Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have just returned home after being the first ever dual victors of the Hunger Games, an annual event in which 24 children between the ages of 12-18 fight to the death in an arena created by the Capitol of their country, Panem. They became dual victors by threatening to eat poisonous berries at the same time when they were the only two remaining, which would have left no victor of the games.
The story picks up with Katniss and Peeta residing in the Victor’s Village with their families where all winners of the Hunger Games go to live when they return home. The only other resident of this village is Haymitch Abernathy, the winner of the 50th Hunger Games and mentor to Katniss and Peeta. The first task that must be completed upon winning the games is a Victory Tour to each of the 12 districts in their country, Panem, and the Capitol. In anticipation of this tour, the president of the country, Coriolanus Snow, comes to Katniss’s home in District 12.
He informs her the show of affection her and Peeta put on during the games must continue in order convince residents of the country they acted on love, not rebellion. If they are unable to convince the country and President Snow himself, there will be dire consequences. The first stop on the Victor’s Tour is District 11. Upon making a speech about her fellow competitor in the games, Rue, an outpouring of affection is shown to Katniss.
Subsequently, a man is shot and killed proving to Katniss how sensitive the situation actually is. Once they arrive in the Capitol, Peeta publicly proposes to Katniss in an effort to convince the President that their love is real and keep the country from thinking it was a ploy to win the games. Despite their attempts to prove it was not rebellion, President Snow lets Katniss know the efforts were not substantial enough to convince him. This leads her to believe herself and her family are in danger. She also has an encounter with the head game maker of the 75th Hunger Games, Plutarch Heavensbee, which has her quite confused. He flashes her a watch with a Mockingjay on it and says “It starts at Midnight.”.
Upon returning home to District 12 after the tour, Katniss comes upon two women who are on the run from District 8. The women inform her they are running to District 13, which is known to have been completely destroyed years earlier. They also present her with bread that resembles the Mockingjay pin she wore in the games. Though she does not believe District 13 exists, she helps the women by giving them food and clothing. It is now time for the 75th Hunger Games to be announced. Every 25th game is what is known as a Quarter Quell.
The Quarter Quell always houses a change in the rules to celebrate the landmark, for example, the 50th games had twice as many competitors as normal. The twist to the Quarter Quell this time around is all competitors will be previous victors. Because Katniss knows Peeta will not let Haymitch compete and she is the only female victor in District 12, she will be competing against Peeta. She instantly pledges she will do whatever it takes to save Peeta, even though she knows that will ultimately result in her death.
Peeta and Katniss now head to the Capitol for training. It is a much different scene then the first time around. They get a chance to meet their fellow tributes at this time. Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta their best shot is to form an alliance with other victors. Katniss decides she wants to team up with the reputable Finnick Odair who comes with Mags, his eighty year old mentor, Beetee and Wiress from District 3 who are incredibly smart, however lacking in social skills and Johanna Mason a feisty victor from District 7.
The evening of pre-game interviews arrives. Peeta announces at the interviews that he and Katniss are already married and are expecting a child, which of course is a lie in a last attempt to get others to save her.
The time for the games has now arrived. When the competitors rise into the arena, it is revealed it consists of mainly water. Katniss instantly goes to the weapon pile and retrieves a bow and arrows. Katniss and her crew now head for the forest to try to figure out the arena. While exploring, Peeta walks directly into an electric force field surrounding the arena and is essentially killed, only to be revived by Finnick via CPR.
A series of events leads the group to figure out how the arena is arranged. First it is a crippling fog, followed by a hoard of vicious monkeys attacking them, a horrendous lightning strike to an unnatural tree, and jabberjays imitating screaming from loved ones of the tributes. This leads them to figure out the arena is designed as a clock. Each awful occurrence happens for one hour right after each other moving clockwise around the arena.
The group now devises a plan to try to eliminate the other tributes by running a wire Beetee retrieved from the weapons pile beginning at the tree that gets struck by lightning to the water electrocuting anyone who is on the beach at the time the lightning strikes. It is Johann and Katniss’s job to run the wire from the tree to the water. While doing this, Johanna strikes Katniss in the head with a piece of metal knocking her out.
Right before she is knocked out, she hears Peeta yell for her and she knows they have been betrayed by their alliance. When Katniss wakes up, she realizes Beetee was attempting to blow up the force field around the arena with the tree and the wire. She then takes the wire, ties it around her arrow, and shoots a flaw she sees in the force field at the same time the lightning strikes the tree, blowing up the force field.
Katniss wakes up on a hover craft whose passengers include Beetee, Haymitch, Plutarch and Gale. She confronts Haymitch about what is going on and he informs her there was a plan to get them out of the arena as soon as the Quarter Quell was announced. She also learns the capital has picked up Peeta and Johanna. Gale then informs her that there is no longer a District 12, that the Capitol destroyed their home.