Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

Kate Malone is one of those over-achievers; every school has one. Not only is she a straight-A student with especially outstanding grades in math and science, she also happens to be a long distance-running track superstar. She is a minister's daughter. She is dating Mitchell "Mitch" Pangborn III, who is got accepted Early Decision into Harvard. She is the unwilling caretaker of her family, between the death of her mother and the religious duties of her father, Kate is left with most of the house chores. On top of all this, she is a master of avoiding emotions. However, her emotional avoidance skills get put to the test after a series of cataclysmic events turn her life upside-down.

The storyline is pretty good. No complaints about the seriousness of the aforementioned cataclysmic events, they are really quite life changing. The story is easy to relate to, especially for high school students. All high school seniors share a good degree of nervousness over college acceptance. Also, the characters are pretty unique, yet stereotypical. Sound contradicting? It is. Kate Malone, for example, is a classic example of the overachiever student everyone knows will go to some Ivy League school and invent some radical new piece of technology. However, she is not so simple. Sure, she is smart, but she only applies to one school, MIT. Anderson is a master of creating believable, yet unique characters with refreshing amounts of wit. She also develops her characters, and their relationships with one another, beautifully.

Another aspect of Anderson's writing I simply love is her mastery of changing points of view. Not from first person to third person, but changing the way people see the world around them. As the characters' view of one another and the surrounding world change, so also do the reader's. The reader follows the characters' journey as if he/she were a part of it.

The story is set in the same community as Speak, which is pretty exciting if you've read Speak. If you haven't read Speak, what are you waiting for? I gave it five out of five daggers! That's more than enough to convince you to read it. Anyways, there's a great moment in Catalyst where Kate Malone refers to Melinda from Speak, got to love it.

If you've read this far, congratulations. You have patience. Some call it a virtue. As a reward, you get to hear my negative criticism for Catalyst. First things first, it's not as good as Speak. Speak was more humorous, more emotional, and (from a certain angle) more believable. Catalyst wasn't far-fetched. However, the way the events snowball and cause this sort of domino effect makes the story seem less likely to ever happen to a real life person (however, I'm sure someone is going to get lucky). Also, I felt much sorrier for Melinda than for Kate.

Nevertheless, Catalyst was most certainly enjoyable.

4 potentially painful daggers, out of the potentially more painful 5.

Chemically yours,
Gabriel Gethin


Chelsea said...

Laurie Halse Anderson is my all-time favorite author. I feel like everything she writes is a masterpiece. This wasn't my favorite of hers (Fever 1793 and Wintergirls take that spot), but I still thought it was amazing!

It was interesting to hear another opinion on this - I haven't read a review for it in a while. And you do a great job of dissecting a book (possibly with those pointy daggers I see at the bottom?)

Love your blog!

Care said...

I value your thoughtful review, though don't quite agree. Although I read CATALYST several years ago, I do recall loving it. I was quite taken with, and moved by, the resolution...felt it was an important change.

Amy said...

I'm here via the Comment Challenge 2010 for Kidlitosphere.

This sounds like an interesting and suspenseful story. I've only read Fever 1793 by Anderson, but I have her other titles on my TBR someday list.

Gabriel Gethin said...

In response to Care's comment...

The resolution does provide a very fulfilling ending to the story. It's rather out of the blue. It's a nice "twist," for lack of a better word. It's a good way of resolving the conflict of the story without providing a definite epilogue style ending. It's unimportant where Kate goes to college and unimportant where Teri ends up living.