The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins blew me away in January when I read it. It was nothing like I expected it to be, and totally shocked me at the end. Bravo to the author. I always love when a plot twist catches me completely off guard.
This newest Hunger Games book takes us back in time, way before Katnis’s time to when President Snow–Cornelius, or Corneo–was a teenage boy in high school. He lives with his cousin, Tigris, and the Grand Mam (his grandma). They’re destitute, having sold off almost all their belongings to keep up the façade of a solid Snow heritage with no worries. He’s been raised with the mantra: Snow always falls on top. But everything seems to be falling on top of him.
This year, as a student candidate hoping to receive a scholarship for university, he is chosen to be a mentor to a Hunger Games tribute and ends up with the girl from District 12. He believes she is beneath him, and does everything possible to get rid of her and find himself a better tribute. This is his life–always kissing butt with professors and other students to keep doors of opportunity cracked open in case he needs to use one to survive in the future.
And so begins the precursor to the later Hunger Games. We discover how Corneo’s hands are all over it. He meets Lucy Gray, the tribute from District 12, who ends up impressing him despite her district roots. As her mentor, he gets closer to her and learns more of her story. His journey is incredible as we see this kid who has survived the horrible war years and is still in survival mode as the Capital seems to be a game where only the fittest and richest survive. He is neither.
As he learns from Lucy Gray, he comes to a crossroads where he must make hard decisions—life-changing ones. His choices will run you through the gamut of emotions as you see how this boy with so much potential for good grows into the future despot who justifies so much evil.
I really loved this book. It kept me guessing clear until the bitter end. I highly recommend it if you loved the Hunger Games books years ago.