In case you for whatever reason have not read the second installment of The Hunger Games — what, you hate amazing books? — we’re here to fill you in with a synopsis of Catching Fire to get you primed for the debut of the sequel on the big screen in November.
Peeta and Katniss return to their homeland of District 12, victorious and seemingly safe after having won (read: surviving) the 74th Hunger Games.
But then our girl on fire gets an unexpected and not altogether welcome houseguest: President Snow. The oppressor-in-chief reprimands Kat for inspiring rebellion in the districts with her subverting of the Hunger Games rules and commands her to pretend like she beat the system only because of her puppy love for Peeta.
The Capital then parades Katniss and Peeta throughout the nation of Panem on the Victory Tour. Their first waypoint in District 11, home of Katniss’s fallen comrade, Rue. After she gives a speech, a man in the crowd whistles the melody Katniss and Rue used to communicate, prompting the rest of the crowd to salute her. Capital “Peacekeepers” then execute the man point-blank.
Hoping to quell the “fire” that’s “catching” (and keep themselves safe), Peeta proposes to Katniss in front of the whole nation. But no one believes the ruse that their clever escape from the Hunger Games was an act of reckless love instead of an act of rebellion, and the unrest builds momentum throughout the districts.
Back in District 12, Gale professes his undying love for Katniss. (Finally!) But he also comes afoul of the Peacekeepers, who whip him brutally.
Later, Katniss finds two District 8 runaways, who inform her that the long-standing public knowledge that District 13 is a Capitol-destroyed wasteland is incorrect and that the residents of 13 live in underground bunkers.
Katniss barely even has time to process this information before the Capitol announces the 75th Hunger Games. Because it falls on a quarter-century anniversary, it’s designated a Quarter Quell, which means the Capitol gets to throw in a twist. The twist is that instead of being fought by only children and teens, this go-round will be fought by former victors, and Peeta and Katniss are roped in. (Surprise, surprise.)
This time, the arena for the Games is a verdant jungle surrounding a miniature ocean. Katniss meets and aligns with other competitors: the charismatic and devilishly handsome Finnick; his mentor, the elderly Mags; the intimidating and snarky Johanna; and the whip-smart Beetee and Wiress.
It’s Wiress who figures out and shares that the arena’s deadly hazards work like clockwork. Literally. The whole arena is shaped and behaves like a clock.
In the middle of a climactic night, Katniss directs bolts of lightning toward the force field surrounding the arena, destroying the barrier but also temporarily paralyzing her.
She awakes to find herself en route to District 13 with Finnick; Beetee; and mentor Haymitch, who informs her about the elaborate plot to break the tributes out of the arena but also tells her that the Capitol had nabbed Peeta and Johanna.
To add insult to injury, Katniss learns in the final pages of the book that her precious District 12 has been obliterated.