A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a dystopian-action novel that is a spin-off and prequel to the hugely popular The Hunger Games trilogy. Now that the trailer for this movie was recently released, pre-tweens and teens will want to get their hands on this book. Since our children have read the novels (and watched the movies), we thought that it was best to break down some aspects of the series that, we feel, parents might want to be aware of.
The Hunger Games Trilogy In Summary
The Hunger Games universe is set in Panem, a North American country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 13 districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, children between the ages of 12 and 18 from the first 12 districts are selected to compete in a compulsory televised death match called The Hunger Games. The winning tribute and his or her home district are then rewarded with food, supplies, and riches. The purposes of the Hunger Games are to provide entertainment for the Capitol and to remind the districts of the Capitol’s power and its lack of remorse or forgiveness for the failed rebellion of the current competitors’ ancestors.
The trilogy follows the story of Katniss Everdeen who volunteers herself as a candidate in The Hunger Games when her 12 year old sister is selected. Over the course of the three books, she inadvertently becomes a symbol rebellion against the Capitol and her actions take a toll on not only herself, but the people around her. Some of the themes include distrust of authority, class discrimination, resistance and of course, the origins and effects of war.
So what are some things that parents should be aware of?
Violence & Gore
Violence is prevalent throughout the book series. There are instances of people (usually pre-teens and teens), maiming and killing one another with knives, arrows spears, blows to the head with rocks and even with their bare hands.
Alcohol and Drugs
Haymich, District 12’s sole Hunger Games winner, is Katniss and Peeta’s official adviser and appears through the book (and movies) usually drunk. He eventually sobers up to help them form a strategy and sends them gifts on the battlefield when they follow his orders.
The hospital gives a drug called morphling to Katniss and others in pain or emotional trauma. They have to wean themselves off the drug at different points because of the amount they’ve received. Soldiers are issued suicide pills to take if they’re caught in dire situations.
Sex and Nudity
Some kissing and mention of pregnancy. Some tributes are scantily dressed to get attention. There’s no sex in these books except in the third book when a tribute’s sex slave history is mentioned.
The word “hell” is used a few times. Katniss shouts obscenities a few times, though no curse words appear in the text.
Our final thoughts:
Like Lord of the Flies, there is violence in the book but the violence serves a purpose. There are other important themes in the book that, for us, carry much more weight. The author, Suzanne Collins is a brilliant writer and her books will completely hook you. She actually got the idea for the series while watching television because she was appalled by how kids were used as spectacles in tv shows. As parents, we highly recommend that you read the series first and decide if it’s something right for your child. If you ask us what is the best age to introduce The Hunger Games to your kid, we would say “Definitely not for children younger than 12 and after that, it depends on maturity, not age.