Catalyst

Catalyst

4.1 134
by Laurie Halse Anderson
     
 

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Meet Kate Malone-straight A science and math geek, minister's daughter, ace long-distance runner, girlfriend, unwilling family caretaker, 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, like a string of chemical reactions, everything happens: the Malones'

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Overview

Meet Kate Malone-straight A science and math geek, minister's daughter, ace long-distance runner, girlfriend, unwilling family caretaker, 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, like a string of chemical reactions, everything happens: the Malones' neighbors get burned out of their home and move in. Because her father is a Good Man of God (and a Not Very Thoughtful Parent), Kate has to share her room with her nemesis, Teri Litch, and Teri's adorable, troublemaking little brother. And through it all, she's still waiting to hear from the only college she has applied to: MIT. Kate's life is less and less under control-and then, something happens that blows it all apart, and forces her to examine her life, self, and heart for the first time. Set in the same community as the remarkable Speak, Catalyst is a novel that will make you think, laugh, cry, and rejoice-sometimes at the same time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Like its cross-country-running heroine, Anderson's (Speak) latest novel starts off promisingly, then loses its pacing about midway through. The narrator, 18-year-old Kate Malone, has placed all of her eggs in one basket: she has applied only to her late mother's alma mater, MIT. Calculus is a cinch, chemistry is her favorite subject, even physics comes easily to her, but when her MIT rejection arrives, it acts as catalyst for the slow unraveling of her delicately balanced life. A preacher's daughter, she struggles between "Good Kate" and "Bad Kate" as she singlehandedly keeps the household running (her mother died nine years ago). Anderson excels in conveying Kate's anxieties and her concomitant insomnia, and frequently intersperses evidence of Kate's sharp humor (she calls Mitchell A. Pangborn III "my friend, my enemy, my lust"). But Kate's relationships with others remain hazy. While this seems to reflect Kate's state of mind, since she slowly shuts everyone out as her MIT-less fate becomes clear, her detachment may create a similar effect for readers. This aloofness becomes most problematic in the dynamics of her relationship with Teri Litch, who once beat her up habitually. After Teri's house burns down, she and toddler Mikey Litch come to live with the Malones, and the action escalates to the point of melodrama. Yet another tragic event spurs a reconciliation between Kate and Teri, but the underlying changes in the individuals that lead up to this event remain unclear. Teens will take to Kate instantly, but as the novel continues, they may be confused about what makes her tick. Still, the universal obstacles she faces and the realistic outcome will likely hold readers' attention. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
Anderson, author of the acclaimed YA novels Speak and Fever 1793, returns to the same high school Speak is set in for another story of courageous but struggling young women. Kate, the narrator, is the daughter of a minister and a star student and runner. A high school senior, she has set her sights on studying chemistry in college. She is convinced that MIT, her dead mother's alma mater, is the only school for her—so convinced that she hasn't bothered to apply anywhere else. When MIT turns her down, Kate is devastated, but her growing understanding of the plight of a fellow student, scary, tough Teri Litch, puts Kate's own troubles in perspective and changes her life. Teri is a neighbor of Kate's, and when her house burns down Teri and two-year-old Mikey move into Kate's room, to her initial horror, while Kate's father mobilizes the community to help rebuild their place. When Mikey dies in a freak accident, and Kate realizes that he is not Teri's brother but her son (by their violent jailbird father), she decides in the end to put off any college plans and to stay to help Teri rebuild: "Our essence is in this room, the atomic products of breaking down two girls to their elemental selves: frightened, defiant, lonely." Anderson is a gifted writer who makes the complex worlds of teenage girls real to the reader, from the competitiveness and casual cruelty of high school to the wisecracks between friends to the families struggling to connect. These are often brutal worlds, raw with pain, but her feisty characters work at triumphing over their setbacks. Catalyst, with its rather melodramatic plot, is not quite as mesmerizing as Anderson's masterpiece, Speak, but anything by this author is wellworth reading. The chemistry metaphor is cleverly employed throughout, and readers will quickly become caught up in Kate's and Teri's dramas and struggles. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: S—Recommended for senior high school students. 2002, Penguin Putnam, Viking, 240p.,
— Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-Kate Malone is a high school senior, an AP chemistry student, and a runner. She does her best running at night, when she outruns ghosts and can soar in the comfort of anonymity. Since her mother's death, she has taken care of her father (a minister) and her brother. She is waiting for acceptance to MIT, her mother's alma mater, and feels that her very life depends on it. Teri Litch, a typical school bully, punches her way through most situations and is filled with rage that threatens to affect everyone she encounters. When her house partially burns down, she and her little brother, Mikey, are invited by the reverend to move temporarily into his home. Teri's world is imposed upon Kate's as they become locked in some type of cataclysmic mix that alters both of their lives. Eventually readers discover that some of Teri's anger comes from being raped by her father and, when Mikey dies in a tragic accident, they learn that he was really her son. Anderson uses great chemical titles and subtitles for the short chapters. However, there is too much happening too fast and readers are left with many unanswered questions, and an ending that seems neat but unlikely. This title has a good premise and some moments of fine writing, but it lacks the depth of characterization that made Speak (Farrar, 1999) so compelling.-Lynn Bryant, Great Bridge Middle School, Chesapeake, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Newton's law proclaims to every action there's always an equal reaction. For Kate Malone, life is a matter of scientific exactness, except that she is driven by her obsession to get into MIT. The conflict between running her life with the preciseness of scientific equations (calculations) and the religious beliefs and blessings of her minister father separates her into Good Kate and Bad Kate. When the rejection letter arrives (and she's forced to admit she didn't apply to any back-up schools), both Kates begin a meltdown; the catalyst is a destructive fire of a classmate's house and barn. Teri, the senior-class toughie and bruiser with whom nobody messes, and her two-year-old brother, come to stay at Kate's house while a corps of volunteers rebuilds theirs. An already combative relationship between the girls builds even as Teri throws herself into the renovation project. A terrible tragedy will shock readers as much as it threatens to unravel the progress folks have made. The first-person voice is gripping, with the reader feeling as though she's crouching inside Kate's head. Numbered like an outline, 2.3, 7.0, the chapters are labeled with scientific terms and safety tips that anticipate the introspective reactions. Intelligently written with multi-dimensional characters that replay in one's mind, this complex, contemporary story carries much of the intensity and harshness of Speak (2000). It confronts moral issues, religious conundrums, and the dynamics of emotions in young adult lives as two girls driven by the past and present realize their impact on the future. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142400012
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
09/15/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
95,566
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile:
HL580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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