The fourth installment of the most influential Young Adult dystopia of the 21st century showed up right on time. The original Hunger Games trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, has sold tens of millions of copies and spawned a blockbuster quadrology that grossed over $29.7 billion worldwide. The prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, arrived at the end of May — released into a world where economic collapse, global pandemic, and unprecedented uprising against state oppression loomed large.
The release of the prequel moved me to revisit The Hunger Games for the first time in several years. The books hold up incredibly well to a reread — in hindsight, it’s no surprise that they left such a considerable stamp on the landscape of Young Adult literature. The original trilogy is rich and grounded, and the trajectories Collins may have seized on in 2009, when the first book was published, remain distressingly relevant now.
Readers of the original trilogy already know that Panem is a place where the government propagates inequality. Readers know that the nation relies on a system in which working-class laborers prop up a cultural elite, and that the system is reinforced by a combination of state-sanctioned violence and oppressive violent entertainment. Readers know that Panem is a bad place to live. But readers may not be aware of how easy it is to become a place like that.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place years after the oppressed people of the Districts first rose up against The Capitol to demand radical change in an event called the First Rebellion. Ballad follows the path of the young man who will become the tyrannical President Coriolanus Snow.
It also tracks the ways in which trauma and fear can be strategically leveraged to secure power and control — over a person, over a city, over an entire nation…
The rest of this piece is a deep-dive into The Hunger Games, nascent authoritarian regimes, and how a government can manipulate moments of crisis to traumatize a populace and keep it under control. Read it for free over at Medium right now, and then share it on social media.