weekend read: Catalyst

I’ve read Laurie Halse Anderson before. In college, I was introduced to Speak in a children’s literature class and have been a fan ever since. I keep copies of Speak on my book shelf even though it’s a highly controversial book. People don’t like to talk about rape even though it’s been estimated that one in five females in our state have been raped (credit). It’s messy and people don’t like to talk about mess. But I keep copies of the book on my shelf anyway, hoping and praying the right students pick it up and experience it. And without fail, every year, the book makes its way to the right kids.

speak wintergirls

So when I came across Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, I jumped at the chance to read it. I know she’s come out with other controversial books (Wintergirls about eating disorders comes to mind), but I had never heard about Catalyst before.


This book centers on Kate Malone, a senior in high school. She’s daughter to a pastor and a dead mom, a midnight runner, and a wanna-be MIT student. But absolutely nothing is going her way right now and then the worst thing imaginable happens: her worst enemy, her bully since elementary school, Teri Linch, moves in to her house. Teri brings her little brother with her and they take over Kate’s room, bed, and things.

The only thing that could make this slightly bearable is if that MIT acceptance letter would finally arrive. That’s really the only thing holding Kate together.

I’m not really sure how I feel about Catalyst. I didn’t really like the main character. Kate is dramatic, messy, and self-centered in a way that makes her hated instead of someone the reader can sympathize with. I love a flawed character, but Kate was too much for me. And the ending didn’t leave me sure of much. I get that happiness isn’t always attainable and that not all dreams are right, but this one felt off. Which bums me out because I really like Halse Anderson.

Have you read this one before? What did you think? Have you read any other books by Laurie Halse Anderson?



  1. says

    I just recently read Speak for a Young Adult lit class and LOVED it. I haven’t read any of her other books, but even just after your brief synopsis of Catalyst, it doesn’t interest me. Why on earth would this girl and her brother be moving into her house? It seems like Anderson was trying too hard to create a conflict in this book.

    • mary says

      That’s EXACTLY what she was trying to do. It doesn’t work. Glad you like Speak, definitely read Wintergirls too. I think you’ll like it!

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