Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

1101255Title: Catalyst
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Pages: 233
Year: 2002
Publisher: Vintage Children’s Books (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 1 week
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisMeet 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.

This is actually the second time I’ve read this book. I saw it at the library while I was picking up Girl, Interrupted and I realized I couldn’t remember anything about it, so I thought I’d read it again. I love that the main character’s name is also my name, of course. I don’t like science or math all that much, but I can relate to getting rejected from your dream school. (Mine was Duke, but BU turned out to be pretty great, so it’s fine. I forgive them.) I don’t know anyone who only applied to one school, though, and I don’t know that I buy the idea that she would do that. I mean, even Rory Gilmore applied to a few schools, and she didn’t even end up picking Harvard even though she was obsessed with it. (This isn’t a TV review blog, but y’all should know I hate Rory Gilmore a lot.)

In any case, there isn’t much to say about the writing. It’s really good. LHA tells it like it is. And it is something in this book. I sort of felt like I was reading a Sarah Dessen book for the majority of the time–until I found out about Mikey’s dad and everything. That’s when this book transformed for me, and I only wish that had come out a little sooner so it could have been dealt with more. (Not that I don’t like Sarah Dessen, because I do, but she’s no LHA.) Honestly, I would rather have read about Teri and Mikey than Kate. I think Kate’s character traits seem a little like they were written on scraps of paper among others and plucked from a hat, and the running thing comes up in a lot of books I’ve read, and in all those books it seems like the author is trying to make the characters hurt themselves without making them actually so depressed that they’re cutting or something. Which isn’t to say that LHA doesn’t go dark, because she does, but I just think that whole runner thing is a bit overused. When are we gonna get a character who does color guard? Or who likes to watch TV a lot? (Ugh, my book is so ready for the world. Someone publish me already.) But I do feel sorry for Kate, when oftentimes I find myself feeling super annoyed with the main character. I wanted her to get into MIT, and after she didn’t, I wanted her to figure something out that would get her out of that little town so she could start doing big things.

Also, I love hearing from my sweet baby girl Melinda! I feel so protective over her even though she is obviously not real, which I know is weird, but anyway, I get so happy when she makes her brief appearance and we get to know that she’s doing okay. Which reminds me, I would like to know what Kate ends up doing with her life, because that was like the question of the year in Catalyst, and I don’t think we really got an answer. But also, maybe that’s the point, because when you’re dealing with a tragedy like with Teri and Mikey, nothing like that matters anymore. Not for a while, at least.


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