After Snow's party, Katniss and Peeta return home to District 12 to prepare for the Harvest Festival. Katniss, while looking for Madge, who is the mayor's daughter and her friend, accidentally sees a broadcast from the Capitol that reports the uprising in District 8 has gotten more violent and dire.
Katniss cannot keep this information to herself, so the first chance she gets, she arranges a meeting with Gale in the woods at an abandoned lake house. She asks him if he'll run away with her, and he agrees. He tells her he loves her, but Katniss fumbles with the right words to respond, which puts even more distance between her and Gale.
When Gale discovers that some districts are rebelling, he says he wants to stay and fight. The two disagree on what to do, and he storms away before they can resolve anything. On the way home from the woods, Katniss sees that Gale is being whipped by the new Head Peacekeeper, Romulus Thread, for killing a wild turkey.
Gale is taken back to the Everdeens so Katniss' mother can heal him. Katniss tries to imagine herself in Gale's position, that he had been sent to the Games and had come home with some girl he had supposedly fallen in love with. She immediately hates him but realizes the kind of pain he's felt. She knows that she has been a coward, and in a rush of emotions, she kisses Gale as he sleeps.
The state of things in District 12 deteriorates rapidly. A few weeks after Gale's whipping, a crate of wedding dresses for Katniss arrives from the Capitol. Unable to stand it any longer, she risks death and goes into the woods. There, she encounters Bonnie and Twill, who are from District 8 and have a cracker that has a mockingjay carved on it.
District 8 officially began an uprising the night Peeta and Katniss got engaged. At first, it seemed successful. However, the Capitol sent in additional Peacekeepers, and the uprising was eventually stopped. When things were starting to return to normal, the factory where Bonnie and Twill worked exploded, and they ran away.
They tell Katniss they are on their way to District 13, which they claim still exists. The Capitol has told Panem that District 13 was completely obliterated during the last rebellion. However, Bonnie and Twill don't believe that because every time the Capitol shows footage of District 13 on the news, the same mockingjay wing flutters in and out of the shot.
Katniss doubts District 13 has been allowed to exist, but she is still intrigued by the possibility. When she reaches the fence to climb back under it to return home, she realizes the fence's electricity has been turned on. In order to avoid getting electrocuted, she climbs up a tree and jumps down over the fence and injures her heel during the fall. She returns home and finds two Peacekeepers there with a message from Thread that the fence is now wired with electricity twenty-four hours a day. She has returned home safely, so she is not punished for crossing back into the woods. After resting in her bed for a week and watching the news for signs of a mockingjay wing on the footage of District 13, Katniss finally sees the wing and is invigorated by the sight of it.