Written by: Molly Scully
Being the huge Hunger Games fan that I am, I was obviously thrilled when I heard the news that we were getting a prequel from Suzanne Collins about her character President Snow entitled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. There’s nothing more upsetting than a beloved series ending, and I couldn’t believe Collins was writing another book. Consequently, I had some seriously high expectations for a prequel about such an evil character.
Collins’s prequel focuses on the 10th annual Hunger Games, whereas the original trilogy focuses on Katniss Everdeen from District 12 in the 74th and 75th Games. We once again have a protagonist from District 12, a dilapidated coal-mining district in Panem which is considered the underdog in every Hunger Games. Lucy Gray is District 12’s female tribute in the prequel and, through her carefree attitude and unique outlook, she provides hope to the people watching in the dark world of Panem. President Snow, the grand villain from the original trilogy, is only eighteen in this prequel and is assigned to be Lucy Gray’s mentor to help her win the Hunger Games despite many disadvantages. After winning, they both must survive in District 12, and in order to do that, Lucy must betray Snow, paving the way for his future villainy.
Like I said before, I had very high expectations for this prequel, and I was not disappointed! I was shocked, however, on multiple counts. Firstly, after the fantastic technological elements Collins described for the 74th and 75th games, I was not expecting such a low tech arena, in which all the human tributes from the districts are trapped and forced to fight to the death. I liked Collins’s choice to include less technology, though. It made the 10th Hunger Games more gruesome. Normally they use technology to make the Games more entertaining, but the lack of technology makes it less entertaining and more atrocious to watch because the tributes are only fighting each other as opposed to the Capitol technological elements as well. I started to hate the Capitol even more for this sick entertainment, especially when we see how sweet Lucy is in the beginning.
Collins brilliantly relates Lucy back to Katniss with the songs Lucy sings and her strong fight, despite being from a district considered an underdog. Like Katniss, Lucy manages to win the Hunger Games and also draws a reaction from Snow, but it’s quite different. Lucy brings out some humanity from Snow when he’s only eighteen in what seems to be a love story, whereas Katniss just angers him. Lucy is much more complex than meets the eye; she comes across as naive but is actually very intelligent and can be calculating to survive.
Lucy also manages to reveal a lot about Snow’s past. There are many hints of his future, such as him being only out for himself and acting vindictively throughout the prequel. Lucy’s trickery at the end foreshadows and justifies Snow’s later paranoia and the way we will see him always thinking twenty steps ahead with Katniss. After this prequel, I see Snow differently because Collins shows him as a young man trying to find his way in such a horrible world. As a result, I have some sympathy for him, even though Collins will later use his relations with Katniss to depict his evilness.
While Collins does an amazing job getting the reader to wonder if Snow was ever a truly nice person, she leaves us aching to know what happens to him after this heartbreak and betrayal by only providing a small piece of the puzzle. She teases us by showing us there is so much more to the amazingly detailed world of Panem. I hope that Collins decides to write more prequels!