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'Hunger Games' prequel may not be as bad as we think

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It’s been nine years since “Mockingjay,” the third and final novel of The Hunger Games series, was published. While the books were extremely popular when they were being released, lining every bookstore’s Young Adult (YA) section, it didn’t become a universal phenomenon until the films were released. 

I’m sure we all remember walking into Barnes & Noble, Borders Group (R.I.P.) or Hot Topic and seeing nothing but “The Hunger Games” merchandise. Everyone had a mockingjay pin on their backpack. 

After a book series gets that popular, authors are often encouraged by their publishing companies to write more. Usually this doesn’t turn out great. It ruins the story that the author originally intended to write. 

The YA genre is especially guilty of this, from L. J. Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries” expanding until it became a ghostwritten mess after the popular TV series premiere, to Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” growing to six books and adding a fantastic prequel and sequel series, with a seemingly endless expanding universe. 

In most cases, authors take advantage of the popularity from the main series to expand. Suzanne Collins is completely different: There was no talk of growing the series while it was at its peak. 

Then, in 2019, Scholastic Corporation announced Collins was writing a prequel book set in the same universe. As expected, the internet went wild with speculation on who the main character was going to be. We knew it was going to take place 64 years before the events of “The Hunger Games,” but we didn’t know much more than that. 

A lot of people were worried, but at its core the announcement of a new book felt genuine. There was still a lot of the world that was still mysterious to the readers — Collins had a lot to choose from for her new book. 

We didn’t have to wait too long for our answers, though. Last week, Entertainment Weekly released the first excerpt of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” The story follows Coriolanus Snow, who later becomes President Snow, during the 10th Annual Hunger Games as he is chosen as the District 12 mentor. 

“Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death,” according to the official summary. “Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute ... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.”

At first glance, making President Snow — one of the most hated characters in the entire franchise — the main character of a new book seems like a bad idea. 

The white male character descending into madness story has been told over and over again. We’re tired of it. 

I was very hesitant about it too! I was so sure I wasn’t going to be interested in this book. It’s been so long since “The Hunger Games” series ended, and I wasn’t very interested in revisiting it again.

Panem is a really bleak world, and we already live in a pretty bleak world. But after reading the excerpt, I’m interested. I forgot how good of a writer Collins is! Snow being chosen as the mentor for the District 12 girl is fascinating. I’m already engaged, and I want to find out what happens next. I would urge anyone having the same doubts to read the excerpt.

Collins has never painted President Snow as redeemable. We’re supposed to hate him. He’s supposed to remind us of every corrupt, egocentric politician in our real world. I don’t think that will suddenly change — he’s not painted as a good guy in the excerpt. I understand people’s reaction — I would have also preferred a book about Finnick as a tribute in the games with Annie. 

But, I don’t think we have too much to worry about here. The book we’re getting sounds interesting! We should trust the author to deliver something worth reading that is relevant to today’s political climate, but also is critical of society’s obsession with capitalism, just like the original “The Hunger Games” book was. 

“With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are and what we perceive is required for our survival.” Collins said in her statement, “(This) provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” will be released everywhere on May 19, 2020. Will you be picking up a copy? I know I will.  

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