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Jul 13

Teens Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Posted on July 13, 2021 at 12:00 AM by Elizabeth Land

Teens review The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins.
Teens & Tweens Review is an opportunity for York County Public Library teens and tweens to write book reviews for their peers. 

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, is a classic and beloved YA series. In 2020, Collins published a prequel to the trilogy called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. This is about the early days of the Hunger Games, set during the 10th annual Games. This week we have two great reviews of this book from area teens.

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book cover
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Thriller

Reviewed by: Ariana J., 12th Grade
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

At first, I was skeptical about reading this new prequel story that was now a part of The Hunger Games series because I don’t usually like prequel stories. However, I knew right away that I was already in love with the story. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel story to the popular Hunger Games trilogy. This story dates back to the 10th annual Hunger Games where a young Coriolanus Snow, future President of Panem, mentors the female tribute from District 12. Coriolanus must mentor his tribute well enough for her to win the Hunger Games, which will help him reclaim his family name after they’ve fallen due to the war a decade prior. He knew from the start that the task of mentoring the female tribute, named Lucy Gray, would be a hard task since she was from the worst district in all of Panem. Together, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray do their best to work together in preparation for the Hunger Games. During their time together they form an unlikely relationship with each other, which is something I did not think I would see from Coriolanus as his character in the Hunger Games trilogy was probably not the nicest person to the people in the districts. Their relationship with each other as a tribute and mentor was something I had wished I had seen more during the original Hunger Games trilogy, but I was happy enough being able to envision what I thought the scenes were like in my mind. Coriolanus and Lucy Gray put a lot of work not only in preparation for the games, but also their friendship. The other mentors and tributes around them knew they were a team to look out for during the games. Teamwork was certainly their strong suit long into the actual games, which not only kept you on your feet, but was also full of surprises that I never thought would happen. The games themselves was enough to keep you reading for hours, and I have to say, it was hard for me to stop reading during all the action. I was just too involved with the story, but I had to eventually force myself to take a break and finish things that had to be done. The story between Coriolanus and Lucy Gray was an interesting story with twists and turns in between that I never would have thought that I would like. The ending was so surprising that I had to keep going back to re-read it because I didn’t think any of it would happen.

I would recommend this story to anyone who likes a good action story, that also deals with unlikely relationships forming. Even if you don’t like action, friendship, or even prequel stories, I would recommend that you read this book because it will give you a story like you’ve never read before. I knew I had my doubts about this story in the start, but I knew right away that the whole story would be one that I would go back and read again.


Reviewed by: Blaine H., 12th Grade
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Set about 65 years before The Hunger Games series, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a book about the teenage days of future President of Panem, Coriolanus Snow. The Snow family was exceedingly rich and powerful before the revolt of the districts against the Capitol, which is about ten years before the book takes place. However, the war left the Snow family with nothing but their large penthouse apartment which has now been stripped of its old glory. Coriolanus’s parents are both dead, and he and his cousin Tigris are being raised by their grandmother; she is known as the Grandma’am to Coriolanus and Tigris. The Grandma’am demands that her family still acts like the rich and powerful family that they once were, therefore no one knows of their financial troubles. Coriolanus must rely on his looks and his charm to climb the social and academic ladder so as to get into university. If he gets into university, he can use his high status there to prosper and attain his lofty goal: becoming President of Panem.

For the tenth annual Hunger Games, the Capitol has decided to implement a new “mentor program”, and Coriolanus is part of this. He intends to be very successful in this program during this year’s Hunger Games and use that success to gain attention from the higher-ups. The person he is chosen to mentor is the girl tribute from District 12; her name is Lucy Gray Baird. She is no ordinary girl, however; she makes a point of being different from everyone else and certainly shows it. For example, she doesn’t dress in the normal, plain clothing of District 12; she dresses in very colorful outfits that always stand out. She’s also a very outspoken girl, however she is a bit intimidated when she arrives at the Capitol. Coriolanus and Lucy Gray become close friends as they prepare for the Hunger Games. However, there are people in the upper ranks of the Capitol who have found out about the Snow’s secret financial downfall, so Coriolanus must be careful throughout the entirety of the Games so as to not cause the spread of that information to any more potential connections. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a great addition to the Hunger Games series; it provided a great backstory to the future President Snow’s character in the main trilogy. Personally, I loved it and I would give it five stars! I read this book years after reading the main trilogy, and it was a nice way to bring me back into that world. However, the books could also be read in chronological order, meaning Songbirds and Snakes first and then the main trilogy. The connections and references to aspects of the main trilogy combined with the storyline make the book very enjoyable.

YCPL ReadalikesWe Set the Dark on Fire book cover

If you'd like to read more dystopian fiction, check out our suggestions of recently published dystopian books:

  • We Set the Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
    Summary: Dani must question everything she's worked for as she learns about the corruption of the Median government.
  • Beware the Night by Jessika Fleck
    Summary: When sixteen-year-old Veda's grandfather is chosen as the next sacrifice in their sun-worshipping society, Veda begins questioning what she has been taught and forces herself to look at the injustice in her world.
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
    Summary: Ostracized or incarcerated her whole life, seventeen-year-old Juliette is freed on the condition that she use her horrific abilities in support of The Reestablishment, a post-apocalyptic dictatorship, but Adam, the only person ever to show her affection, offers hope of a better future. 

If you're interested in earning volunteer hours and writing a review of a book you've read, contact the Tabb Library Youth Services department at 757-890-5110 or youthservices@yorkcounty.gov.