Katniss Everdeen is the 16-year-old protagonist. She lives in a region of District 12 known as the Seam, which is the poorest area of the district. She lives with her mother and sister, Primrose, whom she calls simply "Prim". Her father died before the beginning of the story in a mining accident. She is described as having dark hair, olive skin, and gray eyes. She is best friends with Gale Hawthorne. She makes a living by illegally hunting with Gale in the forest borders of her district and selling her catch in the Hob, District 12's black market. She volunteers to be a tribute in the Games in order to save her sister, Primrose Everdeen, who was originally chosen. She must enter the Games along with Peeta Mellark and have the mentorship of Haymitch Abernathy. Katniss has mixed feelings for both Peeta and Gale.
Peeta Mellark is 16 years old as well, and was born in the richer part of the district to a baker. He has wavy blonde hair and blue eyes, a physical indicator of the wealthier people who were born in town, and is described as being very strong. He is the chosen male tribute to represent District 12. He saves Katniss's life multiple times, and has had a crush on her since he first saw her at age 5 at school but never had the courage to reveal it until the Games.
Gale Hawthorne is 18 in the first book of the trilogy, and is Katniss's best friend. They've met up in the woods for years prior to the beginning of the novel and since then became best friends and hunting partners. Gale's appearance is similar to Katniss's, as is true of most people who live in their area. Gale became head of the Hawthorne family after his father was killed along with Katniss's father in the same mine explosion. Katniss mentions that Gale is, "the only person with whom I can be myself."
Haymitch Abernathy is the mentor of Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen, and is the tribute winner of the 50th Hunger Games. Haunted by the nightmares of the Games he was in, he is rarely sober throughout the book. At first he does not bother to protect Peeta and Katniss from the doom awaiting them in the Games, but after they prove their strength he guides them through the Games.