Cover image for Catalyst
Anderson, Laurie Halse.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[New York] : Viking, 2002.
Physical Description:
232 pages ; 22 cm
Eighteen-year-old Kate, who sometimes chafes at being a preacher's daughter, finds herself losing control in her senior year as she faces difficult neighbors, the possibility that she may not be accepted by the college of her choice, and an unexpected death.
Reading Level:
580 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.0 7.0 63638.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.6 14 Quiz: 32030 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Meet 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. Set in the same community as the remarkable Speak , Catalyst is a novel that will make you think, laugh, cry, and rejoice-sometimes at the same time.

Author Notes

Laurie Halse Anderson was born in Potsdam, New York on October 23, 1961. She received a B.S.L.L. in Languages and Linguistics from Georgetown University in 1984. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a freelance reporter. Her first book, Ndito Runs, was published in 1996. She has written numerous books for children including Turkey Pox, No Time for Mother's Day, Fever 1793, Speak, Catalyst, Independent Dames: What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution, Chains and The Impossible Knife of Memory. She also created the Wild at Heart series, which was originally published by American Girl but is now called the Vet Volunteers series and is published by Penguin Books for Young Readers.

Anderson has been nominated and won multiple honorary awards for her literary work. For the masterpiece Speak, Anderson won the Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her book Fever 1793 won the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults selection and the Junior Library Guild selection. In 2008, Chains was selected for the National Book Award Finalist and in 2009 was awarded for its Historical Fiction the Scott O'Dell Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8^-12. Kate is many things--minister's daughter, caring sister, excellent student in science and math. She has staked her future on MIT, and when she's rejected, her world falls apart. But her catastrophe is overshadowed by the crises of Teri Litch, outcast of the senior class. Teri's house burns down, and Kate's father insists that Teri and her two-year-old brother, Mikey, stay with them. Teri is a foul-mouthed thief, and she's as unhappy with the living arrangements as Kate, who, nevertheless, grows attached to Mikey. Up to this point, the book is involving and incisive. Then, unfortunately, drama becomes melodrama: Mikey is electrocuted, and it is revealed that he is actually Teri's son. From then on, the girls seem to lose some of their identity. Readers involved with the articulate, witty Kate may find Teri an intrusion, and reasons to sympathize with Teri (Mikey is the product of incest) are often too subtle. Elsewhere, the writing is bright and sharp, and chapter notes make intriguing connections to the world of chemistry. Still, there's too much heat here, and not enough light. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Like its cross-country-running heroine, Anderson's (Speak) latest novel starts off promisingly, then loses its pacing about midway through. The narrator, 18-year-old Kate Malone, has placed all of her eggs in one basket: she has applied only to her late mother's alma mater, MIT. Calculus is a cinch, chemistry is her favorite subject, even physics comes easily to her, but when her MIT rejection arrives, it acts as catalyst for the slow unraveling of her delicately balanced life. A preacher's daughter, she struggles between "Good Kate" and "Bad Kate" as she singlehandedly keeps the household running (her mother died nine years ago). Anderson excels in conveying Kate's anxieties and her concomitant insomnia, and frequently intersperses evidence of Kate's sharp humor (she calls Mitchell A. Pangborn III "my friend, my enemy, my lust"). But Kate's relationships with others remain hazy. While this seems to reflect Kate's state of mind, since she slowly shuts everyone out as her MIT-less fate becomes clear, her detachment may create a similar effect for readers. This aloofness becomes most problematic in the dynamics of her relationship with Teri Litch, who once beat her up habitually. After Teri's house burns down, she and toddler Mikey Litch come to live with the Malones, and the action escalates to the point of melodrama. Yet another tragic event spurs a reconciliation between Kate and Teri, but the underlying changes in the individuals that lead up to this event remain unclear. Teens will take to Kate instantly, but as the novel continues, they may be confused about what makes her tick. Still, the universal obstacles she faces and the realistic outcome will likely hold readers' attention. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-Kate Malone is a high school senior, an AP chemistry student, and a runner. She does her best running at night, when she outruns ghosts and can soar in the comfort of anonymity. Since her mother's death, she has taken care of her father (a minister) and her brother. She is waiting for acceptance to MIT, her mother's alma mater, and feels that her very life depends on it. Teri Litch, a typical school bully, punches her way through most situations and is filled with rage that threatens to affect everyone she encounters. When her house partially burns down, she and her little brother, Mikey, are invited by the reverend to move temporarily into his home. Teri's world is imposed upon Kate's as they become locked in some type of cataclysmic mix that alters both of their lives. Eventually readers discover that some of Teri's anger comes from being raped by her father and, when Mikey dies in a tragic accident, they learn that he was really her son. Anderson uses great chemical titles and subtitles for the short chapters. However, there is too much happening too fast and readers are left with many unanswered questions, and an ending that seems neat but unlikely. This title has a good premise and some moments of fine writing, but it lacks the depth of characterization that made Speak (Farrar, 1999) so compelling.-Lynn Bryant, Great Bridge Middle School, Chesapeake, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.