By Cynthia Ayala
One year ago, Zelia found out just how different she was. Now she and all the genetic outcasts they have come to know as family are hunted and on the run from the government who want them more dead than they do alive. No Zelia and her family must find their enemies and seek a safe haven if they want to survive. But what good is surviving when it’s in a prison? For her safety and those she cares about, Zelia must fight those in power to give everyone a chance at living and surviving in a world where no one accepts them.
A powerful novel, Catalyst is the second novel in the young adult science fiction series Control by Lydia Kang that focuses on what makes someone human and the cost of being different in a controlled world. Published by Kathy Dawson Books on March 24, 2015, Catalyst explores real life through a film of science fiction to tell a groundbreaking story.
Catalyst is one of those series that fans want to last forever because it’s incredibly well written, it’s a solid story that draws on many elements that are very real in society today. But what Lydia Kang does is create a young adult science fiction novel that deals with issues of identity, community, ostracism and genetic manipulation. All of these are incredibly relatable to the young adult reader, it teaches a lot about the world, and how society has to evolve alongside evolution and how different people should not be ostracized for being different.
This novel is about human rights when you get down to it, it has a more central theme to it than the first novel, which was mainly about community and acceptance. In this novel though, readers are seeing that through a film of science fiction, so it’s a teaching moment. As a two-book series, a lot happens but it’s short enough to really bring life to the characters and long enough to build a solid story and a dystopic society/world and allow the readers to believe the story as it moves forward to tell the story about misfits, kids born with genetic traits that can be marketed.
Catalyst follows Zelia who has a strait that everyone wants, something that makes her especially desirable as a commodity but after a sudden assassination of a clear and powerful ally to her and her kind, they are made targets and hunted down by the masses, by thousands. Fear is controlling the masses, turning innocent children into monsters because of their deformities and abnormalities, their traits that turn them into mutants, because that is exactly what they are, mutants. And it is because of that, there a thousands of similarities with X-Men comics. So, in that respect, it’s not an entirely unique story, however, how Kang writes the story and paints these characters on the run and how they fight make it a unique story.
These characters are not superheroes; they are just scared kids trying to survive a cruel world that abandons these people just because they are different. That concept of excluding people because they’re different is still a very powerful action that governs society, and it shouldn’t and that is exactly what this story is about: human rights. Everyone has rights, no one should be made into an commodity to be sold and traded in the underground world. The darkness, the shadows, those are the only places these characters can be accepted, but with a price. Society turns a blind eye in this novel because they are benefitting, but once they stop benefitting, they are turned into villains. It is heartbreaking, sad, and yet, even though it is written through the film of science fiction, it is such a real life concept.
It takes a very good writer who can take powerful concepts within the real world and tell a story about those elements in a science fiction realm. It gives the story a sense of realism making it very believable to the reader, and it is important to have well written stories like that that give the reader a true sense of the world. Moreover, with a cast of characters written so well, they elevate the realism of the story because they could be anyone, a friend, a neighbor or some stranger on the beach. That’s how real they come off. Between psyche, dynamics and dialogue, the characters become more than just names on a page.
As a first person point-of-view novel, readers are given the opportunity to really see all the background characters, all the extras with more life in them. Through Zelia’s perception, Kang is able to produce facial expressions and body languages, making it appear as though it was effortless. There are no POV shits in the novel, so the reader has to get to know the background characters through her. They have to appear as something more than just background noise or characters that are just there to move plot along, and they do here. Readers are able to see the sadness, the fear, and the loneliness in each of them, and it touches the heart, it makes the more than just names on the page.
At the end of the day, this novel touches the reader through so many real life issues with a well-developed plot, story and characters that together raise the novel and make it stand out from all the other YA science fiction novels that fill the shelves of bookstores. (★★★★☆ | A)