Katniss Everdeen has been rescued from the Quarter Quell arena, only to discover that she has become the pawn in someone else’s game. Her home, District 12, has been obliterated by the Capitol, and she now lives in District 13. Supposedly destroyed by the Capitol, District 13 is the organizing force of the rebellion. Twelve districts in Panem have taken up arms against the cruelty of President Snow and the exploitation by the Capitol. Katniss must now serve as the face of the rebellion, their Mockingjay, or forfeit the lives of her loved ones: her mother, her sister Prim, her friend Gale Hawthorne, and her fellow Hunger Games victor Peeta Mellark. She leverages her power over the rebellion’s leader, Alma Coin, to her advantage. She soon discovers that her efforts will cost her dearly.
Peeta, an 18-year-old from District 12, had been Katniss’s ally in the Seventy-Fourth annual Hunger Games. Of the twenty-four “tributes”—two children from each of Panem’s 12 districts—only one was supposed to survive and be crowned victor. Peeta’s love for Katniss had saved them both when they chose to die together rather than kill each other; they had been seconds away from eating poison berries when the gamemaker intervened and announced them both winners. To avoid the impression that their survival was an act of rebellion, the pair agreed to stage a public romance. For President Snow, this was preferable to all-out war. However, Katniss was unable to convince Snow, and the districts, that she had not set out to inspire a rebellion. The next year, in the Quarter Quell, Peeta and Katniss were sent back into the arena, along with past victors from the other districts. When Katniss and her allies, Finnick Odair and Beetee Latier, were rescued by the rebels, Peeta was left behind, and fell into the hands of the Capitol.
By the time Peeta is rescued from the Capitol, his memory of her has been twisted so violently that he is a threat to her life. Katniss fears that the love he had for her is gone forever. Katniss finds purpose in her role as the Mockingjay, but she chafes under the scrutiny and control of rebellion leader Coin, former gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, and her mentor Haymitch Abernathy. Katniss seeks comfort with her friend, Gale. She is troubled, however, by his enthusiasm for the war, and his and Beetee’s inventiveness in creating new death traps for their enemies. Katniss’s affection is divided between Peeta and Gale, and she knows she will one day have to choose one of them or risk losing them both. Unable to choose, she asks to be sent into action, and hopes that she can be useful to the rebels as more than just a symbol.
Katniss watches in horror as Gale’s tactics are used on Capitol soldiers in District 2, and she is wounded while she tries to reason with the survivors. Katniss returns to District 13 to recover, and she develops a surprising bond with her former adversary, District 8 victor Johanna Mason. The two train together, readying themselves again for combat. Katniss is assigned to an assault squad, along with Gale, Finnick, and several others. Under the command of Boggs, the squad will not see much action in the Capitol, now rigged with deadly booby traps called pods. Instead, their task is to film “propos,” under the direction of Cressida, to boost morale as the rebels close in on President Snow’s mansion.
When a member of their squad is killed, Coin sends Peeta to join Boggs’s squad in the Capitol. Boggs and Katniss both recognize this as a threat to her life, and Boggs warns Katniss not to trust the power-hungry Coin, as she is willing to do anything—including killing Katniss—to get what she wants. The squad moves forward. Boggs guides their moves, aided by a Holographic map of the pod locations. The information on the “Holo” is a few weeks old, however, and before long, several members of the squad, including Boggs, are killed. Before he dies, Boggs reassigns the Holo to Katniss, giving her command over the remaining squad members.
Concealing her true plan, which is to assassinate President Snow herself, Katniss leads the group underground. Peeta, triggered by the chaos and carnage caused by the pods, begs Katniss to kill him. Instead, the squad works to help him distinguish what is real from what was planted in his mind by the Capitol.
Though there are fewer pods underground, the squad soon discovers they are no safer there. They are attacked by a pack of Capitol-created mutants, and more members of the squad are killed before the rest of them reach the surface. Katniss uses the self-destruct feature of the Holo to give Finnick a quick death instead of an agonizing one, and she leads Gale, Peeta and what remains of the film crew up to the streets of the Capitol. They find shelter with Tigris, a rebel sympathizer, and rest for a few days.
Peeta insists he is too much of a danger to Katniss, so the group splits up for the final phase of Katniss’s plan to kill President Snow. Katniss and Gale hide among Capitol refugees seeking shelter in Snow’s mansion. Shooting and chaos fracture the crowds, and Peacekeepers form a barrier around the mansion, using Capitol children as shields. Katniss watches in horror as a Capitol hovercraft drops a bomb on the children, then drops another bomb on the aid workers who rush in to help. Many are killed, including Katniss’s sister Primrose. Katniss herself is badly injured. Before she falls unconscious, she recognizes the bomb as one of Gale’s ideas.
During Katniss’s recovery, which is slowed by her grief over losing her sister, she learns that the rebels have won. From a conversation with Snow, who is now imprisoned and weakened by fatal illness, Katniss learns that the bomb that killed her sister was not dropped by him, but by Panem’s new president, Coin. Coin proposes that under her regime, the Hunger Games will still exist, but tributes will now come from the Capitol instead of the Districts. Peeta, Beetee, and Annie vote against reinstating the Games, but Joanna, Enobaria, Haymitch, and Katniss vote for reinstating them, the latter two doing so only to gain Coin’s trust. Katniss follows Coin to Snow’s execution. The new president has kept her promise that Katniss will be the one to kill Snow. Katniss aims her bow at Snow, but at the last moment she turns her weapon on Coin. The new president dies instantly, and Katniss is arrested.
After a few days, Haymitch comes to take Katniss home. Her trial is over, and both Coin and Snow are dead. Panem is under new leadership, and the victors are finally free to live their lives in peace. Haymitch and Katniss move back into their houses in the Victor’s Circle. Soon, Peeta joins them, and the three begin to heal. Katniss and Peeta find love with each other once again, and a new peace in the knowledge that their children will never know the nightmares of the Hunger Games.