I'm absolutely stunned by how bad Suzanne Collin's The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is: it's dire.
For the most part, I loved the Hunger Games trilogy although I did hate the ending. I cautiously looked forward to the prequel because I thought that there was a lot to say about how Panem became the twisted society it was. Given how low my expectations were, I'm surprised at how sorely disappointed I am.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is about the evolution of Coriolanus Snow, how he falls in love with a tribute he is mentoring and how he chooses to become the disgusting excuse for a human being we see in the trilogy. Coriolanus as an 18-year-old is absolutely insufferable and I'm quite sure that this wasn't a story that needed to be told.
The romance with his tribute, Lucy, is vomit-inducing and at no stage does the author attempt to unpack the huge moral implications and the imbalance of power between a privileged, spoiled young man of the leading class and a disenfranchised young woman, effectively a slave, who has been stripped of her rights, treated like an animal and chosen to die.
I couldn't help comparing Lucy to June in the Hulu version of The Handmaid's Tale. June realises what little power she has but chooses to use and manipulate the Commander. She certainly doesn't fall in love with him.
I'm an audiobook lover but to add insult to injury, I really disliked the narrator of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Santino Fontana's 'female' voices sounded like parody and his rendition of Lucy's songs fell completely flat. Perhaps, given the substantial dialogue of women in the book (especially Lucy), a female narrator should have been chosen?
Ultimately, I find myself wondering who authors are writing young adult novels for. A huge proportion of YA readers are adults, me included, but if you're not writing a book that has something relevant to say to actual young adults, what is the point? I felt the same way when I read Sara Zarr's Goodbye from Nowhere. In both novels, we have a pampered, narcissistic protagonist who basically preys on a woman who trusts him, yet somehow the whole story is about him?
I give The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes one out of five stars and would not recommend. I've just realised that this is my first one star review ever. It's that bad. Did this review need to be written? I very rarely take the time to write bad reviews but this is for the people who feel the same way as I do.