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DISCUSS: ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ (SPOILERS)

It’s time for a fan discussion of ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ by Suzanne Collins! Caution: spoilers ahead!
 

The following article and comments contain MAJOR SPOILERS from Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, including important plot points and character developments.

IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED THE HUNGER GAMES PREQUEL, DO NOT SCROLL DOWN! THERE ARE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES SPOILERS ON THIS PAGE!

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If you’re looking for a summary or recap of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, you can check out our discussion points below. We documented our reactions and thoughts as we read the book and included some of the biggest reveals in our notes.

That said, there’s SO MUCH to say in regards to the Hunger Games prequel. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes promised a look into President Coriolanus Snow’s past, but it gave us much more than that.

The book is filled with revelations about the first rebellion against the Capitol and the creation of the notorious Hunger Games themselves.

All of that without mentioning some of the newest characters in Panem. Of note is Lucy Gray Baird, the girl from District 12, who Coriolanus is assigned to mentor. That mentorship sparks a disastrous love story that ultimately pits Coriolanus and Lucy Gray against each other, one devoted to the Capitol, the other seeking freedom outside of Panem.

The love story between Lucy Gray and Coriolanus is a lot to take in, but even more so when you realize that Lucy Gray is the writer of the lullaby Katniss sings to Rue, ‘Deep in the Meadow’ and ‘The Hanging Tree.’

So what do you think? Everyone’s bound to have a lot of thoughts about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Let’s talk.

Leave your thoughts and feelings in the comment section to engage with other fans!

Not sure where to start? Here are the notes we took as we read the book. Feel free to use them as discussion points, if you’d like:

  • What do you think of the fact that the “once-great” Snow family is now so poor, they can’t even afford new shirts? Or what do you make of the fact that Coriolanus wants to hide his poverty?
  • Woah! Tigris turns out to be the cousin of President Snow. We know that by the time of Mockingjay, she’s on the rebel’s side. What do you make of this revelation?
  • We’re finally getting our first thorough details about the rebellion that caused the Hunger Games. What are your thoughts on the fact that the Capitol was under siege for two years by the district rebels or that some citizens practiced cannibalism out of desperation?
  • Thoughts on the grandm’am’s prediction that Coriolanus would be president? At the very least, we can say the idea was put in his head from a young age.
  • Were you surprised to learn that the Snow family invested heavily in District 13 before its fall? It seems that Coriolanus isn’t aware of what actually happened to District 13 at this point.
  • We need to talk about Sejanus, one of Coriolanus’s peers. He’s definitely different from the others, no doubt due to the fact that he’s from District Two.
  • What are your thoughts on Casca Highbottom — the supposed brain behind the Hunger Games?
  • Coriolanus mentors Lucy Gray Baird, the girl from District 12. AND WHAT AN ENTRANCE! Did it surprise you when she scared Mayor Lipp’s daughter with a snake or when she broke into song? Her entrance is definitely nothing like that of Katniss’s.
  • Coriolanus catches a bit of good luck with his chance to showcase Lucy Gray at the zoo. Quite a bit happens here at the zoo. What do you think is worse: Allowing the tributes to starve in cages or prepping them up for pigs like slaughter as they do with Katniss and Peeta?
  • What’s your take on the Covey? They seem very out of place in Panem.
  • We’re introduced to Dr. Volumnia Gaul, the Head Gamemaker and the top official of the Capitol’s experimental weapons division. Were you surprised by her in any way?
  • It’s kind of surprising to see Sejanus speak so openly in favor of the districts, especially in front of Highbottom and Gaul. It’s even more surprising to see how Gaul spins that criticism to “improve” (for lack of a better word) upon the Games.
  • Were you shocked when the girl from District 10 suddenly kills Archne Crane? It almost seems like Arachne was asking for trouble as she taunted her with the sandwich. Is it any surprise that the Peacekeepers shoot the tribute down shortly after?
  • What did you think of Gaul’s neon-colored snakes? To be honest, she seemed a bit aloof at the beginning but from this point forward she appears much more lethal. That makes sense, considering her status in the Capitol.
  • What are your thoughts on the relationship between Lucy Gray and Coriolanus? How do you feel about Coriolanus, the mentor, developing feelings for his tribute?
  • The arena is in an old dilapidated sports stadium, very different from what we’re used to. Any thoughts on this?
  • The explosions at the arena are definitely surprising. Did you suspect something was up before it happened, as they toured the facility?
  • Okay: let’s talk about Clemensia. WTF. The snake bites clearly take their toll on her, but those scales … Anyone getting some lizard mutt vibes here?
  • Do Sejanus’s and Gaul’s clashes worry you at all?
  • “The show’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”
  • What are your thoughts on ‘The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird?’
  • Were you surprised to see Coriolanus give Lucy Gray his mother’s compact?
  • What went through your mind when Coriolanus and Lucy Gray finally kissed before the Games began? Were you happy, surprised, angry, disgusted?
  • By the time the Games finally begin, only 13 tributes enter the arena — many already dead from disease, hunger and the earlier bombing. It was a bit surprising to see so few in the arena.
  • Is it weird to see a Hunger Games without a proper cornucopia?
  • Were you shocked by the way they displayed Marcus at the start of the Games?
  • What was it like to view the Hunger Games from the perspective of the mentors and Gamemakers?
  • Did you predict that Sejanus would enter the arena himself?
  • What shocked you most about Coriolanus entering the arena to save Sejanus? What did you think when he killed Bobbin? Keep in mind, this is Snow’s first kill — only the first of many that will happen under his watch as president someday.
  • Lamina put up a fight but was unfortunately no match for the others. The scuffle between Coral, Mizzen and Tanner was shocking as well.
  • Did you think Coriolanus was wrong to worry about the snakes entering the arena? Was he right to share Lucy Gray’s scent with them?
  • What do you make of Mr. and Mrs. Plinth? Do you feel bad for them?
  • Thoughts on Lucy Gray singing to the snakes?
  • Were you happy Lucy Gray won the Hunger Games?
  • Lucy Gray won but at a cost to Coriolanus, who is sent to become a Peacekeeper as punishment for helping her cheat.
  • It’s strange to see Coriolanus living in District 12 as a Peacekeeper, but the big surprise was seeing Sejanus there too. What did you think of this?
  • That seems to be … the Hanging Tree. Arlo’s death is haunting. “Run! Run, Lil! Ru – !”
  • How do you feel about the fact that Lucy wrote the Hanging Tree song? Do you reckon the song is really about Billy or Coriolanus?
  • What do you think of the moment Coriolanus sees his first mockingjay? His hatred for the bird makes a lot more sense now.
  • Did you suspect Sejanus of dishonesty and rebellion? He’s been vocal about his distaste of the Capitol, but it was hard to picture him actually doing something about it.
  • Any thoughts on Dr. Kay and the information provided about jabberjays and how they work?
  • Lucy Gray appears to be the source of ‘Deep in the Meadow’ as well. Were you surprised to see the song in this book? Were you surprised that it brought Coriolanus comfort? Talk about irony.
  • What do you think about Coriolanus finally turning against Sejanus?
  • What went through your mind when Coriolanus killed Mayfair?
  • Did Sejanus’s hanging hit you hard? Is Coriolanus’s reaction to his death expected or surprising?
  • Sejanus had always counted Coriolanus as a friend — and Coriolanus had always denied it. But it turns out to be a blessing in disguise when Gaul recognizes his betrayal of Sejanus as the ultimate sacrifice for the Capitol.
  • What were your initial thoughts about Coriolanus and Lucy Gray running off together? What about when Lucy ran away and set the trap with the snake? Did you call that she was going to leave him?
  • Wow. So the 10th Hunger Games are left to be forgotten, per the guidance of Dr. Gaul.
  • How do you feel about Coriolanus becoming Gaul’s pupil? It finally makes sense why he turns out the way he does.
  • Do you think Coriolanus ever really cared for Lucy Gray, or was he only interested in using her like he used everyone else?
  • Are you surprised that Coriolanus was able to, essentially, scam the Plinths out of their money?
  • So, Casca Highbottom isn’t wholly responsible for The Hunger Games. Turns out Coriolanus’s father was the main force behind the Games, the one who gave Gaul the idea to make them a reality.
  • What do you think happened to Lucy Gray?
  • The original Hunger Games books are written in first-person present. This book is written in third-person past. Why would Suzanne Collins choose to write Songbirds and Snakes in this way?

