Columns > Published on November 6th, 2019

Wild Speculation Regarding The New 'Hunger Games' Book

When I heard about a new Hunger Games book, I think I felt like most people: depressed.

What? Aren’t most of us depressed? Have you BEEN online lately? And do you think a new Hunger Games book coming out in May is going to yank me out of my wallow? Because if you think that, you need to pay more attention to me and my wallows. I put on a clinic, daily. You could learn something.

Anyway, I didn’t feel anything, but I gathered that some people did, and their feelings manifested in wild speculation about the book’s contents based on some very basic information. Wild speculation is the official sport of the internet, and it’s time I got off the bench. If it’s mild speculation, forget it. Moderate speculation? Save it for NPR. Wild speculation? Now I’m your Huckleberry.

Hey, rad. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out how characters I’ve yet to meet feel about humanity.


We know that this book is a prequel, taking place 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games. Why 64? I’m assuming Suzanne Collins is a huge fan of a certain underrated Nintendo console. Or a Beatles song. Yes. Will you still need me...will you still FEED me? Get it? Hunger Games? Feeding?

Wait, it may be 74 years before. Depends if you believe Wikipedia or Time. Better speculate on both numbers, just to cover the bases. 

74 is the atomic number of tungsten, and as we all know, tungsten is brittle and hard to work. Maybe Collins found that this plot was hard to shape. Maybe the plot wasn’t as malleable as she’d hoped. Maybe this is a clue! Although the book enlightens us about the period of time before the original trilogy, it was tough going, and it was probably one of those light bulbs that is way up high in your apartment and you didn't even realize how high it was until you're setting a chair on two other chairs to build a crappy ladder and change it. 

It was difficult. That's all I'm saying. 

Suzanne Collins’ Statement

Something we also know for sure is what Collins said:

With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival. The reconstruction period ten years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days—as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet—provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.

Hey, rad. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out how characters I’ve yet to meet feel about humanity.

In all seriousness, other than the time period, pretty vague stuff, right? Couldn’t you say the same thing about every narrative? “The setting provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with who they are and thereby define their views of humanity”? That could be a blurb for Demolition Man. The setting of a Taco-Bell-dominated future provides fertile ground for John Spartan to define his views of humanity. And also kick Wesley Snipes' head clean off his body."

Songbirds, Snakes, Hungers, Games

The title of this newest book is Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Apparently, nobody got my letters with title suggestions, including:

1. The Even Hungrier Games

2. The Hunger This Time It's Not A Games

3. Hard Target 3: No Chance Boudreaux

Or, perhaps they did get those letters and made a good choice to ignore them. Nice move, Collins.

I have a feeling this book won’t actually be a ballad in the traditional sense.

I have a feeling this book won’t actually be a ballad in the traditional sense, a poem or song with 13 lines with an ABABBCBC form built of couplets of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables. In fact, I suspect this ballad will be more like the stuff found on Monster Ballads, a CD available for like $90 bucks via infomercial, featuring 80s metal’s softest, worst songs. Based on the lovey-dovey-ness of a couple portions of the original Hunger Games trilogy, I have to suspect that this book is going to be less like a traditional written ballad, more like one of these rock songs that’s about love. Has it been written, because Suzanne Collins, like the 80s metal bands, is tired of getting on stage and rocking out to a bunch of bros and wouldn’t mind finding a way to bring in some babes? Time will tell. 

The title is also long AF. Look at all those words! Damn! Let’s just look at a graph of title length by character here and you can see the titles got shorter and shorter as the series progressed, and then BAM, total 180 with this new title:

Why would you do this? Well, my theory, the titles got slightly shorter as the original trilogy went on, and the books also became slightly less popular. So, perhaps in a bid to regain control of the popularity of her own series, Collins went balls out to make the title longer, therefore getting better reviews. Likely? No. Shrewd? No. But I’d love to hear a better reason for such a long damn title.

The Significance of the Mockingjay

Well, this thing ain’t real. Go ahead and Google it so long as you don’t mind being responsible for John James Audubon spinning in his grave. The only meaning it has is whatever meaning it’s earned via the other books.

Just to cover my bases, I emailed Jonathan Franzen, famous birdwatcher who is also willing to talk trash about books, but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet. So...I have to assume the mockingjay’s primary meaning is “Hey, ya’ll, this is also a Hunger Games book. Just a reminder.”

The Mockingjay’s Pose

In The Hunger Games' cover, the mockingjay is craning its neck down and to the right. In Catching Fire, also down and to the right, but less contorted. In Mockingjay's cover, the bird looks up and to the right and is soaring. In Ballad, the Mockingjay has returned to craning up and to the right.

What does this mean?

Perhaps it represents the full circle of the series. We now begin with the bird looking in the same direction that it does in the final entry in the series.

There's also a progression in the orientation of the bird's body. In order, the bird displays its left side (book 1), right side (book 2), and its belly (book 3). This new one shows the bird’s back. Because we’re going BACK in time. Which we already knew because we were explicitly told, but whatever, you can still talk about stuff. Doesn’t make it less clever.

You’ll also notice the bird is perched. In the other covers, the bird is in flight. I suppose this means that this book takes place before things really “took off.” Is this a subtle hint that the book is boring? Definitely. It’s a definitive hint, a cry for help from Collins. “I have so many ideas, and all you want to hear about is kids with goofy names like Katniss and Peeta and Riboflavin shooting arrows at the government!”

Roots and Adders

The bird is perched on what appear to be roots. There’s also a snake.

This probably means that while a bird and a snake are different, they share roots. That’s deep. That’s really deep. You’re welcome.

There are some issues. I don’t think birds generally perch on roots. What would be the point of that? Wouldn’t a bird be a lot safer perching up in a tree, which birds can totally do? Does this mean the bird is flying low, not reaching its potential? That Collins thinks she can do better? 

The snake seems obvious: Bible stuff. I could waste your time and mine explaining, but we all know how that went down, right? Snake bad, apple, and now we have YouTube comments. 

Target in the Background

This is an easy one. I predict a Target exclusive version. Boom.


Green and gold. Obviously, this book is all about the ka-ching. Collins plans to bring in a good amount of green and maybe even a little gold by the time she’s through with this series.

Green and gold are also the national colors of Australia. Hey, Australia, have you ever considered putting your national colors on your flag like every other country? Just a suggestion. I know you’re very busy playing host to the worst spiders ever to emerge from some kind of interdimensional hell, but when you get a handle on that, think about the flag thing.

Maybe the green and gold represent Collins’ plan to move to Australia and never speak to any of us again with the pile of money she’ll make off this book.

Any way you slice it, it's a money thing, no doubt. 

Did I shit on the series a little here? Doubt the genuine nature of the storytelling? Sure. Sure I did. 

What can I say? Maybe I'm a little fatigued when it comes to prequels, reboots, and remakes. Maybe I still think Battle Royale is the better version. Maybe (definitely) I haven't seen the movies yet, and that's part of the problem.

What are you hoping to see in the new book? 

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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