The cover of the first edition
The cover of the first edition

Master Cat! Jessica Brody is the author of two young adult novels, The Karma Club and My Life Undecided, and two contemporary novels, The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover, as well as her forthcoming teen novel, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, which releases in July and was recently optioned for film. Using the Save the Cat! method, Jessica has sold nine novels to her publisher and now teaches the Save the Cat! Novel-Writing Beat Sheet workshop. Her books are translated in over 12 foreign countries including France, Germany, Brazil, Israel, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. She works full time as a writer and producer, and currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Colorado.

Genre: Dudette with a Problem
Subgenre: Epic Problem
Book Genre: Young Adult/Dystopia
Total Pages: 374

Opening Image (p. 1-2)
Katniss wakes up in her house in District 12 on the day of the “reaping.” We’re quickly introduced to Katniss, her sister Prim, her mother, and her underprivileged life. They are poor and often hungry.

In this first glimpse into Katniss’s life, we see her one and only priority: survival.

We also see glimpses of Katniss’s very close relationship with her sister, Prim, of whom Katniss is very protective. Katniss dresses for a day of hunting and slips out of the house.

Theme Stated (p. 9)
Katniss’s friend Gale suggests they run away and leave the district. Katniss thinks it’s a preposterous idea.

Her whole life has been about just surviving. Playing by the Capitol’s rules to protect her family. But soon she’ll learn that in order to “win,” she’ll have to beat the Capitol… not just survive it. This story is so much bigger than just “surviving,” it’s about righting an epic wrong. Living up to her true potential as the face of a revolution. It’s the theme of the book… and the whole series.

Set-Up (p. 1-20)
Katniss sneaks off to the outskirts of District 12 (which is technically trespassing, but she does it in order to provide food for her family… survival once again is her priority). She meets Gale, her friend and hunting partner. We learn that Katniss knows how to hunt with a bow and arrow (something she learned from her deceased father). Gale is attractive even though Katniss claims there is nothing romantic between them.

Life is tough in “The Seam” (the poorer area of District 12) and Gale and Katniss are both the providers for their families. They both feel disdain toward the Capitol but only dare to voice it while they’re alone in the woods together.

Katniss returns home to prepare for the reaping, which we learn is the process of choosing (by a type of lottery) one teen boy and one teen girl from each of the 12 districts of Panem to compete in a televised fight to the death. This is explained to be a punishment for an uprising among the districts 74 years ago and a reminder that the Capitol holds all the power.

Catalyst (p. 20-33)
Katniss’s little sister, Prim, is chosen as the girl tribute for the Hunger Games and Katniss jumps in to “volunteer as tribute” to protect her sister. Things are never going to be the same again. Peeta Mellark is chosen as the boy tribute and Katniss remembers a time five years ago when Peeta saved her life by giving her a piece of burnt bread from his parents’ bakery. Although they haven’t really spoken since and are not friends, Katniss still feels like she owes him something. But now she feels the weight of knowing she’ll have to kill Peeta if she is to survive and win the Hunger Games.

Debate (p. 33-60)
The question of this debate is clear: Will she survive? Can Katniss win the 74th Annual Hunger Games? And if so, how? These are questions that will continue throughout the entire book. The long debate section of this book covers all the preparations for the Hunger Games including: saying goodbye to her friends and family, getting some last minute advice from Gale, and the train ride with Haymitch (Katniss and Peeta’s supposed mentor).

But before Katniss leaves to board the train, her friend Madge (the mayor’s daughter) gives Katniss a Mockingjay pin and Katniss promises to wear it in the arena. Katniss doesn’t know it at the time, but this pin represents resistance to the Capitol. It’s a symbol of revolution and rebellion. And by wearing it, Katniss is marking herself as the revolutionist that she needs to become.

Break into 2 (61-72)
Katniss and Peeta arrive at the Capitol, the upside down version of District 12. Everything here is glamorous, luxurious, indulgent, colorful, and the people are gluttonous and a bit clueless, as Katniss notices right away.

Katniss is immediately sent to the make-over center where her stylists begin work on transforming her—from the simple, disheveled, provincial girl from a poor district, to a beautiful, polished, sparkling tribute. She is being dressed and prepped for this crazy upside-down world.

