Gr 7 Up—Collins returns to Panem with this prequel to the hugely popular "Hunger Games" series. The focus this time is 18-year-old student Coriolanus Snow, the evil villain of the other books, who is assigned to mentor the girl tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, from District 12 in the 10th Hunger Games. Coriolanus is humiliated by this assignment—he should have received one of the plum tributes, not a nobody from District 12!—which further reinforces his feeling that his reputation is on a downward spiral. Although he comes from an old, respected family, they have no money and no power. No one gives tribute Lucy Gray much of a chance to survive the Games, but she turns out to be plucky, resourceful, and talented, and Coriolanus finds himself falling for her, with unexpected results. Santino Fontana narrates the audiobook in the first person, speaking clearly and distinctly. Characters are differentiated well and Fontana's authoritative voice authentically reflects Coriolanus's confident, arrogant character. In fact, the narration is so acutely tuned to Coriolanus that he becomes a sympathetic character. Series fans may be surprised to find themselves empathizing with the young lead, and fascinated by his descent into evil. Nuanced depiction of the flawed Coriolanus, combined with the fast-paced action and suspenseful tone make this a listen many will enjoy. VERDICT This audiobook will be in high demand in secondary school libraries and public libraries.— Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC
School Library Journal - Audio
As much as this is Coriolanus's origin story, it is an origin story for the Games themselves, an answer to the questions about their history posed by Katniss in
Mockingjay, the final volume of the trilogy: "Did a group of people sit around and cast their votes on initiating the Hunger Games? Was there dissent? Did someone make a case for mercy?" People who love finding out the back stories in fictional universeswhy Sherlock Holmes wears a deerstalker hat; where Indiana Jones got his scarwill relish the chance to learn these details.
The New York Times - Sarah Lyall
Collins continues her unflinching exploration of power and morality in this prequel set 64 years prior to the events of the Hunger Games trilogy. In a challenging move that considers the journey from complicity to what lies beyond, the story centers on Coriolanus Snow, archvillain of the Katniss Everdeen era. Obsessed with restoring his family's grandeur and securing a rosy future for himself, the 18-year-old Academy student is selected to mentor a competitor in Panem's 10th Hunger Games. Though Snow feels slighted by his assignation, a tribute from lowly District 12, his mentee, songstress Lucy Gray Baird, shows an audacity and showbiz flair that captures the country's attention. Over the course of the Games—a relatively low-tech affair set in the war-scarred Capitol's crumbling arena—the two begin a close partnership. While Snow experiences moments of doubt about his participation, his ambition draws the attention of the sinister Head Gamemaker, Dr. Volumnia Gaul. Providing a counterpoint to Snow is classmate Sejanus Plinth, wealthy and compassionate, who must mentor a tribute from a district he still views as home. A gripping mix of whipsaw plot twists and propulsive writing make this story's complex issues—vulnerability and abuse, personal responsibility, and institutionalized power dynamics—vivid and personal. Ages 12–up.
Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (May)
Praise for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: #1 USA Today Bestseller #1 New York Times Bestseller "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes delivers a mesmerizing look into the life of Coriolanus Snow and the root causes of his villainous behavior. Collins once again proves that she is a master of building a fascinating world around complex characters who must grapple with the complications of chaos and control and their effects on human nature." The Associated Press"It is a steep challenge to write a book whose hero is, everyone knows, destined to become deeply evil. Do we want to hear now, after we know the endgame that the young Voldemort was unfairly saddled with a demerit in class or that the adolescent Sauron fretted because he had to wear hand-me-down clothes? Yes, please." New York Times"For true fans of The Hunger Games, Collins shines most as she weaves in tantalizing details that lend depth to the gruesome world she created in the original series and Coriolanus's place in its history." Time" The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is your apocalyptic escape from our current apocalypse." Vox"It's the pull between Coryo's head and heart and the realization that he actually has a beating heart, not just a rose-scented lump of coal that makes the future President Snow very worthy of a 517-page prequel." Washington Post"[B]y introducing a new cast of teenagers, Collins is able to raise questions about privilege, the uses of violence, and the futility of war." People"Collins's themes of friendship, betrayal, authority and oppression, as well as the extra layers of lore about mockingjays and Capitol's history, will please and