New things we learn about Panem in this book — what do you think about these?

Related: The most shocking revelations from ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’

  • Avoxes are already a thing in Panem — and they make up the garbage waste profession.
  • Plutarch Heavensbee’s family must be very prominent, considering that the Heavensbee name is attached to Heavensbee Hall. One of the mentor’s names is also Hilarius Heavensbee.
  • It took over a decade for the Capitol to rebuild itself following the Dark Days.
  • At least the first 10 Hunger Games took place in a stadium, originally used for sporting and entertainment events.
  • Capitol citizens weren’t required to watch the Games, in fact, many of them avoided it in the beginning. In an effort to make the games more engaging, mentors were established to prep the tributes.
  • During the Dark Days, the rebel districts cut off the Capitol’s food supply, which caused some Capitol citizens to resort to cannibalism.
  • Casca Highbottom, the purported creator of the Hunger Games, seems to suggest that he believes the Games are a “failed experiment.” (It’s revealed why he feels this way at the end of the book.)
  • Like the Heavensbees, the Crane family — that of Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane from Katniss’s first Hunger Games — appears to be a well-established family as well. Coriolanus lives next to an Arachne Crane, which we can only assume is an ancestor to Seneca.
  • We see the earliest hints at the sponsorship system that exists later in the Games through Sejanus and his wish to feed the tributes his sandwiches.
  • Caesar Flickerman’s family was prominent way back at the start of the Games too. And they were in showbiz. Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman, a weatherman on Capitol TV is the host of the primetime Hunger Games programs. It seems his son (or grandson?) would later follow in his footsteps.
  • We get a look at the Peacekeepers in the final third of the book. We learn that they come from many districts, are never sent to watch over their own district, and are often barely literate when they first begin their training. A full squad is 20 Peacekeepers.
  • We learn a lot about jabberjays in this book. The jabberjay initiative, based out of District 12, was spearheaded by Dr. Kay during the war. Jabberyjays are trained to respond to audio commands that are inaudible to humans. When “in neutral,” jabberjays can mimic nearby birds or people. They can basically say whatever they wish. They’re most useful when used for surveillance, when set to “record mode.” When they record humans, they produce the perfect replica of the voices from the conversation. They can record as long as an hour. They were especially useful for surveillance in the forests, where it was difficult for the Capitol to set up bugs.

In order for this to work, you have to share your thoughts below! Let’s create a space where Hunger Games fans can come together and discuss The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes!

If you want more information about future Suzanne Collins books and Hunger Games news, be sure to follow @Bookstacked on Twitter!

Editor's Note: This article was updated on May 19, 2020.