CATALYST/Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak was the very first novel I read by this author and though it was a good book, reading the reviews before I actually read it spoiled a lot of things for me, especially the main premise of the story. So, lesson learned, I skipped reading reviews until after I have finished reading the book. This is the reason why I love Catalyst more than Speak.

Catalyst is a story about Kate Malone who is about to graduate from high school and is hoping badly to be admitted to the only college she applied to – MIT. Kate is a straight A student, a minister’s daughter, and a responsible child. Or so people thought. Because Kate is not as good as others see her.

“On the outside I am Good Kate, Rev. Jack Malone’s girl, isn’t she sweet, she helps so much with the house, so sad about her mother, and she’s smart, too. . . . On the inside I am Bad Kate, daughter of no one, she’s such a bitch, thinks she’s all that, prays with her eyes open, lets her boyfriend put his hands all over her, Miss Perfect, Miss Suck-up, disrespectful, disagreeable, still waters run deep and dirty.” (p. 3-4)

 Bullying, peer pressure, the struggle to fit in – all these color the life of Kate, the main character, who is preparing to enter college after graduation. The trouble is Kate did not tell anyone even her father that she did not apply to any other school except MIT.

Enter Teri. She is the most hated girl in school and even by Kate herself. (In fact, I hate her too.) One day, however, Kate discovers that she has to share her bedroom with Teri and her two year old brother for an indefinite period.

First off, I want to say that Chemistry is one of my least favorite subject in high school. I always get dizzying spells and words turn into gibberish whenever discussions about chemical reactions and chemical elements are underway. However, in Catalyst, chemistry played a major role. Each of the chapters are sub-titled in a chemistry-related manner and I simply cannot get the connection. I know it is not the book’s or the author’s fault that I do not fully understand the meaning of the story, but I simply cannot get it. And I’m too much of a moron to do any self-study anymore. Still, if I overlook all the details regarding chemistry, I find the book very engaging and profound. It is morbid in a way that the emotions it evoke are dark and disconcerting.

What I like the most about Catalyst is its honesty and no-hypocrisy approach to the issues faced by teens nowadays. The characters can be easily identified wit. And it was a sweet surprise to “see” Melinda Sordino (the main character in Speak) play a minor role.

Similar to Speak, Catalyst is a disturbing story of a teenager which is as real as it is harrowing. Author Ms. Anderson adeptly portrayed the typical teenage angst which most of young adults can easily relate with. I am particularly disappointed about the ending, though. But are we not a disappointment too at some point in our lives? More so for Kate whose life does not seem to turn the way she wanted it to. I would have wanted to see Kate make the right decisions for herself but sometimes, just like in real life, we make bad choices and this is what makes us become even wiser and stronger.

4 stars.

9/50 2012 Goodreads Reading Goal.

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