Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

catalyst“At my lab table, I review the experiment:

Step 1. Hypothesis-I am brilliant. I am special.  I am going to MIT, just like my mom did.  I am going to change the world.

Step 2. Procedure-Acquire primary and secondary school education.  Follow all rules.  Excel at chemistry and math, ace standardized tests.  Acquire social skills and athletic prowess; maintain a crushing extracurricular load.  Earn national science fair honors.  Apply to MIT. Wait for acceptance letter. ”

 

Kate Malone is a Dream Daughter: a straight-A student, a minister’s daughter, a long-distance runner.  She makes sure her brother takes his asthma medication, and that everyone has healthy meals.  She seems like the perfect student, too.  She has her heart set on MIT, and is doing everything she can to make it happen.   But it’s not easy; in fact, her life is grueling.  The only way to manage everything is with strict organization, by following The Plan.  However, when Kate’s neighbors’ home catches fire, Kate finds herself the unwilling host to a surly schoolmate and a little boy, making it difficult to keep up her routine.   And then everything starts spinning out of control,

This book is set in the same community as Speak, and it is exactly as compelling.  Laurie Halse Anderson is spectacular: she’s great at creating these nuanced, realistic characters, setting them down in gripping situations, and then telling us what happens.  This story is tragic and Kate’s voice is so natural and tense that it is a difficult book to put down.    Also, Laurie Halse Anderson  is really wonderful at producing accessible, interesting stories with excellent literary elements.   Do you remember how the main character, Melinda, had trouble with her voice and speaking, a symbol that was woven throughout the story?  In this story, Kate struggles with her vision, and readers can start to explore symbolism with the changes that happen to Kate when she switches between  her glasses and contacts.  Quality literature for the win!

Happy Reading!

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Catalyst. Speak: New York, 2002.  231 pp. Ages 15 and up.

If you liked this book, you will probably like other books by the same author.  Try Speakor Wintergirlsbut know they (like Catalyst) are about some rough stuff, and be prepared!

 

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