[amazon_image id=”0142400017″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Catalyst[/amazon_image]Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel [amazon_link id=”0142400017″ target=”_blank” ]Catalyst[/amazon_link] is the story of Kate Malone, perfect student, driven athlete, minister’s daughter, and so dead-set on going to MIT that she hasn’t applied anywhere else. Since her mother’s death, Kate has held everything together through tightly-controlled organization. She makes she her brother has his asthma medication and that her family’s clothes are cleaned and pressed. With all this pressure, something has to give. Kate’s life starts spinning out of control when her neighbors, the Litches, lose their home to a fire and move in with her family while they rebuild their home, which means Teri Litch—the angry bully who used to pick on Kate—is now sharing her room.
Kate was not as likeable a heroine as some other characters Laurie Halse Anderson has written. Sometimes people need to be shown that their priorities are out of whack in a really harsh way, and to Kate’s credit, she gets it by the end of the book. She’s fairly typical of a lot of overachievers—driven, way too focused, wound so tight it’s a question of when not if they’re going to pop. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Anderson’s other books, but Melinda Sordino of [amazon_link id=”0312674392″ target=”_blank” ]Speak[/amazon_link] has a cameo appearance; this novel takes place in the same school and community as Speak. The characters were interesting: they were layered and more complex than you usually see in YA (but typical of Laurie Halse Anderson, who is a brilliant writer). I just didn’t like them very much, and it was hard to root for them. Still, I would probably read anything that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote.
Full disclosure: I checked this book out of my school library.