B Story (p. 130)
The B Story is the love story between Katniss and Peeta. And the resulting love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. Although “romance” has been hinted at before this moment, on page 130 is where it comes front and center stage. During his televised interview with Cesar Flickman, Peeta confesses his love for Katniss, making the audience believe that they are star-crossed lovers, doomed to die. At first Katniss is furious that he did this and thinks it will make her appear weak. But Cinna (her stylist) and Haymitch assure her that it’s only helping her image.

But Katniss is plagued by confusion. She’s unsure of her true feelings for Peeta. She’d rather just hate him, because she knows once they step into the arena, they will become enemies. But it’s admittedly hard for her to do that. Up until this point, he’s been nothing but nice to her, and she’s been able to convince herself that it’s all for show. And that he’d just as soon kill her once they entered the arena. One of the brilliant elements of the love story Suzanne Collins has crafted is trying to figure out if Katniss is right. Does Peeta really love her? Or is he just playing the game? Like Katniss knows she’ll have to do to achieve her number 1 goal of survival. But eventually, as all good B stories should do, Peeta will teach Katniss the ironic theme: that there’s more to life than survival.

Fun & Games (p. 72-194)
Preparation for the 74th annual Hunger Games begin as Katniss and Peeta undergo training, mentoring, and more makeovers. They both make a noteworthy entrance at the Games’ opening ceremonies in their infamous “fiery” costumes. Katniss wows the Gamemakers, earning her an almost unprecedented score of 11.

In a poignant moment on the roof of the training center, Peeta tells Katniss that he knows he’s not a real contender in the games. Then he restates the theme by saying, “I keep wishing I could think of a way to show the Capitol that they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their games.” Peeta wants to die with his dignity in tact.

Katniss, who of course has not learned the theme yet, doesn’t understand what Peeta is talking about. “That’s how the game works,” she replies. She’s still all about survival. Playing by the rules to survive. That’s all she can think about.

Then, it is literally fun and “games” when the Hunger Games officially begin and Katniss (plus 23 other tributes) are raised into the arena. This is the promise of the premise, the reason we picked up the book, the very title of the novel. On the first day, Katniss secures herself a backpack of supplies and camps out in a tree for the night. When the Capitol projects the dead tributes in the sky that night, she is relieved to see that Peeta is still alive. In the early morning an alliance of Careers (the nickname given to the Tributes who come from Districts where the kids are trained from a young age to compete in the Hunger Games) stops under her tree. She is shocked to see that Peeta is among them. She thinks his talk about dignity the night before was just another game to mess with her head. He is clearly in it to win it.

After almost dehydrating, Katniss eventually finds water and sets up camp near a pond, but awakes to a wall of fire coming at her (a clear ploy by the Gamemakers to drive the Tributes closer together). Forced up into another tree, Katniss encounters Rue, the 12-year-old Tribute from District 11 who reminds Katniss of her own little sister. Rue helps Katniss by warning her about a Tracker Jacker nest above them (a genetic wasp-like mutation made by the Capitol). In trying to drop the nest on the Career Tributes below, she gets stung three times and has horrific hallucinations. But still she manages to get to a dead tribute nearby and steal her bow and arrow (Katniss’s weapon of choice).

Midpoint (p. 193-195)
Tormented by the Tracker Jacker stings and the hallucinations, Katniss staggers and falls. She knows the Career Tributes are coming back for her. But then she sees Peeta come through the trees. Instead of stabbing her with his spear, he pushes her up and tells her to run. The stakes are raised and A & B stories cross when Katniss realizes that Peeta just saved her life. Maybe he wasn’t playing a game after all. Maybe he really does have feelings for her.

This is a false defeat moment because Katniss (and we, the readers) know they both can’t win. So what’s the point in loving someone who will have to die if you are to survive?

Well, the answer, as Katniss will learn, is our theme.

Then, Katniss passes out and the hallucinations take over.

Bad Guys Close In (p. 195-232)
The tracker jacker venom works its way out of Katniss’s system and she awakes. Soon after she forms an unexpected alliance with Rue. Together they share information about the other Tributes and the arena. Rue tells her that she doesn’t think Peeta’s lover boy act is an act. They make a plan to destroy the Careers’ food supply, figuring that the Careers can’t get food on their own and without their supply they will starve.

Katniss and Rue set their plan in motion. During her mission Katniss learns that one of the Careers injured Peeta and left him for dead. Katniss uses her arrows and some booby traps set up by the Careers to blow up the supplies. The explosion causes her to lose hearing in both ears and stagger back. She can’t stand, so she hides under some bushes.