thrill." MSN" The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes describes how most lives are actually lived, the consequences of countless small choices that ultimately amount to a big one: not just how to feel but who to be." Slate"Collins reminds readers that even the most horrible people may have at one point done the right thing, but that doesn't make them any less despicable or less worth overthrowing." Polygon* "Both a tense, character-driven piece and a cautionary tale.... The twists and heartbreaks captivate despite tragic inevitabilities." Kirkus Reviews, starred review"A gripping mix of whipsaw plot twists and propulsive writing make this story's complex issues vulnerability and abuse, personal responsibility, and institutionalized power dynamics vivid and personal." Publishers Weekly Praise for "I couldn't stop reading." Stephen King, The Hunger Games: Entertainment Weekly "The Hunger Games is amazing." Stephenie Meyer"Brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced." John Green, New York Times Book Review Praise for "Whereas Katniss kills with finesse, Collins writes with raw power." Catching Fire: Time Magazine "Collins expertly blends fantasy, romance and political intrigue." People Magazine Praise for "Fans will be happy to hear that Mockingjay: Mockingjay is every bit as complex and imaginative as Hunger Games and Catching Fire." Entertainment Weekly "Suspenseful... Collins' fans, grown-ups included, will race to the end." USA Today "At its best the trilogy channels the political passion of 1984, the memorable violence of A Clockwork Orange, the imaginative ambience of The Chronicles of Narnia and the detailed inventiveness of Harry Potter." New York Times Book Review"Unfolding in Collins' engaging, intelligent prose and assembled into chapters that end with didn't-see-that-coming cliffhangers, this finale is every bit the pressure cooker of its forebears. [ Mockingjay] is nearly as shocking, and certainly every bit as original and thought-provoking, as The Hunger Games. Wow." Los Angeles Times* "This concluding volume in Collins's Hunger Games trilogy accomplishes a rare feat, the last installment being the best yet, a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every level." Publishers Weekly, starred review
Gr 9 Up—Coriolanus Snow still lives in his once-great family's Capitol penthouse, but now he repurposes old shirts and eats boiled cabbage to quell his hunger pangs. He keeps up appearances among his fellow students and the faculty at the prestigious Academy, and remembers the war that ravaged the country, including the Capitol, 10 years earlier. During the reaping for the 10th Hunger Games, he's selected to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, a talented singer from District 12, and their success will determine whether he receives a much-needed scholarship to the University. This prequel takes place 64 years before The Hunger Games and follows the boy who will become cruel President Snow. Like the first book, this novel provides thrilling action and chilling gore, but the pace lags at times with school minutiae. The romance between Coriolanus and Lucy Gray feels forced, and much of the narrative functions mainly as world-building for the original trilogy. Fans will appreciate revisiting the world of Panem, and teens may relate to Coriolanus beginning to grapple with big ideas like human nature and whether people on opposite sides of a war are fundamentally different. Sejanus, a new money classmate from the districts, provides balance as he recognizes the Games as monstrous from the start. VERDICT An entertaining, if uneven, volume. Recommended for fans of the blockbuster series.—Katy Hershberger, School Library Journal
An origin story for both President Snow and the Hunger Games as we know them.
Coriolanus Snow has the right family name, a prestigious address, talent, and charisma—but unless he wins a prize to pay for university, it’s all for nothing, as his family’s wealth came from the now obliterated District 13. He must succeed in his final project of being a mentor in the Hunger Games, but his District 12 girl tribute assignment at first feels damning. However, Lucy Gray Baird is vibrant and wild, a singer and performer with star power; she’s perfect for Coriolanus, who has been tasked with boosting the grim, lackluster games that, early in the shift from mock war to sporting spectacle, are even more brutal and unpredictable. Coriolanus is pulled between Mengelian Dr. Gaul’s twisted mentorship and connections with sympathetic foils Lucy Gray (which veers romantic) and compassionate classmate Sejanus. Conflicted Coriolanus thinks of himself as a good person in an impossible situation but also as exceptional—a belief with a high price. Collins humanizes him as superficially heroic and emotionally relatable while also using him for a vehicle for philosophical questions. Though readers know how he will eventually answer the questions explicitly asked of him, the central question is why, resulting in both a tense, character-driven piece and a cautionary tale. There is some mention of diversity in skin tone; Coriolanus and Lucy Gray seem to be white.
The twists and heartbreaks captivate despite tragic inevitabilities.
(Science fiction. 12-adult)