The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: a Review

Being 517 pages, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a pretty long book. Despite this, it’s become one of my all-time favorites to pick up off the bookshelf.

Let’s talk about why. (No spoilers!)


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven’t already read that, it’s amazing, go do it. It will help make the prequel make far more sense, as well.

The book features Coriolanus Snow as the protagonist, reliving the events of his life after the Dark Days war.

Part One- Positives

The book draws from a lot of the philosophical questions in the original trilogy. Good and bad, black and white.,

The characters are phenomenal, with believable development throughout. It was hard to imagine how Suzanne Collins was going to be able to write such a downright coldhearted individual to be a believable protagonist, but it totally worked.

The book makes it clear that Snow isn’t in the right by any means – but it still makes sense why he does it.

Part Two: Negatives

Admittedly, this book features a bit of repetition, especially in the beginning. Snow goes through the same routine, over and over. Additionally, the plot can get a bit twisty and confusing, and can give you a bit of whiplash.

Part 3: Conclusion

Let’s sum up.

• Fast-paced/Action-packed

•Builds on the original trilogy

• Confusing at times

I’d say that’s a net positive!

This book is beautiful for those who have already read the original trilogy. If you have, definitely check this out!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

*this review may contain spoilers*

This is actually my second time rereading this series but I felt inspired out of the blue to transfer myself into this dystopian world. The concept Collins portrays in this series is absolutely UNREAL.

Typically I don’t even like protagonists and usually root for the antagonist but in this case I enjoyed both Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. The chemistry between the two was executed perfectly within the plot of the story of the “Hunger Games”.

Essentially, the dystopian world, Panem is divided into 12 districts with a capitol which acts as their government. Annually there are these “Hunger Games” where 12-18 year olds are entered into and 1 girl and 1 boy are chosen from each district. Amongst the chosen, they battle out til there is only one survivor.

For the most part dystopian novels aren’t my liking but as of lately I’ve been seeking interest in reading dystopian novels. I also just think that Collins makes an effort to establish each of her characters with enough description and background that I feel connected to them. Books where you feel more bonded with the characters always sparks interest and that’s exactly what Collins did by creating Katniss and Peeta.

I honestly don’t understand how people come up with concepts like this, so reading the Hunger Games makes me giddy. I would recommend this book to anyone even if Dystopian/Fiction is not your preferred choice of genre.

-Madison C.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy and it is about an eighteen-year old boy named Coriolanus Snow, nicknamed “Coryo” by his cousin, Tigris. He is selected, among twenty-three of his fellow classmates, to mentor a tribute in the tenth annual Hunger Games.

In this book, Coriolanus is forced to mentor the District Twelve tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, who is at the severe disadvantage in the Games (a gladiatorial “game” where kids have to kill each other). The children from District Twelve don’t have any proper survival, nor combat training, therefore making them easy pickings for other tributes such as Reaper, a burly male from District Eleven. The odds are already against Lucy Gray, and the fact that she’s better at singing than fighting doesn’t help her chances at all. Coriolanus is at first disappointed–he thinks that his tribute stands no chance at winning. And his future depends on her victory; the mentor whose tribute wins the Games will get to attend the Capitol university. But the better he gets to know his tribute, the more attached he gets to her, and the more determined he is to help her through the Games, not just for his own sake. Together, they try to win over the Capitol’s support: staging interviews and impromptu performances for the viewers. He does everything possible to help her in the Games, gaining her sponsors from the Capitol audience and illegally bringing her extra food so she can keep up her strength. They are a formidable team outside of the arena, but no one knows if they can pull off a win inside the arena–not even Coriolanus.

All too soon, Lucy Gray and her fellow tributes are transported into the arena, an old Capitol theater that’s mostly demolished. Originally, Lucy Gray had to face down twenty-three other tributes, but many of them died or got killed before the Games began, upping the chances of her survival. Even the boy from District Two, the one who had the best odds of winning, got killed off in the first battle. In the Games, Lucy Gray’s strategy becomes outlasting the others. She hides out in some corner of the arena with Jessup, her protector. Throughout the book, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray go through many struggles, but due to the fact that I don’t want to spoil the outcome, I can’t say anything else about the Games.