The next day Katniss finds Rue stuck in a trap. The boy tribute from District 1 stabs Rue with a spear and Katniss kills him with one of her arrows.

All Is Lost (p. 233-236)
Rue makes Katniss promise she’ll win for both of them. In a “Whiff of Death” moment, Katniss sings a song for Rue as Rue dies.

Dark Night of the Soul (p. 236-244)
To pay respects to Rue, Katniss decorates her dead body with flowers. She receives a gift of bread from District 11 (Rue’s district) and says a verbal thank you to them. She remembers her promise to Rue and vows to win for her.

Break into 3 (p. 244-262)
When it is announced that there’s been a change of rules and now two Tributes can win the Hunger Games if they are from the same district, Katniss involuntarily calls out Peeta’s name. It is this instinctive reaction that makes us believe that she really does have feelings for him, despite what she’s been telling herself.

But she still talks herself out of admitting true feelings by rationalizing that she’s only going to look for Peeta in order to maintain the “star-crossed lover” façade for the audience so that they’ll keep rooting for them and sending gifts. And it works, after she finds the badly wounded, almost-dead Peeta and helps him into a cave, she kisses him and Haymitch sends down a pot of broth, signaling to Katniss that if she wants more gifts, she’s going to have to keep up the love act. Despite everything, Katniss still hasn’t learned her lesson yet; she is still faking it to try to survive. Or so she thinks.

Finale (p. 262-374)
Peeta is getting worse. The Gamemakers announce that all the remaining tributes need something and everything will be available to them in a backpack in the center of the arena. Katniss knows they’re trying to lure the remaining tributes together to keep the action alive, but she doesn’t have a choice. She knows Peeta’s medicine will be there but Peeta won’t let her risk her life to get it. So she drugs Peeta to get him to sleep so she can go get the medicine. This is the first unselfish act that Katniss does. It is not in the name of survival. It is for Peeta.

In fighting for the backpack, Katniss is almost killed but is saved by Thresh, the other Tribute from District 11 who gives her this one “pass” because of what she did for Rue. She manages to get back to the cave and gives the medicine to Peeta. It works and he recovers quickly.

While Katniss is hunting, Peeta gathers berries that he doesn’t know are poisonous. Foxface (on the last remaining tributes) steals them and eats them. She dies instantly, leaving only three tributes left: Katniss, Peeta, and Cato (the burly boy tribute from District 2). The Gamemakers inevitably drive all three back to the giant Cornucopia in the center of the arena and then unleash deadly muttations after them (genetically mutated wolves). Katniss and Peeta are able to climb onto the Cornucopia and out of reach from the wolves, but in a standoff, Cato falls and is ravenously devoured. In an act of mercy, Katniss kills Cato with an arrow to stop his suffering.

Just when they think they will both win, the Gamemakers announce that they are revoking the revision of the rules. Only one Tribute can win. Katniss is furious that she has been fooled by the Gamemakers and finally the truth sets in. The lesson is learned. She can’t just survive. She has to rebel. She has to show the Capitol that they don’t own her (just as Peeta said earlier). She gathers the poisonous berries and they both prepare to swallow them at once (so that there will be NO victor). Katniss shows that she’s willing to forfeit her survival in order to make a statement. To die with dignity… alongside the one she loves.

The Gamemakers stop them just in time and announce that they have both won.

They are lifted out of the arena and separated to recover before returning home. The Capitol organizes a celebratory reunion of the two lovers on television and Katniss plays it up for the cameras. She is still unsure of her feelings for Peeta but she has to continue the charade because the Capitol is furious at her for making them look like fools with the berry stunt. And claiming that she only did it because she was crazy in love is her only option. When Peeta discovers that Katniss has been “faking it” for the cameras he is crushed. He really does have feelings for her. But he agrees to continue the charade for the press. But was Katniss really faking it? She’s still not sure. It’s something she vows to figure out after this is all over and she’s safe at home.

Final Image (p. 373-374)
Katniss and Peeta join hands for the cameras as they prepare to disembark the train that has brought them back to District 12. She is returning home a victor. And she doesn’t know what will happen (will the Capitol seek their revenge on her or let her be?) or even how she feels about Peeta. But one thing is for certain: she is not the rule-playing, survival-obsessed girl she was before. She is a rebel.

Check out our other novel-writing blog posts.