Read a full summary of The Hunger Games, book #1 of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular The Hunger Games series, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in The Hunger Games, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Chewie the Mouse, a new BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Visit her blog to read her book reviews, and check out her Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages (links at the end of the recap).
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in The Hunger Games?
Early on the morning of the Reaping for the 74th Annual Hunger Games, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen left home early to meet her friend Gale in the woods. The two shared breakfast, did some fishing and gathering, then did some trading in town. Katniss went home to dress for the Reaping, then headed to the Town Square with her twelve-year-old sister Prim. Katniss prayed that her name wouldn’t be called as the girls’ Tribute, and it wasn’t. The name drawn was Primrose Everdeen instead.
Katniss stepped forward to volunteer in her sister’s place, while Gale carried Prim back to her mother. The boy’s name drawn was Peeta Mellark. Katniss didn’t really know him, but she remembered a time when she had been starving, and he had given her bread. The ceremony concluded, and Katniss and Peeta were taken to the Justice Building, where they had an hour to say goodbye to friends and family. Katniss told her mother to take care of Prim and reminded Gale of his promise to help provide for her family. Madge, one of her friends, stopped by and gave Katniss a gold mockingjay pin to wear in the Games as a token from her district.
Then Katniss and Peeta were taken to the train and shown to their rooms for the trip to the Capitol. They had a fancy dinner with Effie Trinket, their assigned representative. After the meal, their mentor Haymitch Abernathy showed up, drunk as usual. Effie pointed out that the tributes shouldn’t be amused by his behavior since he was their mentor and could mean the difference between life and death for them.
The next morning, the Tributes enjoyed a big breakfast on the train. They showed Haymitch that they were fighters and expected his help as their mentor. Haymitch agreed to stay sober enough to be of use to them if they didn’t interfere with his drinking and did exactly what he told them. He gave them their first instruction: As soon as they got to the Capitol, they’d be sent to their stylists. They should go along with whatever the stylists wanted them to do. Later, Katniss and Peeta watched through the train windows as they moved through the Capitol. Katniss observed Peeta waving and smiling at the people and realized he was already playing to win the Games.
In the Capitol, Katniss was turned over to her Prep Team, the well-meaning trio of Octavia, Flavius, and Venia. They subjected her to a series of mostly painful beautification procedures, after which she met her stylist, Cinna. Katniss was pleasantly surprised that Cinna seemed to be a fairly normal person and was even happier when she realized that she’d be appearing in the pre-Games parade in an impressive outfit. Katniss and Peeta wore flaming costumes in the Parade, resulting in lots of cheers from the crowd and more than their fair share of air time from the television network.
After the parade, Katniss and Peeta were taken to the Training Center, where they would live and prepare until the start of the games. They were joined at dinner by their stylists, Effie, and Haymitch, who actually appeared fairly sober. Katniss recognized one of their servers, a red-haired girl. Effie immediately pointed out that there was no way Katniss could know the girl, as she was an Avox, a traitor who was being punished by having her tongue cut and being forced into servitude in the Capitol. Peeta covered for Katniss by saying that the girl looked a lot like Delly Cartwright, a girl from District 12.
Later, Peeta showed Katniss the roof garden, where they could talk without being overheard. Katniss shared the story of how she knew the Avox. Once when she and Gale were out hunting, they saw the girl and a boy running through the woods. A hovercraft appeared, killed the boy, and captured the girl in a net. This was the same girl, and Katniss was saddened by her fate and felt guilty for not trying to help her at the time.
The next morning, Katniss and Peeta discovered that their stylists had again dressed them in matching outfits. The Tributes would have three days to train prior to the start of the games and would appear before the Gamemakers on the last day to demonstrate their skills. Haymitch discussed training strategy with Katniss and Peeta. They told him about what they were able to do, and he advised them to spend their training time trying to learn new skills and not to show anyone what they’re best at until their private session with the Gamemakers. Haymitch also ordered them to stay together and pretend to like each other at all times.
Katniss and Peeta followed Haymitch’s instructions, staying together during training and avoiding the archery and strength-related stations. They learned some new skills in the process. As the District 12 female tribute, Katniss had the last assessment. The Gamemakers were already bored and ready to leave by the time her turn came, and they were eating and not paying attention to her. She responded by shooting the apple out of the mouth of their roasted boar and pinning it to the wall. Then she thanked them for their consideration and left without waiting to be dismissed.
