54 pages 1 hour read

Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2009

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Summary and Study Guide


Catching Fire (2009) is the sequel to The New York Times bestseller The Hunger Games (2008), and the second novel in author Suzanne Collins’s trilogy of the same name. Catching Fire is a young adult dystopian science fiction novel that takes place in the future, amidst the ruins of what was once America. Catching Fire details the aftermath of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark’s victory in the 74th Hunger Games from the first novel. Despite leaving the arena, Katniss and her loved ones are in more danger than ever as the threat of punishment looms. In Catching Fire, Collings explores the effects of trauma and classism and how fascism oppresses society. The novel also investigates how strong emotions like guilt, fear, and anger can spark rebellion. Lionsgate released a film adaptation of Catching Fire in 2013.

Suzanne Collins is also the author of The Underland Chronicles (2003), another young adult series, and several books for younger readers. This guide references the Scholastic Press hardcover edition of Catching Fire.

Please be advised that Catching Fire depicts instances of self-harm.

Plot Summary

In the post-apocalyptic future, the North American nation of Panem is divided into 12 districts ruled by the Capitol, a wealthy and technologically advanced city in the Rocky Mountains. Every year, each of the 12 districts must send two children, called tributes, to fight in a televised battle to the death as punishment for a past rebellion. In the months following her victory in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen has returned to her home in the impoverished District 12 with her co-victor, Peeta Mellark and is trying to forget about the events in the arena. She is haunted by nightmares and knows that things can never truly go back to normal. President Snow, the ruler of Panem, visits Katniss and tells her about rumors of potential uprisings around the country. Snow blames Katniss and says that this dissent is a result of her decision to defy the Capitol in the Games. Rather than fight each other as the last two surviving tributes, Peeta and Katniss threatened to eat poisonous berries and die together; to avoid scandal and public ire, the Capitol declared Peeta and Katniss joint victors. Snow tells Katniss that she must convince him and the whole country that she is madly in love with Peeta during their upcoming Victory Tour, so that her actions can be interpreted as romantic rather than politically motivated.

Katniss and Peeta visit the 12 districts of Panem during their Victory Tour and notice that some districts seem to be on the brink of outright rebellion. In District 11, a man is executed after leading the crowd in a salute to Katniss. Disturbed, Katniss tells Peeta about Snow’s threat. Although Katniss and Peeta get engaged during a televised interview to support the official narrative of their joint victory, President Snow still is not pleased. While returning home, Katniss discovers that there has been an uprising in District 8. Katniss tries to convince her friend Gale to run away with her and take their families into the woods before the Capitol can punish her or anyone she cares about. Gale says that if there is going to be an uprising, he wants to be a part of it. When Gale is whipped publicly by the Capitol’s Peacekeepers, Katniss decides that he is right and that she must stay and fight.

President Snow announces the Quarter Quell, a special twist to the Hunger Games that comes every 25 years. For the third Quarter Quell—the 75th Hunger Games—the Capitol will choose tributes from the surviving victors of previous games. Katniss, the only living female tribute from District 12, will have to return to the arena. When Katniss and Peeta’s mentor Haymitch is chosen as the male tribute for District 12, Peeta volunteers in his place to make sure he can protect Katniss.

Katniss and Peeta return to the Capitol and begin training for the Games. They meet the other victors from years past, and in a dramatic interview the night before the Games, Katniss’s white wedding gown transforms into a black feathered dress, a reference to the mockingjay symbol of the growing rebellion. Katniss and Peeta enter the arena and form an alliance with victors Finnick Odair, Johanna Mason, Beetee, and Wiress. Together, they discover that the arena is set up like a clock. A bolt of lightning strikes a tall tree at midnight and noon each day, and the group concocts a plan to run a wire from the tree to the only water source in the arena, hoping to electrocute the enemy tributes and wipe out the food supply. Fearing Johanna and Finnick have turned against her and Peeta, Katniss changes the plan. Instead of running the wire down to the water, Katniss ties it to one of her arrows and fires at the roof of the arena just as lightning strikes the tree. The surge of electricity destroys the barrier, and the force of the explosion knocks out Katniss. When she awakes, she discovers that she has been rescued by rebel forces. Haymitch and Plutarch Heavensbee, the designer of the 75th Hunger Games arena, explain that there was a secret plot all along to rescue her so she could be the face of the rebellion. Although Finnick and Katniss were successfully retrieved, Peeta was left behind.

Katniss flies into a rage and is sedated. In the final scene, Gale tells her that the Capitol has destroyed District 12 in retaliation for what happened in the arena. Gale got Katniss’s mother and sister, Prim out, but everything else is gone.