circus that Katniss deals with in The Hunger Games. It was especially interesting to see the Hunger Games from the perspective of a mentor, something that is really not shown in the original trilogy.

I know some readers have really been debating about whether or not they want to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, due to the fact that President Snow (albeit a much younger version) is the novel’s central character. Even though Coriolanus is the novel’s protagonist, I think readers would be hard-pressed to describe him as a hero, due to some of the choices he makes throughout course of the book. Though I did come away from the book with a more nuanced understanding of his actions and motivations in the original trilogy, I certainly did not find myself suddenly liking him.

Like the books in the original trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does include many scenes that feature violence and death, as well as the inhumane treatment of human beings. These scenes, along with references to war and starvation, may cause emotional distress for readers.

While this book does take place long before The Hunger Games in the chronology of the series, I do recommend reading the original trilogy prior to The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I feel like Katniss Everdeen’s story is a more accessible introduction to Panem and the Hunger Games, not only for teenage readers, but for adults as well. This is partly because she is a much more likeable character, but also because I think many of us are able to relate more easily to someone who is considered an underdog.

If you have the opportunity to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Though I am continuing to refrain from setting reading goals over the coming weeks, I am planning to do a considerable amount of reading next week, focusing mostly on nonfiction titles. I hope that you will come back to visit The Unapologetic Bookworm next week for reviews of many of these books.

Have a wonderful, safe weekend! Stay healthy!

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