title: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
author: Suzanne Collins
category/genre: YA dystopian
Whew! I can’t even begin to say just how much I prepared for this book. If you didn’t read my last post, I rewatched all the movies and re-read all the books in the week leading up to BALLAD OF SONGBIRD AND SNAKE’s release date. I hadn’t read the books since 7th grade, and I am really glad I re-read the books prior to reading the prequel. That has been my number one recommendation for anyone who says they are going to read the prequel. Make sure to revisit the world and characters before diving into this prequel.
In the prequel, I legit gasped after reading the first page. We discover Tigris is the cousin to Coriolanus Snow (I’ll be calling him Snow), and I was intrigued to see just how Tigris ended up hating Snow by Mockingjay. We don’t get to see the shift, but I now know whatever Snow does is big enough to destroy his relationship with his cousin. That’s an entirely different level of villain if Snow can turn his adoring family against him.
Speaking of Snow’s family, I began to understand where Snow learned a lot of his beliefs and tendencies when introduced to his grandmother. His grandmother clung to pre-war beliefs which I saw mirrored in Snow’s behavior. Obviously this does not make anything he does in these books forgivable. He takes his grandmother’s beliefs and twists them from terrible to a real-life nightmare. I went through this entire book reminding myself just how terrible Snow acted in the trilogy. Since the book is in third person limited, we get to see Snow’s rationale for his actions. This is where I saw the connections between his upbringing and his beliefs.
Moving on to the romance in the book, I had troubles with Snow’s relationship with Lucy Gray. Their relationship was pitched as romantic. I would categorize it as obsessive and manipulative. I don’t believe Lucy Gray ever loved Snow. Perhaps a crush prior to the Games, but she thought she was gong to die and never have to deal with him again. Snow’s behavior from the very beginning before he ever met Lucy were obsessive and possessive. (Yes, that rhymes, and I’m proud of it.) He keeps referring to Lucy as ‘his girl’ during the process before the Games and afterwards. Snow assumes Lucy is in love with him and gets jealous way too easily. He assumes the worst of her when she discusses her ex-boyfriend or has any interaction with other men. I quite frankly did not like this relationship.
Once Snow becomes a Peacekeeper and heads to District 12, I knew things weren’t going to go well. I hated how Snow assumed Lucy would be overjoyed by his appearance in her District. At the end of the book, Lucy runs away from Snow in the woods. At this point, I brushed over all of their interactions. I did not like their encounters or how things played out. Once Lucy runs away, all of the obsessive behaviors I saw in Snow became magnified. He did not hide any of it. I am surprised Snow just left the woods assuming Lucy was dead, and I’ll share why in a little bit.
Most of this book dragged for me. I sped through each of THE HUNGER GAMES’ books in the days before jumping into BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES. I prepared myself mentally for reading this book in a day, maybe two. Technically, I finished this book in two days’ span of time. I tried to spend an entire day reading this book, but the pace was too slow for my liking. I believe this book dragged since I wasn’t in first person point-of-view, and Snow wasn’t technically IN the Games (except for those few random moments). After re-reading the trilogy, I did not prepare myself for the density of this story.
I loved seeing Snow’s hand in developing the Games into what it is in the trilogy. The Games prior to Snow are unrecognizable. I would even go out to say Snow made the Games more humane in some ways while dehumanizing it in many many ways. Since BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES only goes up to when Snow becomes a Gamemaker, I would like to read another installment of Snow’s history solely to see how he develops the Games more and actually becomes president of Panem. I was hoping for more of a direct connection with this book and the trilogy. Another installment would do that for me.
Okay, time for my theory as to how Snow’s hatred of Katniss and obsession with Lucy Gray are connected. In this book, we see Snow’s hatred for mockingjays develop in the hangings. The mockingjays echo the screams of the dead which would be traumatic for anyone. We also learn the origin of The Hanging Tree (which Katniss learns from her father and sings in a propo for District 13) comes from Lucy Gray’s ex-boyfriend. Lucy Gray sings it multiple times at concerts and the such. Snow hates it from the beginning, but Lucy Gray uses it as a signal for Snow to meet up with her towards the end of the book. Snow mentions in the book how the mockingjays stop singing when Lucy Gray starts singing. Peeta says the exact same thing about Katniss and her father in the trilogy.
Are you ready for this?
I don’t think Lucy Gray died in the woods. Snow never looks for her body. No, she survived. And she continues to live in the Seam. She lives a low-profile life as Snow rises in ranks in the Capitol. Perhaps Snow even keeps tabs on Lucy, but who knows? What I do think, however, is that Lucy Gray is Katniss’ ancestor. Maybe a grandmother, perhaps a great-grandmother. I think Lucy Gray is Katniss’ father’s mother. The mockingjays stop singing for all of them. They all lived in the Seam of District 12. The timing would be accurate for Lucy Gray to be Katniss’ grandmother. Katniss and her father are, at the very least, somehow connected to the Covey clan. But this is also why I need a second installment of Snow’s books. I need to see if my theory is true.
Phew! Okay, I did it. I struggled so much to write this review, but I think I laid it all out well. If you’ve read this far, let me know what you think of my theory. If you haven’t read the trilogy in a while, I recommend revisiting! Nostalgia has powered me through this quarantine, especially with all my favorite middle school authors releasing new books this year.