2021: #59 – Catalyst (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Published by Speak on September 15, 2003
Genres: y/a contemporary
Meet Kate Malone—straight-A science and math geek, minister's daughter, ace long-distance runner, new girlfriend (to Mitchell "Early Decision Harvard" Pangborn III), unwilling family caretaker, and emotional avoidance champion. Kate manages her life by organizing it as logically as the periodic table. She can handle it all—or so she thinks. Then, things change as suddenly as a string of chemical reactions; first, the Malones' neighbors get burned out of their own home and move in. Kate has to share her room with her nemesis, Teri Litch, and Teri's little brother. The days are ticking down and she's still waiting to hear from the only college she applied to: MIT. Kate feels that her life is spinning out of her control—and then, something happens that truly blows it all apart. Set in the same community as the remarkable Speak, Catalyst is a novel that will change the way you look at the world.
Kate is a senior in high school. She’s working hard, both in school and out — keeping her grades up, working at the pharmacy, and keeping things on track at home, filling the role her dead mother would have had. Her father is a minister, and is often called away to help someone in the community, and Kate is left to make sure her brother doesn’t burn the house down or die of an asthma attack.
On the outside I am Good Kate, Rev. Jack Malone’s girl, isn’t she sweet, she helps so much with the house, so sad about her mother, and she’s smart, too, seen her name in the papers for honor roll this and science fair that, she’s got scholarship written all over her, runs pretty fast, she’s so good with her brother, why can’t all teenagers be like her?
Kate has her heart set on going to MIT, where her mother went to school. Her heart is set on it so much, that it’s the only school she applied to. But now that all of her classmates are getting their acceptances, she has heard nothing. But she doesn’t want to talk about it. And to complicate things further, a house fire down the road results in her nemesis, Teri, sleeping in her bed, complaining about their food, and stealing her things.
On the inside I am Bad Kate, daughter of no one, she’s such a bitch, thinks she’s all that, prays with her eyes open, lets her boyfriend put his hands all over her, Miss Perfect, Miss Suck-up, disrespectful, disagreeable, still waters run deep and dirty, she’s going to lose it, just you watch, I’ve seen her type before.
Throughout the book, you can see Kate as she struggles to cope and figure out what is happening with her life and those problems that started as a tiny little snowball keep rolling down the hill and get bigger. She has anxiety, but she doesn’t know how to deal with it so instead she shuts everyone out and runs like she can leave it all behind. I’m willing to bet a lot of teens out there can relate.
This is my first Laurie Halse Anderson, though she’s been on my radar for a long time. I read the second half of this book in one night as Anderson ripped my heart out, stomped on it, and then ran it over with a truck for good measure. It worked for me.
CW: If you can’t handle reading about children in danger, stay far far away.
I read this for the following reading challenges:
- 52 Book Club 2021 Challenge — a book mentioned in another book
- “Melinda Sordino, the protagonist of Speak, was a flawed character but I still found myself liking her and rooting for her. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Kate Malone. I kept hoping that she would grow on me at some point during the book but she never did.” — Sarah’s Corner
- “Laurie Halse Anderson, already a literary legend for her powerful novel Speak, has created another masterful tale teens and adults will have a hard time forgetting. I did get a little annoyed by Kate in the center of the story as she dwelled excessively on MIT, but I think that was a device — we had to see how consumed she was by her own needs.” — Write Meg!
- “The other thing to bear in mind about Catalyst is that it is not the same kind of book as Speak. Kate’s path throughout the narrative, and her way through her problems, is very different than Melinda’s. (If you haven’t guessed yet, Kate’s path involves a lot of running.) This book also has a different appeal. Speak seemed more universal, the scope for Catalyst is more narrow.” — Miss Print