cover image The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)

Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, $27.99 (528p) ISBN 978-1-338-63517-1

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)