by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Childrens Books, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Nov 7th 2002
It's no surprise that Kate Malone is so neurotic. Her mother died suddenly from pneumonia when
Kate was young and her father is a clergyman.
She is a high school senior and she has bet everything on getting into
MIT; she didn't even send applications to any other colleges. She is a grade A geek, seeing everything in
terms of Chemistry, which she studies in Advanced Placement classes. But life is not ready to comply with her
expectations and she soon learns that MIT has rejected her. Things go from bad to worse when her life
becomes entwined with Teri Litch's.
Teri goes to the same high school as Kate, but Teri has a bad attitude,
getting into fights at school, and stealing Kate's watch. Teri's mother got hit in the head by her
husband and since then she spends most of her time sitting in front of the
TV. But when the Litch's home burns
down, the Teri and her little brother Mikey come to live at the Malone's house,
because Reverend Malone insists it is the right thing to do. Kate can't believe that her father is so
oblivious to Teri's faults and how bad an idea it is to invite the Litch's into
their home. Teri is completely
ungrateful and just makes Kate's life hell.
The only redeeming factor is that young Mikey is very endearing. But then there is a terrible accident, a
tragedy that changes everyone's life.
Eventually, Kate has to completely rethink her outlook and her reaction
Anderson does a good job at showing Kate's internal
conflicts and keeps the book going at a fast pace. Kate has an acerbic wit and is an appealing character, easy to
identify with. The Catalyst embodies
the idea of a transforming experience and shows how people can react in
terrible grief, often provoked to remember previous losses. This is a powerful story dealing with
troubling emotions, and it is especially good at capturing the frustration of
interacting with self-destructive and self-defeating people. Recommended for teenaged readers.
Samantha Mathis reads the unabridged
audiobook very engagingly.
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research
is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in
exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is
keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health
professionals, and the general public.