After the Games are over, Coriolanus gets transported to District Twelve, where he works as a Peacekeeper. He meets many friends, but makes plenty of enemies as well. In the district, his life takes a turn for the worse, his depression only ending when he gets summoned back to the Capitol to attend the University at last.

Overall, this book is an amazing story about an underprivileged character defying the worst odds. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes novels with action, plot twists, and just a hint of deception along the way.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The dystopian fiction novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins serves as a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, and it narrates the story of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. It is set in Panem, the same setting as the Hunger Games trilogy and most events take place in the Capitol or District 12. Readers of the trilogy know that Coriolanus will go on to become President Snow, the main antagonist of the Hunger Games. I think that it was an extremely smart idea to write this book after the Hunger Games trilogy because it gives readers an extra interest and pulls to the book, especially with the very beginning.

The introduction of Coriolanus Snow is completely contradictory to readers’ views of President Snow, since he is shown as extremely rich and lofty in the trilogy, but he is introduced in the prequel as extremely poor; in addition, readers can clearly understand how important Coriolanus’s family is to him. As a big fan of the Hunger Games series, I do not recall any emphasis on Coriolanus’s family, except for his famous motto, “Snow lands on top!” (which is reiterated multiple times in this novel). The implication of Coriolanus’s love for his family (consisting of his grandmother known as Grandma’am and his cousin Tigris) is only strengthened throughout the book, and the pure irony of this description and portrayal of Coriolanus is extremely captivating to readers. 

I must mention that Coriolanus’s grandma insists on taking care of roses in a roof garden, and these roses make multiple appearances throughout the book. In the trilogy, roses also have significance in symbolizing the evil of Coriolanus Snow.

Moving on, Coriolanus is one of the 24 students selected to mentor tributes in the 10th annual Hunger Games, and he is matched with the District 12 girl named Lucy Gray Baird. Lucy Gray is a singer from the Covey in District 12. She seems extremely strange, with her optimistic outlook, her behavior at her reaping, and many other unusual qualities. The mentor of the winning tribute will receive a scholarship to attend the University, which Coriolanus needs, but he is highly doubtful of Lucy Gray’s capability to win. However, the two seem to acquire an extremely strong bond. 

In my opinion, the ingrained animal instincts in human nature is the most well established theme in the novel. Although the prime example of this theme is in the ending (and I believe that endings should never be disclosed in book reviews), it can be seen throughout the book, especially in the arena of the Games. The significance of 24 people locked into an arena and told to fight to their deaths is self explanatory in the theme of animal instincts in human nature. 

Another theme in this novel is the theme of morals. Again, the Hunger Games are completely immoral, and to readers’ surprise, the rest of the Capitol feels the same way.

This novel has an invigorating plot line, multiple twists, and amazing literary devices, and it is easily one of my favorite books I have ever read.

-Ayati M

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic fictional nation known as Panem, located in the midwestern United States. The novel’s protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, and she must survive a deadly competition known as the “Hunger Games.”

Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which is like states. Each district has a specialty; for example, Katniss is from District Twelve, which specializes in coal mining. Because of a failed rebellion years before, each of the districts is required to send one “tribute” to an annual event known as the Hunger Games, during which two tributes from each district, a male and female, all fight to the death to claim the glorious title of “victor.”

The story begins before the Reaping, an event that chooses the two tributes from each district by random. Katniss’s younger sister is drawn, but Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place, knowing that going means almost certain death. Chosen alongside Katniss is the male tribute, named Peeta.

Katniss and Peeta are both sent to the Capitol, a wealthy and powerful state that rules over all the districts and runs the Hunger Games for its own entertainment. Together with their coach and advisor, they begin to prepare for the Hunger Games, training and making alliances with other tributes.

I would recommend the Hunger Games because of the extreme suspense that the author creates while the tributes are fighting during the games. The story is touching, but it contains extreme violence, so I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers.

-Josh N. 

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

After discovering that The Hunger Games was my 7th-grade extra credit reading book and that I haven’t read it before yet ( say what?!), I decided now was a good time to pick it up and finally start on it.

