CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson


Age Range: 14 & up
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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)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-670-03566-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2002


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