Apparently, I am very late to the ballgame. I didn’t know that Suzanne Collins released a new Hunger Games novel until yesterday. Yesterday! It’s been out for months! It must have gotten lost in the COVID-19 panic for me, but, thankfully, I now know and can remedy the fact that I haven’t yet read A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
But of course I can’t just pick up the book and read it! I want to consume it. I want to overanalyze every little detail until I can’t anymore. In order to do that, I have to do the unthinkable and reread the entire series start to finish. Trust me, this is my process. I mean, how can I possibly compare A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to Collin’s original series if I only have a faint recollection of them? Even if by faint recollection I do mean I reread them every year, it’s definitely time to reread them again.
And so that’s what I’m doing, starting today. Of course, I did already rewatch the first movie as soon as I heard the news. I wasn’t really in the mood for reading at that moment so I figured I’d watch the movie. To be honest, it was nowhere near as good as I remember it being. Even without having reread the series in a while, there’s so many little details that they got wrong that bother me. The big one is probably the fact that the way Katniss got her mockingbird badge was all wrong. Why did they do us dirty like that?
Not that it’s not a great movie, It is. It’s just not as great as I remember it being when they first released it. No big deal.
Back of the Book (Amazon.com)
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
DISCLAIMER: My analysis of this book will be chapter by chapter. I will assume you’ve read the entire series in them. There will be MANY spoilers.
Side note: if you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, don’t continue reading. The rest of this is going to just assume everyone in the whole entire world has already read this amazing book. It is available for free right now if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription (September 10th, 2020). Luckily, I own the book so even if it wasn’t, I’m all set.
Second side note: I’ll probably write about this book a couple of times because I will not finish it today. I’ll probably just go chapter by chapter like I did for Midnight Sun. I like to take certain books slow. I’m also reading another book right now that I have plenty of mixed feelings about – Evil Love by Ella Fields. I don’t know when I’ll manage to fully formulate my thoughts about that book or finish it, but maybe I’ll hit my stride soon with that book. Right now, it’s just not clicking for me. The reviews about it seem mainly positive though so I’m hoping it’ll click somewhere.
Chapter One Thoughts
I was excited to start rereading The Hunger Games today. I have a bunch of books that give me a little shiver of excitement when I pick them up and this is no exception. I always look forward to revisiting Katniss. Her world is so dangerous and dreadful. It is also beautiful and interesting. It’s hard not to love every page of this book, even as you read about the monstrosities that occur within it. What they all do might be terrifying, but that’s part of the point.
And I always seem to forget how much I enjoy reading Collin’s writing. I love how descriptive she is. Her world-building is just stunning. Everything feels so vivid and real. I also love the fact that she writes in present tense. Where most authors write in past tense, she is almost always in the present moment. It makes me feel like even the author doesn’t know what is about to happen next. Everything is new and surprising, even if you’re reading the book for the hundredth time.
I also personally rather enjoy when authors use normal words that we use for slang. Having the part of the district where Katniss is named the ‘Seam’ is unusual in the regard that we don’t call neighborhoods that today, but it doesn’t feel so unusual as to not be real. Part of that is because ‘seam’ is a word. It’s not some random collection of letters that have no meaning to us. Another example of an author who does this is Scott Westerfield. His series The Uglies are absolutely jam-packed with our normal words being used as slang. It adds such a depth and ease of understanding to books that I don’t understand why more authors don’t use it. Minor details are what makes world building vibrant and interesting instead of boring.
It’s also crazy to think that in such a dangerous and highly controlled universe, people in District 12 dare to break the rules. Suzanne Collins makes the point early on that everyone is at risk of death in this world. From mine explosions to starvation and death penalties, no one is safe. But Katniss dares to venture into the woods to hunt. Others dare to go past the fence to collect apples. Small rebellions that harm no one go mostly unpunished. Having read the book many times prior, I never really noticed how this makes you question the peacekeepers and their aims. How far will they allow District 12 to go before they push back at them? What are their limits? I had never noticed this small degree of foreshadowing.
Reintroducing myself to Gale is always fun. I look forward to him every time I reread this book. He seems to ground Katniss and make her more real. Every change she undergoes throughout this series seems to be amplified in relation to Gale’s changes. They start off so similar that it’s shocking. They have inside jokes, love for the same people, and the same wants and desires.
