The book begins by introducing us to the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. She is going hunting early in the morning, leaving her sister and mother in bed. We come to believe that Katniss is responsible for taking care of both of them, since her mother succumbed to grief after their father was killed in a mining accident.
The descriptions of District 12, where Katniss lives, are not pleasant.
But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn’t until two. May as well sleep in. If you can. (ch 1, p. 4)
Katniss tells us that hunting is illegal, and few people have weapons because the Capitol does not want them armed. She has a bow her father made her. Katniss meets up with her friend Gale, a fellow hunter. They discuss the effect of the games on their families. Poor families often have to buy food with additional entries into the lottery for The Hunger Games, a battle-to-the-death among children of the twelve districts that rebelled against the Capitol.
When Katniss goes to the reaping, her little sister Prim’s name is called so she volunteers as Tribute to take her place. Her fellow Trubute is a boy named Peeta, the baker’s son. He was once kind to Katniss, and she does not relish the thought of trying to kill him.
Oh well, I think. There will be twenty-four of us. Odds are someone else will kill him before I do. (ch 2, p. 33)
While she is waiting to be taken to the Capitol, Katniss sits in an opulent room and tries not to cry. She is able to say good-bye to her mother and sister. She gives hurried instructions to them both, ending with this one.
“There’s no me now to keep you both alive. It doesn’t matter what happens. Whatever you see on the screen. You have to promise me you’ll fight through it!” (ch 3, p. 35)
Next, Peeta’s father gives her cookies, and the mayor’s daughter Madge Undersee gives her a pin in the shape of a Mockingjay.
Katniss and Peeta are escorted by Effie, their liason with the Capital, and their coach Haymitch, the only former winner from District 12. Haymitch is a drunkard, and Katniss does not trust either of them.