Hunger Games is an examination of the increasingly dangerous and even deadly world our young people live in.
More than ever, they are expected to participate in pop culture, to engage entertainment, and to emulate what is advertised to them. They become a part of the spectacle of the evolving reality-entertainment. Their peers judge them, not on natural merits, but on the standards advertised to them by mainstream style corporations.
Worry-free childhoods are stolen by a world that will not hesitate to offer drugs, to sexualize, to hypnotize with the power of money. The weapons are not knives or arrows as in the story. That does not stop them from being deadly. The intimidating words and posturing of those that are fortunate enough to emerge early and dominate the social drama can maim and even kill.
Among those expectations that are placed on adolescents is the importance of relationships. They are encouraged to participate in romantic relationships that they may not especially be ready for. Just as the two District 12 tributes were pushed to display a romantic interest to earn the things they needed to survive, the social pressure exists to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, to push the boundaries, all for the sake of the intrigue. The real meaning of those connections is lost and love becomes one more criteria to be judged by.
It seems clear, though, the author–Suzanne Collins–wants to communicate hope. If young people stay true to themselves and focus on their own individual feelings, they can navigate the mine-field that is being built around them. If they find a few people they can truly care about and let those relationships give them strength then the dangers may be kept at bay.
The end of the book seems to signify the end of adolescence and the transition into early adulthood. I will have to begin the second book, Catching Fire, in order to tell for sure. I’m looking forward to it.