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After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to District 12. On the day Katniss and Peeta are set to begin a victory tour of the country, President Coriolanus Snow visits her. He explains that her approach to ending the last Hunger Games, where she and Peeta attempted a suicide pact after learning they could not both survive, inspired rebellions in the districts; he orders that Katniss not only convince the entire country of her and Peeta's love as the reason for their actions, but convince Snow himself.
The first stop of the tour is in District 11, former home of Rue, Katniss' 12-year-old ally who was killed in the previous games. After Katniss and Peeta voice their personal thoughts regarding both the districts' fallen tributes, a man in the crowd whistles the tune Katniss and Rue shared to ensure each another of their safety, and makes the three-finger salute of District 12. Everyone follows the man's example until a Peacekeeper shoots the man dead, leaving Katniss angry, afraid, and upset. Their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, informs Katniss and Peeta that they must display their relationship for the remainder of their lives. Katniss proposes a public engagement between herself and Peeta, which is carried out and celebrated at Snow's home in the Capitol.
Upon returning to District 12, Katniss warns her close friend, Gale Hawthorne, of President Snow's threat to kill both their families. Meanwhile, Peacekeepers crack down in District 12, causing Gale to be publicly whipped after attacking newly placed Head Peacekeeper Romulus Thread. That evening, Snow announces Panem's third Quarter Quell, a version of the Hunger Games every 25 years that contains a special provision: all tributes are selected from the existing pool of victors. Katniss immediately devotes herself to ensuring Peeta becomes the Quarter Quell's victor, should he compete in the games. At the reaping, Katniss, the district's only living female tribute, and Haymitch are reaped by chaperone Effie Trinket. Peeta volunteers to take Haymitch's place and is sent directly to the train with Katniss, without a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones.
As the games get underway, Katniss allies with Finnick Odair and Mags, both from District 4. Mags sacrifices herself early on when they are attacked by a fog of painful poisonous gas. The remaining trio rests in the middle of the forest where they are attacked by mandrills. During the attack the woman from District 6, a camouflage expert and drug addict, sacrifices her life for Peeta. After they escape the mandrills and rest at the beach, they are met by District 3's intelligent tributes, Wiress and Beetee, and District 7's female tribute, the cunning Johanna Mason. Wiress discovers that the arena is designed like a clock and every hour a specific attack occurs in its designated section. After Wiress' death, Beetee suggests a plan to electrocute the two remaining tributes outside the alliance, District 2's Brutus and Enobaria, using wire and a tree that is struck by lightning at noon and midnight, daily. When the wire snaps, Johanna attacks Katniss and cuts the tracker out of her arm. After recovering enough to track down Peeta, she attaches the remaining wire to an arrow and shoots it at the force field during a lightning strike, destroying the arena.
She awakens in an aircraft with an unconscious Beetee. Upon entering the cockpit she finds Haymitch, Finnick and Plutarch Heavensbee, the head gamemaker, who reveals himself as an ally and a rebel against Snow. Learning she is on her way to District 13 although Johanna and Peeta were taken away by the Capitol, she attempts to attack Haymitch for not fulfilling his promise of returning Peeta home safely. Plutarch sedates her and she awakens days later with Gale by her side, who informs that her family is safe but District 12 has been destroyed.