Book Summary - The Assault
District 13 calls for an immediate lockdown with all of its citizens descending deeper underground. For days, everyone is underground as the Capitol drops bombs. Katniss invents a game with Buttercup, Prim’s cat, in which she shines a light and Buttercup chases it. She realizes that Snow is using Peeta to break her. She is like Buttercup and Peeta is the light, always just out of reach. Katniss confides her thoughts to Finnick, who maintains his sanity by tying knots in ropes as he worries about his love, Annie. After four days, it’s declared safe for everyone to surface. Katniss, Finnick, and Gale are called to shoot a quick propo aboveground to show that they’ve all survived. On the ground outside, Snow has left pink and red roses scattered for Katniss, a reminder of Peeta. Just as she starts filming, Katniss realizes she can’t be the Mockingjay because that means hurting Peeta. She breaks down and begins sobbing and then crosses into hysteria.
Understanding that the rebel cause can’t move forward without the Mockingjay, the rebels devise a plan to rescue Peeta and the other captive tributes, including Annie. Gale volunteers to go; Katniss decides she must do something to help in the meantime. She and Finnick film propos to divert the Capitol’s attention, and Katniss finally learns how Snow had been using Finnick as a slave, selling his body to powerful Capitol figures. But, Finnick reveals, these figures have been repaying him with secrets, which he now shares on-air. Snow, it turns out, poisons his victims but drinks from the same cup to drive away suspicions. His mouth, however, is covered in sores from the poison, so he must wear roses to cover the scent of blood and decay.
The rescue mission is a success, but as Katniss runs to greet Peeta, he attacks her, trying to strangle her. Peeta has been hijacked by the Capitol: His memories of Katniss have been altered using tracker jacker venom so that he perceives Katniss as a threat to him and will do anything in his power to kill her. To help Peeta see the truth again, doctors send in Delly Cartwright to talk to Peeta; Delly grew up with Peeta in District 12 and shouldn’t trigger bad memories of Katniss to him. When Peeta brings up Katniss and says she destroyed their home, Delly defends Katniss, which enrages Peeta. Katniss is watching behind one-way glass and says she can’t stay in District 13 with Peeta like this. She must continue her fight elsewhere.
Katniss travels to District 2, where she is able to be aboveground and outside, getting plenty of fresh air, something that helps her feel more like herself. To gain control of District 2, rebel forces need to conquer the Nut, a mountain that houses the heart of the Capitol’s military. For two weeks, the rebels haven’t been able to make any progress, so District 13 sends in a team that Haymitch names “the brains.” Gale is on this team, and when he finds Katniss, she struggles to discern her feelings for him. They kiss, and she decides that Peeta will never return to her. However, she doesn’t know if she’s completely attracted to Gale, either.
As the rebel leaders and the brains from 13 are working on their plan to control the Nut, Gale suggests that instead of seeking control, they trap the enemy inside by sealing off the entrances and exits with an avalanche. Katniss is reminded of how her and Gale’s fathers died in a mining accident. She can’t believe Gale would set a death trap with some of their own spies inside. It’s decided they will keep the train tunnel open for people to escape but will be waiting for them with guns at the train station should any of the survivors be armed.
The plan works, trapping or killing everyone inside. For a long time, no trains come. It’s after midnight when Katniss is sent to the Justice Building to make a speech to try to get the Capitol supporters in District 2 to surrender. Just as Katniss begins making her speech, two trains come into the station. There is gunfire, and suddenly Katniss is face-to-face with a man holding a gun on her. Katniss says she can’t give him a reason not to shoot her. His people burned her district to the ground, and now she blew up his mine. She’s tired of doing all of this killing for the Capitol, she says, reminding everyone that it’s the Capitol who is the enemy. Someone from the crowd shoots Katniss.
Katniss wakes up in the hospital, saved by Cinna’s bulletproof uniform. To rehabilitate, she goes for short walks. Plutarch joins her and gives her updates on the rebellion, saying that the Capitol is now completely cut off; without the districts to provide the Capitol’s food and entertainment, the Capitol won’t survive. He tells Katniss to prepare for a food-filled and entertaining propo, as Finnick and Annie are going to have a wedding.
The wedding is a joy-filled day that unites the tradition of many districts. Katniss feels truly happy for Annie and Finnick. For the first time in a long time, Katniss enjoys herself. The wedding cake, she sees, has been decorated by Peeta, and Haymitch tells Katniss that Peeta has been making progress. Peeta wants to see Katniss, so she visits him. Peeta saw the propo in which Katniss talks about the bread he gave her when they were children. He says he must have loved her, and Katniss says he did, but she can’t say that she loved him back. Their exchange turns bitter, and Katniss sees herself as Peeta does now: violent, distrustful, and manipulative.
In order to go to the Capitol, Katniss and Johanna Mason, one of the other rescued tributes, must pass a training exam. They are both sorely out of shape, but they struggle through the training together, becoming friends. They move into a compartment together and push themselves through pain and exhaustion, driven by their desire to get to the Capitol and help the rebels. To distract herself from Peeta’s anger and the pain she feels at having lost him, Katniss throws herself completely into her training. Eventually, she’s cleared for the Block, the final test that challenges soldiers’ weakest points. The Block challenges Katniss to take orders, since that’s been a prevalent weakness of hers. She realizes this and does exactly as her commander tells her, despite her desire to do otherwise.
Katniss, Gale, and Finnick are assigned to the same sharpshooting unit. When Plutarch shows them a holograph of the Capitol, with its blinking green lights that indicate pods designed to kill or trap people, Katniss and Finnick are both reminded of the arena. This war, as it turns out, is the Seventy-sixth Hunger Games, something that at first almost makes Katniss scream. Then she realizes that these Games are different because there can be more than one victor, and President Snow has to play, too.
Later, Katniss learns that Johanna did not pass her training exam. She failed when confronted with water, one of her greatest fears ever since the Capitol tortured her by using water and an electric current. Katniss promises Johanna that she will kill Snow. Before Katniss’ unit leaves, they find out that they will be the “Star Squad,” followed by a camera crew to serve as the face of the war. While everyone else is upset, understanding that they won’t be in actual combat, Katniss remains quiet. Already she plans on leaving the group behind.
Once in the Capitol, the unit sees little action. They are bored with the short propos they must do. After hitting a mislabeled pod, the unit loses one of its members. Her replacement, to everyone’s surprise, is Peeta.