Laurie Halse Anderson, the novelist who penned the New York Times bestseller Speak and Fever 1793, grips us again with this solid, piercing book about a high school senior looking toward her future and the dramatic events that ground her to the present.
Kate Malone has only one focus -- getting into MIT. She's a chemistry whiz at school, and her heart is set on being accepted into the college of her dreams, but unfortunately, it's the only school she's applied for. When her minister dad comes to school to deliver "the letter," however, MIT's rejection is the spark that throws Kate's world into a tailspin. For starters, Teri Litch -- the school's senior tough-girl -- her mom, and her brother all wind up living at Kate's house after their house burns down. Teri has a tendency to swipe Kate's belongings, do only what she likes, and act like she's entitled to the run of the house. Kate begins to break through Teri's hard exterior over a house-rebuilding bonding moment, though, but when a horrendous and sudden turn of events brings their world to a standstill, the two oppositely charged girls must come together, finding a common understanding and taking stock of what's truly important.
If you liked Speak, you'll be completely enthralled with this powerful tour de force that's just as tense and gut-wrenching. The book's two main energies -- Kate and Teri -- interact with each other with prickly nervous uncertainty and frustration, and readers will pay thoughtful attention to the differences between these two characters' life-changing catalysts. A remarkable work for older teens that will sink deeply into their minds -- and which even includes a cameo appearance by Melinda from Speak -- Catalyst has the riveting formula to be another hit. Shana Taylor