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This is the first blog tour I’ve done in a while and this time it’s with The Write Reads. This one is a YA environmental sci-fi/fantasy novel. The only other YA novel I’ve reviewed is Book of Panacea, so I’ve been looking forward to critiquing another. Especially a book from a YA fantasy series that tackles such an environmental issue.
“Marcie is spending her summer working on the archeological dig that her mother runs: Angel Mounds, a site of an ancient indigenous civilization. Soon after she arrives, she meet some intriguing individuals, and becomes wrapped up in a supernaturally-charged mission to save the planet from the destruction man has brought upon itself.
Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained-an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.
This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.
Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
I had high hopes for Catalyst, but unfortunately I’ve got fairly mixed feelings about it. It’s such a brilliant idea for a novel, and I’m so happy to see an author that is utilising fiction to promote the devastating effect we as humans are having on the planet. The book is mostly focused around fracking, something I am very much against. It’s actually quite educational when we see the main characters fight against the energy companies, as Richardson includes loads of facts about the dangers of fracking, and examples of issues that mirror what has occurred in real life as a result of the practice.
Despite my enthusiasm for the subject matter, I just didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped. This was mainly down to the writing style, which I didn’t get on with for the most part. Richardson write the book in first person present and I felt this was a mistake – I presume the idea was to make the story feel current and personal, which it did, but it felt clunky and underwhelming.
I also struggled with the dialogue, which was stilted and unnatural in many scenes. Something I really dislike in writing, which I see an awful lot of, is dialogue used to explain a concept or occurrence for the reader which hasn’t been written in a way that sounds verbalised. Language is so crucial to prose. If characters sounds like they’re repeating textbook excerpts to each other then it really puts me off.
That’s not to say that all of the dialogue was like this, but many parts where Marcie or the other characters were explaining things did echo this to some degree. There were many moments of rumination from Marcie where she would contemplate an occurrence and process it in her head, but again these sometimes felt unnatural. It was as if the author didn’t feel the reader would pick up on certain implications so had to spell it out for them, but this led to a lot of telling rather than showing. I think it’s so important for writers to trust that us readers will understand these things, and show them to us in literary and descriptive ways rather than just a straightforward explanation.
As for the characters and plot – I generally enjoyed these elements. As I’ve said previously I loved the concept of it, and the plot followed an interesting path. The second half became a bit bizarre when the story turned full-on sci-fi/fantasy. I didn’t enjoy this quite so much, as it didn’t fit well with the rest of the book. Pacing was a bit iffy – generally it was okay, but the start and end were very sudden which contrasted a little too much with the slower pacing of the rest of the book.
Marcie was an interesting main character and I liked her, but she felt somewhat incomplete. I’m wondering if there was more description in the previous book The Field (which I haven’t read), but I felt like I didn’t have a full image of her in my mind like I did the other characters. She was a vessel for many thoughts but didn’t feel enough like a real person.
I did also like the other main characters. Zeke and Lorraine were mysterious and inviting, and I liked the complexities of Marcie’s friends. I wanted to see more of Scott, who was very passionately against fracking and well-educated on the matter. I felt like he could have amplified the message even more. Renee was interesting with her need to really process events before she could feel comfortable with them (as opposed to Marcie, who really just went along with everything without any issue). Love interest Leo, although not massively likable in my opinion, was a great character to include.
And, talking of Leo, I really want to highlight and celebrate his inclusion. There’s a real issue with YA relationships being there just for the sake of it, but Leo is 100% purposeful. I loved that! Leo is not anti-fracking, the polar opposite of where Marcie stands. Their relationship explores whether love is possible when people have completely different viewpoints. I thought this was great as it encourages readers to explore outside their own echo chambers. It also lets them consider helping to change problematic viewpoints of other people rather than just removing them from their lives immediately.
My experience with Catalyst by Tracy Richardson wasn’t as positive as it could have been, which is a shame. I felt it had a lot of potential but was wildly ambitious, which could have been part of the problem. There was so much focus on the core message that the other aspects felt like an afterthought.
I think the book has a strong theme and important lessons, but the writing just wasn’t my cup of tea. The ending does suggest that the story will continue though, so I’m interested to see how it plays out as we see more from this YA fantasy series.
If you’d like to purchase your own copy of Catalyst then you can so here:
“TRACY RICHARDSON wasn’t always a writer, but she was always a reader. Her favorite book growing up was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
In a weird way that book has even shaped her life through odd synchronicities. She has a degree in biology like Mrs. Murry, and, without
realizing it, she named her children Alex and Katie after Meg’s parents.
Tracy uses her science background in her writing through her emphasis on environmental issues, metaphysics, and science fiction. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her doing any number of creative activities — painting furniture, knitting sweaters, or cooking something. She lives in Indianapolis, and, in case you’re wondering, yes, she’s been to the Indianapolis 500.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
Have you read any young adult books that focus on huge ethical issues like Catalyst does? Or have you read any other good YA fantasy series? Share your reading experiences below! Please also like and pin if you enjoyed this post. You may also like these other book reviews: