Friday, November 12, 2010

The LitChicks - CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson

In Portia's defense, she actually emailed me her review yesterday morning - the delay in this week's LitChicks is my fault. So, better late than never, is her pick this week:

CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson

Alright, I am highly aware that this is late, and normally I wouldn't really have a great excuse, but today I do! The laptop I usually use to conduct such criminal activities such as sending in book reviews is being a bit strange and hibernating whenever I turn it on. No one ever told me batteries are capable of dying in 2 seconds, or that computers even need to hibernate (maybe it's a winter thing?), but I'm here a bit late!

I'm not sure how many of you know Ms. Turner who teaches English at Bancroft Middle School, but she has such easy access to books and always keeps on top of the latest releases and the popular series. In some ways, I think she's a bit better than the school library because you don't need a card, there's no due dates, no overdue fees, no limit to the number of books you can take, and she always has suggestions based on what you like and what she thinks you might want to try. So, all in all, I'm lucky! One of the books she lent me a couple weeks ago was CATALYST, by Laurie Halse Anderson (who also wrote SPEAK). I really liked SPEAK, and I really like deep books, so I thought I would try it, and it was amazing!

CATALYST follows the story of young Kate Malone--a preacher's daughter, secret night runner, straight-A student (especially in the science and math department), and motherless girl who takes over a mother's job doing laundry, cooking - the works in their slightly dysfunctional family. Kate is an organized person. She does her homework, takes care of her family, is on the cross country team, and operates on minimal sleep. However, there are quite a few things going wrong in Kate's life.

Mainly, she only applied to one college--MIT. And she didn't make early decision. And she's still waiting to get her acceptance........which wouldn't be super painful if she had back up colleges, but Kate only applied to one. Second, Kate's neighbors (who include school loser and Kate's enemy Teri Litch) move in with Kate after they're burned out of their own home. This if, of course, bad enough as it is, but it only gets worse when:

  • Kate is roped into building the Litch's new house--alongside Teri, of course.
  • Teri's little brother, Mikey, gets into a freak accident in the new house and the outcome isn't pretty.
  • She finally hears from MIT, and it's not really what she expected.......or wanted.
  • She has a fight with her dear boyfriend, Mitchell Pangborn (who's going to Harvard, by the way)

Can Kate keep it together? Can she ever be friends with Teri and support her in her hour of need? Can she herself recover from Mikey's accident? Can she make a decision about college and face the future?

These are all questions Kate finds herself facing as her orderly life falls to pieces. A beautiful read. I was sitting there thinking, "A bunkbed with my sister (who I happen to like) is not bad at all!" Kate's problems make you want to comfort her. I think the author did a beautiful job making Kate's life realistic and did a great job reflecting Kate's internal dilemmas and thoughts. I loved getting to know Kate and understanding her. This is a book I would recommend for everyone. I love first-person books, and I love getting to know characters so well and seeing how different people are on the outside and the inside and realizing how much people hide and what they're really going through.

On this date: In 1954, Ellis Island closed.

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