The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

*my own image

Currently I am about to finish the fourth ‘Hunger Games’ book, the prequel dedicated to the life of Coriolanus Snow and how came to be the detested dictator we all despised in the three books and four movies. Although I was apprehensive about reading a book solely dedicated to a character I grew to loathe, once again Suzanne Collins proved why her books are so widely devoured. As it is written as a prequel, I find great satisfaction in comprehending why Snow may have acted as he did in the other books, as you dive into his background and the events that led to his rise to power. The book contains many twists and turns, and builds Snow a character that makes it difficult to still see him as purely a monster, and rather it prompts a different outlook on the books and films you thought you knew so well.

I don’t remember my first reading of ‘The Hunger Games’ series explicitly well, although I do remember the feeling of desperation to continue to plough through the thick plot, and most impressively the hooking final sentence of each book. In all honesty, I can’t remember what age I was when I originally read them but I reckon I was around twelve or thirteen. My mum had previously been apprehensive to let me read them, as she herself found them quite disturbing and gory. Consequently, she was surprised that they didn’t really disturb me, and I found the plot more exciting than disturbing. As a child, I guess the gore must have gone over my head and perhaps more interestingly I read the books as a whole with a completely different outlook from my mum. She expressed her horror at the thought of young, innocent children being forced to fight to the death and this led to the books being more horrifying. To me, many of the tributes seemed big and grown up, as I read the books around the age of the youngest tributes. Therefore, when picturing the arena, I imagined young adults fighting, and did not feel the same horror that parents may when imagining having to put their children in that situation. Similarly, the actors in the Lionsgate films are on the whole much older than the tributes in the books, possibly detracting some of the horror as it appears to be young adults fighting, rather than children. Perhaps then, this is why Rue’s death often hits viewers much harder. If you ask anyone who has seen ‘The Hunger Games’ to think of their most heart-wrenching moment, you would probably see Rue’s death cropping up numerous times. The innocence and purity of Rue makes her death even more painful, but it may also be her youth as she is played by a younger Amandla Sternberg that makes her death so uneasy to witness. As I am now older, when I reflect back upon the book, the plot becomes much more unsettling as I realise the true horror the districts faced.

In today’s society, especially during the year of 2020, it seems that almost anything can be possible- both good and bad. There are many jokes about the possibility of the purge, the idea of the world being a simulation, but is it too far to imagine that something like the Hunger Games could actually happen? Successful novels often focus on societies fears, and the fear stimulated in parents from Collins’ books illustrates that she was able to successfully determine one of those. Any parent wants to protect their child, possibly more than anything else in their life, so using children to establish authority and control is a rather smart way to go around things. Luckily, the world isn’t facing a ravishing rebel war, but the future is always uncertain, and world chaos can lead to events never previously imagined by citizens. Ultimately, the Hunger Games is never going to actually occur; I think the UN would certainly have something to say about it… Without Collins’ talented imagination, many of us would never even begin to envisage a world that is illustrated in her books, but her ability to draw on societies fears conveys that people still remain intimidated by fiction.

I would recommend Collins’ recent book ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’, particularly as there are rumours of a new film which I am hoping will star a dashing actor to play Snow. Many people don’t read anymore, but I am sure everyone at least picked up a ‘Hunger Games’, so I advise you to re-live your childhood or simply enlighten yourself to more of the marvellous work of Suzanne Collins.

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