This review was originally posted at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog on April 9, 2012.I think I was pretty lucky with Catching Fire, because I liked it way more than the first book. I didn’t just like it because it fixed a lot of the problems I had with The Hunger Games– I liked it because it showed Katniss growing as a person (albeit not in the more usual positive way that character growth tends to go), it introduced the rebellion factor, and there are way more interesting characters to read about. The pacing was faster, probably because there was less backstory to get through. And, unlike THG, in this one I think Katniss was more aware of her emotions, especially in regards to other people.However, despite the fact that I ended up rating it 4.5 [stars], I REALLY INTENSELY DISLIKED how stupid Katniss was for the majority of the story. Things that I assume were supposed to be plot twists and thus shocking were things that I figured out 50 years before Katniss did. I mean, maybe Katniss’ emotional issues were clouding her duducing abilities? But it was seriously ridiculous how OBVIOUS everything was to anyone who wasn’t Katniss. And then, when she did figure stuff out, she was so shocked! It was almost farcical, tbh.Still, I loved it. I suppose the other tributes who got to shine in the spotlight for a bit made up for Katniss’ temporary brain death. I ADORED them. I loved Fennick, and Wiress and Beetee, and Johanna! Plus Peeta got to redeem himself from the first book, which was great. And Haymitch! I don’t know if it’s just because of Woody Harrelson’s portrayal in the movie, but I liked him a lot more in this book, too.The actual story was very exciting, too. Katniss is much more proactive in em>Catching Fire than she was in The Hunger Games, by which I mean she made a lot more decisions and then acted on them. She decided to save Peeta during the 75th Games: she acted on that decision and protected him as best she could. She decided to stop Gale from getting beaten to death: she fought his attacker/punisher as best she could. Yay, action!Katniss!Speaking of Gale: during the first book I was actually rooting for him to somehow still be able to have a romance with Katniss (mainly because at that point I disliked Peeta). It was during this second book, however, that I realized they’d never be together. There’s just no way that Katniss could ever be with anyone who hadn’t been through the Hunger Games. It’s like those stories about men who went off to war and came back to their wives and they didn’t understand each other any longer: violence and death and emotional trauma changes people, and while maybe a Gale and Katniss romantic relationship could have worked on some level, a romantic relationship between wouldn’t have been the thing that Katniss needed in order to start healing from her experiences. And since Gale didn’t seem to be able to understand that, OR the new Katniss, there’s no way they’d have ended up together. Not without some MAJOR character changes to Gale or Katniss, anyway.All this becomes more obvious in the third book, of course! And that cliffhanger, eh? What a killer.