Yeah, I know, how could you have not read the Hunger Games before? Face it, everyone’s probably pretty familiar with this book. You know of it, of course. It’s a famous book that almost everyone knows, just like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. 

Anyways, once I picked up this book, I found it impossible to put down. I read for two straight days and got it finished. And then I reread it. And reread it again.

I probably would recommend this book for older children, particularly because of a few violent scenes. But other than that, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who looks forward to action and thrillers.

Starting off with the famous Katniss Everdeen, the book takes place in District 12, her hometown. There are twelve districts, although there used to have been a 13th, which was destroyed because of their rebellion against the all-ruling Capitol, Panem. Because of this, the Capitol has ordered the event called the Hunger Games, where two tributes, a boy and a girl, are selected from each district (24 tributes total). They will be placed inside of an arena whose conditions can change with directions from the inventors of the Hunger Games, the Gamemakers. The whole point of the Hunger Games is for the twenty-four tributes to kill each other as a sport; the last tribute standing wins, leaving the arena with a life of luxury.

And the purpose of all of this? To prove how everyone is at the Capitol’s mercy, how they take the people’s children to watch them fight to the death.

From District 12, Katniss and the boy tribute, Peeta Mellark, are pitted against the other twenty-two tributes. They have no idea what the arena conditions will be like; the yearly Hunger Games change every year. All they know is that it will be difficult, and definitely lethal.

I have to say, Suzanne Collins, the author, was really suspenseful. Every fight scene, every page that she wrote, was filled with action from top to bottom. That’s what kept me hooked to the very last page. But even through all that, she also manages to weave in just the right amount of romance between Katniss and Peeta.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Catching Fire! I’m sure it’s as good as the first one.

But first, who will win the intense, action-packed Hunger Games? Because the tributes will either get out of there alive…or dead.

-Katherine L.

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Get Ready for Mockingjay

mockingjay_coverYes, it is that time of the year– November is the month that the Hunger Games movies always seem to come out. Mockingjay, written by Suzanne Collins, is the last volume of the Hunger Games trilogy. Seems to the readers that the games are over. But we are mistaken.

Katniss has identified her new position in District 13; she is the rebel. During the second Hunger Games, Katniss and some other fellow participants were removed from the Quarter Quell. However, Peeta is still missing, meaning that he is under the sharp eyes of the Capitol. Soon, some rebels find Peeta. Peeta has unfortunately been brainwashed, and now sees Katniss as the enemy of this entire situation.

Since the movie is releasing this Thursday, November 20 at midnight, I will not discuss the plot of the story any more. The movie is only the first part of the novel, and I do not know how far the writers will go based on the storyline.

I am very excited for this movie. I think that since Mockingjay is broken into two parts, the film will be extraordinary due to the clear oversaturation of events in the novel for it to be made into one film. Are you excited for this highly-anticipated movie? What are your thoughts on how well the Hunger Games movies represent the novels?

-Nirmeet B., 11th grade

Strong Heroines in Fiction: Katniss and Tris

I love both of these heroines because they play the perfect part for women. Usually, you see men as the heroes in books, while women are mostly played as the love interests. The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies have great examples of women who are heroic and brave. They are shown as the person to look up to in their books.

katnissKatniss Everdeen, from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, is a daring and wild girl in her series. She is the one girl who everyone either sees as an enemy or a hero because she is so powerful and takes charge. She is the inspiration for a revolution even though she came from humble beginnings. Although she is pretty, and many guys like her, that isn’t the reason for her existence in the books. She was written as a strong character who can fight her own battles and isn’t afraid to say or do what she wants.

trisTris Prior, from the Divergent books by Veronica Roth, is also a major rebel who doesn’t play by her society’s rules. She is a great role model for people, not because she is a rebel and rule breaker, but because she is strong and independent. She is the ultimate rule breaker and won’t have someone boss her around. She is also a leader of her own rebellion. She could’ve easily been portrayed as a love interest in the books, but luckily that wasn’t the case. Her strength and wisdom also make her the brave woman that she is.

