Peeta, the son of a baker, is the boy tribute from District 12 who claims to have been in love with Katniss since they were 5 years old. Even though they don't speak and Katniss doesn't consider Peeta a friend, he saves her life when they are 11 and she is starving behind the bakery. He gives her a loaf of bread, one that he burned on purpose, and ever since that moment Katniss has felt like she owes Peeta.
During his interview before the start of the Games, Peeta professes his love for Katniss, which angers her since she believes that Peeta's comments make her look weak when, in fact, they make her even more desirable. While Peeta doesn't have much faith that he can win, he does tell Katniss that he wants to make sure that when he's in the arena, he remains true to himself, that he doesn't let the Games change him. Peeta causes Katniss to question her own identity and think about making a difference in the Games, wondering how she can be more than just a piece in the Capitol's Games.
From the start, Peeta does everything he can to help Katniss survive. He joins the Careers in order to lead them away from her and even fights off Cato, who wounds him badly. To survive, Peeta uses his exceptional camouflaging skills to hide until Katniss finds him and nurses him back to health. While Katniss doubts Peeta's love for her, thinking that he is only keeping up the "lover boy" act, he seems genuine throughout the novel and feels betrayed in the end when he discovers that Katniss has not been as sincere as he has.