I guess I can safely say that anyone who has ever read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the second installment in The Hunger Games trilogy, will agree to this statement by the The New York Times when they reviewed the book: "Collins has done that rare thing. She has written a sequel that improves upon the first book."
Because I do. I one-hundred percent agree.
Catching Fire follows the story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark's life after winning the 74th Hunger Games. They have everything they could ever ask for: food, money, a house in the Victor's Village, and the relieving known fact that they can never be reaped for the Games again. But a surprise visit from President Snow shakes Katniss's world once again, creating more damage than there already is. Uprisings are transpiring, the simple action of Katniss holding out the berries at the last year's Games is taken as a sign of going against the Gamemakers, against the Capitol. And suddenly, the mockingjay that is once nothing but a district token has embodied Katniss in a completely different way—it has abruptly become a symbol of rebellion.
The plot of the second book is utterly well-organized and more than scrupulously thought out. I like that it is more invigorating than The Hunger Games. I also like that it contains a lot of gasp-worthy surprises, which promises an even rousing and thrilling read than the first book. You don't know what you're in for suddenly, just when you think you have a hunch or a prognosis as to what could be happening next. You'll just find yourself saying the same exact words Katniss Everdeen herself stated in the beginning of chapter 13: "I have to admit I didn't see it coming."
As for the new characters, I really like how Collins exceptionally characterized and strategically woven each new character introduced into Katniss's life. Johanna Mason (who, hands down, is my most favorite character so far), Finnick Odair, Wiress and Beetee, Plutarch Heavensbee, even all the other reaped victors—every single one of them have different personalities, different way of life and thinking, of beliefs, in comparison to Katniss's, and yet, they merged perfectly well together into this one unbelievable dream team. They form this powerful alliance that has the vigorous potential to become more potent than their cruel regime.
Referring back to my The Hunger Games book review, I like how Catching Fire further enhances the Yin and Yang element of Katniss and Peeta. The way they balance each other is what makes them a remarkable pair. While Katniss is not good with her words, Peeta is more than willing to shoulder all the public speaking. When Katniss wants to add her own knowledge in her family's book, but has not done so due to her lack of artistry, Peeta, having been raised in a family of bakers and thus having the necessary finesse, steps in to illustrate whatever it is Katniss wants to add to the book. It is very clear that they need each other more than anyone or anything.
Catching Fire definitely is worth the read. It is more dynamic and jarring than the first book, so I really, really recommend it. Even if you somehow satisfactorily savored The Hunger Games, pick up Catching Fire and it may just have enough discerning and intoxicating content (not to mention that terrible, terrible cliffhanger) to change your mind and make you pick up the last installment.