Today I’ll be reviewing perhaps the most controversial book of our times… JUST kidding, I don’t know that it’s especially controversial, but I myself had trouble forming an opinion on it. I didn’t quite know what to think about it all, but there is one thing I can tell you: Any author that writes a main character that readers can hate without making them hate the book itself is a talented as heck. And of course, with the Hunger Games trilogy, we already knew that about Suzanne Collins.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows tyrannical dictator President Snow… as a teenager. Coriolanus is struggling to maintain appearances while living in abject poverty with his cousin Tigris and grandmother. As one of the highest-achieving students in his class, Coriolanus is chosen to serve as mentor for a Hunger Games tribute. Coriolanus knows that if he carries his tribute to victory, he will have a better chance at the University scholarship that could be his last chance at saving the family’s dire circumstances.
When the mentors are given their district assignations, Coriolanus is horrified to see that he has been assigned the girl tribute for District 12. The lowest of the low– how could the Snow name have been reduced to this? And to rub salt in the wound, Sejanus Plinth, a district-born boy coming from new money has been given a District 2 tribute! Then his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, gives a striking show at her reaping and Coriolanus thinks he may have a chance after all.
I despise Coriolanus Snow. There were a few scenes where I could understand why he did what he did, but if Suzanne Collins was trying to get her readers to feel sorry for Coriolanus, she failed in that regard with me. While Coriolanus offered a poor replacement for Katniss as main character, the plot and story in this book wasn’t lacking. I was always wondering what would happen next and couldn’t have predicted much of the story. There were a few problems with the pacing because sometimes the book went too fast, other times too slow, which threw me off.
The one reason I am ready to overlook the shortcomings, though, is the social commentary found in this book just as it is in The Hunger Games. Coriolanus’s conversations with Dr. Gaul and Dean Highbottom, amongst others, offered a perspective into future President Snow’s actions that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. Now I’ll stop rambling and give you the book’s rating: 8.5/10 (don’t ask me where I got that number because I don’t know. I’ve never had a book confuse me more than this one.)
And on whether you should read it, yes, yes you should. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is worth reading for the perspective it offers alone, but there’s also beautiful prose, well-written characters, and a riveting plot. Yes, also romance, although I found it absurd and forced. (But that’s a conversation for another day as I’ve gone on long enough!) And to any and all who’ve read it, let me know what you thought of it down below!