Catching Fire received mainly positive reviews from critics. Publishers Weekly wrote, "If this second installment spends too much time recapping events from book one, it doesn't disappoint when it segues into the pulse-pounding action readers have come to expect." Booklist commented on how the "unadorned prose provides an open window to perfect pacing and electrifying world building". The New York Times also gave a positive review, writing, "Collins has done that rare thing. She has written a sequel that improves upon the first book. As a reader, I felt excited and even hopeful: could it be that this series and its characters were actually going somewhere?" The review also praised Collins' development of the character of Katniss. The Plain Dealer wrote, "The very last sentence of Catching Fire will leave readers gasping. Not to mention primed for part three."
However, not all reviews were positive. The same review from The Plain Dealer expressed displeasure at how, "after 150 pages of romantic dithering, I was tapping my foot to move on." A review from Entertainment Weekly opined that the book was weaker than the first and wrote, "Katniss pretends to be in love with her sweet-natured Games teammate Peeta Mellark, but she secretly pines for brooding Gale, a childhood friend. Except — why? There's little distinction between the two thinly imagined guys, other than the fact that Peeta has a dopier name. Collins conjures none of the erotic energy that makes Twilight, for instance, so creepily alluring."
In addition, Time magazine placed Catching Fire at number four on its list of the top 100 fiction books of 2009, while People magazine rated it the eighth Best Book of 2009. It also won the Publishers Weekly 's 2009 award for Best Book of the Year.