It is always humbling to be reintroduced to the class system that exists in The Hunger Games series. The difference in your class, AKA your degree of wealth, is literally life or death for your children. How much money you have determines how much food you and your family have access to. Nothing is free and there is not enough to go around. The richer you are, the more food you have. Seeing the difference between how Madge lives and how Gale and Katniss live is quite stark. The fact that they have to enter their names more time into the drawing for The Hunger Games just to survive is horrifying, especially considering that their entries are accumulative from the age of thirteen to eighteen. Katniss’s own name is entered into the games twenty times. Gale’s, at eighteen, will have his name entered into the games forty-two times. Of course, there is only one victor in the Hunger Games and their chances of being the sole survivor are very, very slim. They may have a higher risk of being chosen, but their chances of winning don’t increase. They still come from a poor, starving, weak district. Having to fight because of that is only really a risk for the poor.
And it is absolutely horrible that a nation would do this, kill off the children in each district just to prove a point. As a reader, it’s hard to imagine living in a world like that. Who would sacrifice children just to prove a point? But even in our world many governments do. Nations bomb other nations just to prove the point that they can defend themselves. They kill innocents and label it as protecting themselves. Children do die just for governments to prove their points. The reality of war is horrible.
In the case of the Hunger Game universe, the point of these children being offered up is that the Capitol will not abide rebellion. Some of your children will suffer and die, but not all of them as long as you obey the laws. They want to show the districts that they are at their mercy.
I also forgot how quickly this book gets into the real action. While the world-building is vibrant and fully descriptive, it doesn’t take a long time. I didn’t remember how fast each page goes by. Primrose, Katniss’s sister, being drawn as the female tribute for The Hunger Games happens insanely fast. By the end of the first chapter, you know what the rest of the story will look like to some degree. Not so pretty. Not so nice. More violent. You know someone is going to struggle to survive. You just might not be sure who. It is an amazing cliffhanger for the very beginning of the book.
Chapter Two Thoughts
Have you ever had a moment where you can’t remember how to breathe? I’ve had quite a few and I remember none of them fondly. Being so afraid and upset that you can’t physically breathe is overwhelming. It’s horrifying. Katniss’s reaction to the event of her sister being drawn is understandable and upsetting.
Yet, even understanding that feeling, I don’t know if I would ever be strong enough to get past it and volunteer myself as tribute. I would want to. I love my siblings more than anything. But I don’t know if I would be physically able to do so quickly enough. The fact that Katniss can get past that emotion quickly enough to volunteer herself is a testimony to her strength. I think it’s the very first scene where every reader was really blown away by Katniss. She was the girl strong enough to volunteer to die in return for her sister’s life. That’s something.
It’s also just a well-written scene. Suzanne Collins captures everyone’s hearts so quickly in The Hunger Games that I’m afraid we all forgot to congratulate her for it. It is just so well done. The one thing that everyone can agree on while reading this book is that Katniss deserves better than a world who would do this to her. Katniss is a hero.
However, I’m not sure if I agree with Katniss that having the audience see her tears would make her weak. The Hunger Games is part colosseum part reality TV show. Her tears would make her status as a volunteer all the more dramatic for the audience. It might have won her sponsors to let them fall. She would become real to them and they might want to help her survive.
In contrast with Effie Trinket’s response to Katniss volunteering, however, I’m not one hundred percent sure my take on things is the correct one. She assumes that Katniss volunteered to win herself glory, not to save her sister. Maybe all of the people in the Capitol are as naive. Or as shallow.
When Peeta is volunteered as tribute, I have always thought it was interesting that Katniss compares him to prey: “,,,his blue eyes show the alarm I’ve seen so often in prey.” Even though her disdain for the games are obvious, she does begin to see her opposition as opposition. Peeta is already becoming prey to her in a manner of speaking. That feels like a very real and humane response, to be honest. Who wants to see their competitor, who could very well kill them or be killed by them, as a person? I wouldn’t want to.
As I’ve said before, it’s the little details that add depth to a story. That’s the case with the above and that’s also the case with Katniss’s background story. Her mother’s depression provides a reason for Katniss’s exemplary strength. It also explains her strong attachment and protectiveness of her sister, Prim. Of course she volunteered to save Prim. She’s been acting like her mother since her own mother vacated the position.
But at the same time, Peeta’s mother’s cruelty also adds depth to his own character. It is obvious now, looking back at this story, that the author wanted you to get attached to both characters. Katniss is amazing, but Peeta is not without value himself. They are both tributes and both deserved better than that. Everyone does.