Publisher: Scholastic Press
Read from June 1st to July 27th, 2020
Summary from Goodreads:
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. 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. 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.
When I learned that there was going to be a Hunger Games prequel about President Snow, I was pretty hesitant and nervous. I didn't want this to be another case of new material that just didn't live up to the original (i.e. Cursed Child), and on top of that, Snow? That was who she was focusing on?
But it was a new Hunger Games book, and I wanted to at least read it for myself to see. I kept my fingers crossed that Collins would do a good job, but I was still quite skeptical going into the book.
People seem pretty divided over whether they enjoyed it or not, and I'm not sure if anyone has loved it per se. At least from what I've seen. Having read it myself, I did like it in a "it makes me think" sense, but at the same time, I completely get why people don't.
The book is told in Coriolanus' point of view. At the time of the book, he's a student, but of course, we know he's going to become Panem's tyrannical president by the time of the original Hunger Games trilogy. I suppose you could look at this book as a villain origin story. That's essentially what it is except Snow is not a supervillain. He is, in fact, a normal person with some messed up morals.
What saved the book for me was the fact that Snow and the other inhabitants of the Capitol were written in a way that made them feel like people within our actual world. When people read the original Hunger Games, they want to identify with the districts instead of the Capitol, but there were numerous parts of the book where it felt like the story wanted you to confront that many aspects of the modern United States are more like the Capitol than the districts. That felt more immediate in this book than the original trilogy though it never felt like it was being shoved in your face.
The downside to all of that, though, is that you do have to put up with Snow for an entire book, and it's quite a long book. He is just...the worst. I think that's a good thing in the end because I had no desire to see him redeemed, but it did make reading his point of view quite a chore at times. I enjoyed certain things the book made me think about, but I wasn't reading it for the main character or his story so much as the story of Panem and how things came to be as they are in the original trilogy.
There were side characters, especially Lucy Gray and Sejanus, who were far more fascinating than Snow. If the story had focused on them instead, I would have found it far more compelling. Though many of Lucy Gray's decisions (namely those involving Snow) made me want to pull my hair out.
All in all, there were many aspects of this story that I appreciated, particularly the way it explored the politics of Panem, but I didn't find Snow's personal story all that interesting. If anything, I wanted the story from Sejanus' point of view instead once I was finished, but I guess there's fanfiction for that.