When the Training Scores were announced via a televised program later that evening, Katniss was pleased to see that Rue (a young tribute who reminded her of Prim) scored a 7. Peeta got an 8. Training scores range from 1 (hopeless) to 12 (impossibly great). Katniss was expecting a low score after her actions during the assessment and was surprised to receive an 11.
The next day, the Tributes prepared for their televised interviews with Caesar Flickerman. Katniss was surprised when she learned that Peeta had asked to be coached separately. She spent the morning working with Effie on things like how to walk in high heels and sit like a lady. She spent the afternoon with Haymitch, working on how she should present herself at the interview. In the end, Haymitch got frustrated and gave up.
Cinna and the Prep Team brought Katniss her dress and helped her get ready. The dress was a stunning, jewel-covered garment in a flame pattern. When Katniss expressed her worry about how she’d come across during the interview, Cinna suggested she find him in the stylists’ section and answer Caesar’s questions as if she were speaking directly to him. She followed Cinna’s advice, and it worked. Katniss came across as funny and likable, and the audience loved her dress. Peeta stunned everyone at the end of his interview by explaining that he’d had a crush on Katniss for a long time, but she hadn’t realized he existed until the Reaping.
Part II: The Games
After the interviews, Katniss was angry with Peeta and shoved him so that he knocked over a pottery urn and cut his hands badly enough to need medical attention before dinner. After the meal, the two said goodbye to Effie and Haymitch. Haymitch offered some final advice: avoid the initial bloodbath at the Cornucopia, get as far away from the rest of the tributes as possible, and find water.
Katniss was unable to sleep that night and went to the roof for some fresh air. She met Peeta, and he talked about how he didn’t expect to win and only hoped he could die while still retaining his sense of self. In the morning, Cinna escorted Katniss to the hovercraft that would take her to the Arena. Once there, Cinna helped her dress in the provided outfit and braided her hair. He had remembered her mockingjay pin and attached it to her shirt. Katniss didn’t want to talk while she waiting, so she and Cinna sat quietly together in her Launch Room. When it was time to go, Katniss stood on a circular plate and was raised into the Arena via a clear cylinder.
Once all the tributes were in their places, everyone had to wait 60 seconds until a gong sounded, signaling the official start of the Games. While waiting, Katniss spotted a bow and arrows among the supplies in the Cornucopia and decided to try to grab them despite Haymitch’s advice. Just before the gong rang, she caught Peeta’s eye, which distracted her and cost her a couple of seconds of running time. Instead of trying for the bow, Katniss grabbed a nearby piece of plastic and an orange backpack. Another tribute threw a knife at her, but she blocked it with the backpack, acquiring the knife in the process.
Katniss ran for the woods and kept moving away from the Cornucopia. She didn’t find any water but saw a rabbit and figured there must be water nearby for the animals to drink. She found an empty water bottle, a warm sleeping bag, some food, iodine, and a pair of sunglasses in the backpack. That night, she slept in a tree, using her belt to secure herself to a branch.
The Panem national anthem was played, followed by the pictures of the tributes who had died the first day. Eleven were dead, leaving thirteen in the competition. During the night, another tribute made a fire nearby. This attracted the group of career tributes, who promptly killed the girl. Katniss was surprised to learn Peeta was part of that group.
Katniss spent the second day unsuccessfully searching for water. She killed a rabbit for food and spent another night in a tree. On the third day, she again searched for water and finally found a pond. She remembered to use the iodine from her pack to purify the water before drinking it. She planned to spend the following day by the pond, eating fish and camouflaging her pack.
After a few hours of sleep in a tree, Katniss awoke to the sound of animals running and a wall of fire moving in her direction. She fled as well, and evaded the flames until the end of the attack (she was positive the fire had been sent by the Gamemakers), when she was hit in the leg by a fireball. She suffered significant burns to the leg and additional burns to her hands.
She kept moving until she found a spring-fed pond, where she soothed the burns as best she could in the cool water. After awhile, she heard the Career pack coming, so she ran again until she found a good climbing tree. She headed up, taunting the Careers to come after her. Cato tried and fell; Glimmer tried and gave up. Peeta suggested that they wait until morning since Katniss couldn’t go anywhere anyway.
High up in the tree, Katniss saw Rue in the next tree over, pointing at something above her head. She looked up and saw a tracker jacker nest. These were Capitol-mutated lethal bees. Katniss sawed through the branch, dropping the nest onto the Careers below. The Careers tried to run for the water, but two (Glimmer and the girl from District 4) died from the stings.
