(My one-page synopsis for THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. More on writing synopses here.)
When her sister is selected to play in the infamous Hunger Games, KATNISS sacrifices herself instead. She and the selected boy PEETA are taken to the Capitol to enter the Games, a cruel sport where children fight to the death for the Capitol’s amusement.
Katniss doesn’t get along with others and plans to rely on her archery skills, while Peeta is amiable and knows how to manipulate people. Their drunk mentor HAYMITCH forces them to watch out for each other during training. Despite knowing they must kill each other in the Games, they become hesitant friends.
The night before the Games, they discuss whether they can stay ‘themselves’ while the Capitol forces them to murder. Katniss believes they’re no more than pawns and wants to die quickly.
The Games begin with a bloodbath and reality sets in. Katniss runs to the outskirts of the arena and survives okay on her own, scavenging food and barely escaping a fire. But a pack of kids called the CAREERS chase after her — with Peeta’s help. Betrayed, Katniss climbs a tree to escape. The Careers can’t reach her, so they decide to wait her out on the ground.
The youngest and tiniest contestant, RUE, is in a nearby tree and helps Katniss out. Katniss kills several careers by dropping a nest of hallucinatory wasps on them, but she gets stung too. In a confusing twist, Peeta saves her life before she falls unconscious. She wakes up to find Rue protecting her, and they team up.
The Careers have killed most of the contestants and collected all the food and weapons. Katniss steals a bow and arrows before she and Rue blow the stash up. When they meet afterward, a Career appears and spears Rue. Katniss shoots him.
As Rue dies in her arms, Katniss realizes she doesn’t hate the other children, even the Careers. All this is the Capitol’s fault and she wants to get them back however she can.
She and Peeta team up, but Peeta is injured. Katniss’s realizes he has blood poisoning and will die without medicine. Since the Games are almost over, the gamemakers initiate the Feast, where they pile items each person needs in the center of the arena.
Against Peeta’s wishes, Katniss goes and manages to retrieve the medicine without losing her life. One by one, contestants die from starvation or injuries, until Katniss, Peeta, and one Career are left. To force things along, the gamemakers release feral humanoid dogs called mutts. The three kids fight for the only remaining high ground, until Katniss shoots the Career down and the mutts tear him apart.
Forced to kill each other to end the Games, Katniss finally finds a way to stick it to the Capitol. She and Peeta decide to commit suicide together, which forces the gamemakers to break the rules and let both children win.
Katniss and Peeta return home as reluctant heroes, knowing the Capitol won’t let their insubordination go unpunished.