Book Notes: Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

On the heels of our recent discussion about the demise of the genre of male Bildungsroman, I have to report that Collins has written a very decent male Bildungsroman. It follows the formula established for the genre sixty years ago. I have very little doubt that Collins is entirely unaware of the formula but you don’t have to understand gravity to be governed by its laws. It’s fascinating to observe how closely authors from different continents and eras follow the formula. There’s a trip, a return, an exalting friendship, a debasing one, an attempt to break societal norms, a repentance, another attempt. It’s a script that people follow without knowing it exists.

Of course, the only reason why Collins’s male Bildungsroman works is that she set it in a dystopian futuristic society. Try to set it in actual reality, and you’ll end up with an indigestible snooze fest.

Another interesting thing is that when Collins tried to write a female Bildungsroman in her Hunger Games series, the Bildungsroman part crashed like a drunk driver on a highway. The plots were very entertaining, don’t get me wrong. But the main character should have auditioned for a part in Frozen because she was clearly incapable of any growth.

In short, I liked Ballad about 5,000 times more than the previous three novels. Also, the original songs are very good. And yes, they even rhyme.

2 thoughts on “Book Notes: Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

  1. I never heard of the novel until you posted about it, Clarissa — but what a beautiful, alliterative, and contrasting title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

    Whatever the tale, that title alone should win a Nobel Prize.


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