These two amazing rebels are just some examples of the many great heroines in other books. Some other books with strong female heroes are: Unbreakable (Kennedy), Harry Potter (Hermione), Percy Jackson (Annabeth), and–my mom’s favorite–Pride and Prejudice (Elizabeth). Are you reading a book with a great feminine hero? If you are, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Finally, I want to thank all of the authors who write about great heroines.

-Sabrina C., 9th grade

The Hunger Games vs. Divergent


Most people have read either Divergent or The Hunger Games before, since both were a sensation because of the movies that came out based on them. However, that’s not the only thing that these two book series have in common. In fact, there are many different ideas that could be compared to.


Number of books: they are both a trilogy, no matter how many short side stories there are.

Genre: They both are set in a future America where there is slightly more advanced technology and something has gone wrong, so all the laws were changed.

Main hero: Both have a girl as their hero and main character. For The Hunger Games, it’s Katniss Everdeen. For Divergent, it’s Tris (Beatrice) Prior.

The government’s thoughts: The main ruling government would later be after the heroine (as in most books).

Inciting incident: These two heroines start the route of their story by doing something that the government doesn’t expect.

Of course, if we are comparing these two books, we should know their differences, too.


The heroine’s views of their society: Katniss doesn’t like the government and wishes that there were different rules, for she is of the poorest district, and has to feed herself, her four year younger sister, and her sort of there mom. Tris, on the other hand, while she does wish to be with a different caste, she is okay with her government’s rulings.

The love story: I felt that Katniss was forced to love the guy. Even though he loved her, it never seemed like she loved him in the same way. However, Tris and the guy she likes definitely loved each other. Whenever, one of them needed emotional help, the other was usually there to give it to them, and whenever they kissed, the detailed descriptions showed that they meant each and every kiss.

Hero’s development: Katniss doesn’t learn much; she keeps her traits throughout her story. Tris, however, does change her beliefs; by the end of book one, she has clearly not feel the same way as she had in the beginning of the book.

Endings: I want readers to firstly know that this is my opinion, and everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, whether or not they agree with me. I felt that while The Hunger Games trilogy had a somewhat short and boring ending, it resolved the plot in a good way. However, the Divergent trilogy ends in a long, detailed, but very disappointing and terrible resolution.

In the end, I can say that these two series are awesome, no matter what their pros and cons are. I’d advise you to try them both!
-Megan V., 8th grade


The Importance of Feminism in Literature

A few weeks ago in my English class, a student asked, “Why are all the books we’re reading this year written by women?”

I thought to myself that this question wouldn’t be asked if we were reading books written by men, like we usually do.

The representation of women in the media is important and influential. Women in literature are especially important, whether they are characters or authors. Women are grossly underrepresented in the media and it’s time we changed that.

harry_potter_coverAn example of why feminism is needed in the media, especially in the literary world, is that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was told by her publicist to use the pen name J.K. Rowling because if she were to use her full name, Joanne Rowling, she would not sell as many books because women do not sell as many books as men as a result of society’s prejudices against their gender. Women are still not equal to men in this day but equality can be achieved step by step if we take the necessary steps.

Young girls and boys need female characters that they can look up to. Young girls as well as young boys need to know that female characters can achieve just as much as male characters can. It is important for children as well as adults to see the potential of female characters.

The majority of main characters in books are male. Female characters are usually used as minor characters or love interests. When female characters are love interests, they are reduced to just that. They become surface-level characters, who exist solely to be a love interest.

catching_fire_posterOn the occasion that female characters are well developed or portrayed as strong, they are detached, unemotional, and cold. If women are to be strong, they are not allowed to have any emotions because they are considered to be a sign of weakness. An example of this is Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins She is a strong female character yet she shows little to no emotion. If she was head over heels in love with Peeta or Gale, would she still be considered to be a “strong female character?”

Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers was asked, “So, why do you write these strong female characters? to which, he replied “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Feminism is still relevant today– issues of equality still exist and will continue to exist unless we do something about it. People in the media such as authors and directors have the power to create complex characters who can defy gender and social norms and to break the barrier of inequality.

-Sarah B., 12th grade