What is a summary of Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Laurie Halse Anderson's young adult novel Catalyst, Kate Malone is the eldest daughter of her widowered father, a reverend. Kate, at 18 years old, acts as a surrogate mother to her 14-year-old brother Toby and a tremendous help to her father.

She also confesses to having a dual internal and external nature: "On the outside," she sees herself as being "Good Kate"--the sweet, loyal reverend's daughter, the loving older sister, the athlete, and the hard-working academic who dreams of studying chemistry at MIT; "on the inside," see sees herself as being "Bad Kate"--the rebellious, disrespectful  snot, who "lets her boyfriend put his hands all over her."

Kate's dual nature begins to be put to the the test the moment the house of Teri Litch, an adversary who has bullied and abused Kate since elementary school, burns down. Teri's mother goes to live with Betty, a member of Kate's church, but Teri and her young brother Mikey, to Kate's horror, must stay with Kate and her family. To add to Kate's agony, Kate is rejected by MIT, her one an only school choice.

Meanwhile, Kate's reverend father helps organize the church to get together and rebuild the Litches' house. Sadly, during the rebuilding, Mikey dies from accidental electrocution. Kate's heart opens up to Teri when she learns that Mikey was actually Teri's son, not her brother. In a fit of agonized fury over her loss, Teri destroys the inside of the house that has just been restored. Due to Kate's newfound understanding of Teri and their newfound friendship, Kate decides to take a year off after high school just to help Kate rebuild her house, letting her "Good Kate" side overtake her "Bad Kate" side and finally finding self-reconciliation.

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