Catalyst – Laurie Halse Anderson

Spoilers Ahead!

If I could run all the time, life would be fine. As long as I keep moving, I’m in control.

Kate Malone runs at night. She does the housework and makes sure her younger brother and Reverend father are looked after. She is on the honour roll and can’t wait to attend her dream school, MIT. She barely sleeps. Her life is perfectly planned. Until it isn’t.

Teri Litch is an outcast. She wears her attitude like armour. She and her brother stay with their neighbours, the Malone’s, after a fire damages their home.

Family secrets are revealed and carefully constructed masks the characters wear for the world disintegrate as their lives collide.

I loved that Catalyst takes place in the same town as Speak and that Melinda has a short scene in this book. It’s the year after Melinda’s story so I gained some insight into what’s happened in her life since I saw her last. I specifically chose this as my next Laurie Halse Anderson read because I knew I’d get to see Melinda again.

Much like Melinda’s story in Speak, Kate and Teri’s stories are not complete at the end of this book. There is no happily ever after nor is there an epilogue filling the reader in on what happened in these girls’ lives after their final conversation. Sometimes a lack of resolution can annoy me but it didn’t here; life keeps going and what we have here are a few chapters in these characters’ lives. Life is messy and we don’t get to have everything neatly packaged up and prettified with a ribbon just because we want it to.

Okay, I know this contradicts what I just said but I would love to read a book written from Teri’s perspective! I’d like to find out what happens in her next chapter (hopefully something overwhelmingly positive) and, scary as it may be, I want to spend some time in her head. I didn’t feel much of a connection with Kate but Teri intrigued me as soon as I met her.

I liked the idea of using scientific terms as the chapter headings but, because my scientific nerd status is currently ‘wannabe’, their relevance to the content of each chapter went over my head. I didn’t want to get bogged down researching each term to figure out the connections but I imagine I’ll do this during a reread.

I read a review prior to starting this book that absolutely ruined the main reveals for me. Thanks, reviewer that shall not be named who didn’t hide their spoilers! Because I knew these going in, I was easily able to pick up on clues of what was to come and the reveals lost some of their emotional impact. I would have loved to have had the chance to figure these out for myself so will be more selective with the reviews I read before I’ve finished a book in the future.

Bonus Points for the Author: Anyone who includes Tori Amos in their book’s acknowledgement section gets a lifetime Kindred Spirit award from me. 🏆

Content warnings include grief, family violence, sexual assault, bullying and death of a child.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Kate Malone – straight-A science and math geek, minister’s daughter, ace long-distance runner, new girlfriend (to Mitchell “Early Decision Harvard” Pangborn III), unwilling family caretaker, and emotional avoidance champion. Kate manages her life by organising it as logically as the periodic table. She can handle it all – or so she thinks.

Then, things change as suddenly as a string of chemical reactions; first, the Malones’ neighbours get burned out of their own home and move in. Kate has to share her room with her nemesis, Teri Litch, and Teri’s little brother.

The days are ticking down and she’s still waiting to hear from the only college she applied to: MIT. Kate feels that her life is spinning out of her control – and then, something happens that truly blows it all apart. Set in the same community as the remarkable SpeakCatalyst is a novel that will change the way you look at the world.

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