Katniss was stung three times. She got out of the tree and ran in the direction opposite to the way the Careers had headed. After a bit, she realized that Glimmer had been holding the bow and arrows when she died. Katniss headed back and retrieved the weapon but had started to hallucinate by then. She heard the Careers returning and expected to die. Peeta got to her first and told her to run, which she did. She fled until she collapsed into a small pit and lost consciousness.
Katniss eventually woke up and started walking again. She found water and killed a rabbit and groosling (wild bird) with her bow and arrows. When she stopped to make a fire to cook the meat, she spotted Rue hiding nearby. Katniss invited the girl to join her for some food and suggested an alliance.
Rue provided mashed leaves to help Katniss’ tracker jacker stings, and Katniss gave Rue some of the burn medication she’d received from sponsors. Rue provided some valuable information: Katniss had been unconscious for two nights, ten tributes were still alive, Peeta was no longer with the Careers, and the Careers had a camp near the lake with lots of food and supplies.
The next day, Katniss and Rue formulated a plan. Rue lit a couple of fires to lure the Careers away from their camp. Katniss snuck up and observed until she realized that the supplies were protected by land mines. She shot some arrows through a hanging bag of apples until it split open, causing the apples to fall and trigger the mines. There was a massive explosion, and the food and supplies were destroyed.
Katniss was dizzy and deafened from being so close to the explosions; she was barely able to crawl far enough away to hide before the Careers returned. Cato was furious to see all the supplies destroyed and killed the boy from District 3 who had made the mines.
That evening’s sky graphics revealed that only eight tributes were left, as another had been killed earlier that day. Katniss hid and waited for morning, when she was able to walk without dizziness and could hear out of one ear. She waited for Rue for awhile, then went looking for her. Katniss heard a scream and followed it just in time to see Rue stabbed by another tribute. Katniss killed him with an arrow before he could even retrieve the spear he’d used to attack Rue.
Katniss stayed with Rue and sang her a lullaby. After Rue’s death, Katniss adorned her body with wildflowers. Then she took both tributes’ packs and walked away. That evening, a surprise announcement stated that, for the first time in Hunger Games history, two tributes could win if they were from the same district.
Part III: The Victor
The next morning, Katniss started trying to find Peeta. She knew he was badly injured and figured he’d be hiding near a water source, so she followed the stream. Peeta was well camouflaged and hidden near the stream. Katniss got him cleaned up and treated his stings and burns.
The spear wound in his leg was more serious. She used the tracker jacker leaves, which leached out lots of pus, then applied the burn medicine, knowing it helped with infection. She also gave him some fever-reducing pills from the pack of the tribute she’d killed. Peeta was too weak to walk on his own, so Katniss helped him to a small cave, where she put him to bed in her sleeping bag. She kissed him (her first kiss ever), then went outside to find a silver sponsor parachute. It contained a pot of warm broth.
The next morning, Peeta was still feverish, and the leg wound looked worse. Peeta was developing blood poisoning, which was beyond what Katniss could treat with the supplies she had. Later, another announcement was made: there would be a Feast at the Cornucopia at dawn the next day. Each tribute would find the item he needed most in a backpack with his district number on it.
Katniss assumed her backpack would have the medication Peeta needed and wanted to go, while Peeta resisted, saying it was too dangerous. Haymitch sent Katniss another sponsor gift: a vial of sleeping potion, which she mixed with berries and gave to Peeta so he’d sleep deeply and she could attempt to retrieve the backpack at the Feast.
Katniss left the cave before dawn and headed to the Cornucopia, where she hid and watched. Just after sunrise, a table rose from the ground holding four backpacks. Immediately, Foxface ran over, grabbed hers, and fled. Katniss tried the same thing and had to dodge a knife thrown by Clove, the girl from District 2. She shot an arrow through Clove’s arm, then grabbed her backpack. Clove threw another knife, which hit her in the temple. She was about to kill Katniss when Thresh appeared and killed Clove. Thresh told Katniss he’d let her go this time because of her alliance with Rue. Katniss ran, and Thresh grabbed both his pack and Cato’s and ran as well.
Back at the cave, Katniss opened the bag and found a single syringe of medicine, which she injected into Peeta’s arm before passing out from her own injury. When she woke up, she found Peeta was feeling much better and had bandaged her wound. Their food supplies were running out, and they couldn’t hunt or gather because of a rainstorm that lasted a couple of days. Katniss got Peeta to talk, and after a particularly romantic conversation, Haymitch rewarded them with a sponsor gift of food.
On the last evening of the rainstorm, the nightly announcement showed that Thresh had been killed, leaving only four tributes alive. The next morning, Katniss and Peeta packed up and headed out to hunt. Peeta was so loud that he scared off all the game, so he stayed in one spot to gather while Katniss went off a bit further to hunt. Shortly after they met up again, the cannon sounded, signifying the death of a tribute. It turned out that Foxface had swiped some of the food Peeta left out, including some poisonous berries, and killed herself accidentally. That left only Cato alive besides the two of them.
That night, the two returned to the cave to sleep. They woke in the morning to find that the stream was completely dried up. They deduced that the Gamemakers were trying to herd the final three tributes back to the lake area for a final showdown. They headed to the lake, and waited for Cato to arrive. When he did, he was running full speed. He wasn’t running toward them but away from the muttations, dangerous Capitol-engineered wolves. The mutts had been created to resemble the dead tributes through their fur color, eyes, and special collars featuring district numbers.
The three remaining tributes took refuge on top of the Cornucopia, with Katniss shooting a couple of mutts to cover Peeta while he climbed up. Peeta’s leg had been badly clawed by a mutt. Cato grabbed him in a headlock, slowing asphyxiating him, and told Katniss she couldn’t shoot him because that would result in both of them falling over the edge. Peeta made an X on Cato’s hand using his own blood. Katniss shot Cato in the hand, Peeta shoved him backwards, and Cato fell over the edge. He fought the pack for awhile but eventually went down. Since he was wearing some sort of body armor, the mutts couldn’t kill him quickly.
Katniss and Peeta spend a cold night on top of the Cornucopia, trying to keep Peeta from bleeding to death. In the morning, Katniss was able to see Cato and had a good enough angle to kill him with an arrow to put him out of his misery. The final two tributes climbed down and moved far enough away for Cato’s body to be retrieved. Then another announcement was made: The previous rule change regarding two winners had been revoked. Now only one could survive.
Peeta asked Katniss to kill him and go home, saying that the Capitol had to have a Victor. Katniss had a better idea, and they each took some of the poison berries she had saved in her bag. They kissed goodbye, held out the berries, and began a countdown from three. Before they could kill themselves, it was announced that they were both victors of the 74th Hunger Games.
How did The Hunger Games end?
The hovercraft came to take them out of the arena, and Peeta collapsed from blood loss as soon as they got off the ladder that raised them. A medical team was standing by to whisk him away. Katniss forgot she wasn’t still in the Games and lunged at the doctors. When they arrived back at the Training Center, she was flinging herself crazily against the glass partition. Someone gave her an injection from behind, and she later awoke to find herself in a hospital room, cleaned up and with her hearing restored.
After a couple of days in and out of consciousness in the hospital, Katniss awoke to find she was no longer attached to any tubes, and there was a clean outfit waiting for her. She dressed and ventured out to find Haymitch, Effie, and Cinna waiting for her. After a brief reunion, Cinna took her off to meet up with the Prep Team to get her ready for her victor’s interview.
Her dress for her first appearance as a victor was pale yellow and looked like candlelight; it made her look younger and more innocent. Just prior to the interview, Haymitch warned Katniss that the Capitol was angry about what she did with the berries. He explained that her only defense was that she and Peeta were so madly in love that they couldn’t be held responsible for their actions.
During the show, which featured a 3-hour recap of the Games, Katniss snuggled up with Peeta on the loveseat provided. The final interview with Caesar Flickerman was the next day. Cinna dressed Katniss in another sweet, innocent-looking dress, this one white with a pink bow. Peeta and Caesar did most of the talking, but Katniss did her best to appear in love with Peeta and explain that she was motivated by that love in the Arena. Afterwards, Haymitch confirmed that she’d done a good job.
After the interview, the group headed home on the train. During a stop, Katniss and Peeta went for a brief walk. Haymitch joined them and told them to maintain their performance back home until the cameras left. Peeta was surprised; he didn’t realize that much of Katniss’ recent behavior had, in fact, been a performance.
Katniss explained that the Capitol was angry over their defiance with the berries and that she wasn’t completely sure what she really felt. Peeta was hurt and stayed in his room on the train until they arrived a back in District 12. As they left the station, he took her hand for the cameras. The book ended with Katniss arriving safely back home, still unsure of her feelings toward both Peeta and Gale.
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