Good Kate and Bad Kate battle in the same body. Good Kate Malone is the minister's daughter, the honor roll student, the good sister. She makes meals, irons shirts, takes care of her sick brother Toby and awaits admission to MIT. Bad Kate is Miss Suck-up, Miss Perfect disagreeable, disrespectful and a bit too fast with her boyfriend, Mitchell A. Pangborn III. Reverend Malone, Kate's father, thinks she has applied to many top schools, giving her lots of options. In fact, she has only applied to MIT. Kate knows her friends in AP Chemistry by name and grade average. There's Diana Sung, 3.86 GPA, accepted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Eric Warren, 3.84, accepted by Dartmouth and Omar Hakeen, 4.12 GPA, heading to Howard University on a full scholarship. Kate figures she has paid her dues, followed all of the rules, aced the standardized tests and concludes: "I am brilliant. I am special. I am going to MIT like my mom did. I am going to change the world." But Kate's life does not proceed as neatly as a chemistry experiment with predictable results. She is rejected by MIT because she lacks "that something extra" beyond the academic grind. Later, Kate earns that something extra in a renewed relationship with Teri Litch, a neighbor whose house burns down. Kate assists her father's congregation in rebuilding the house and taking the neighbors into the Malone home until the work is done. When further tragedy strikes and events spin out of control, she is shaken from her self-centered existence and finds an unexpected bond with Teri. Out of this alchemy a new Kate is formed, one who must examine her life and goals and heart. By not following the expected path in her life, it seems that she is able to truly find herself.
As seen in Anderson's novel Speak, a 1999 National Book Award finalist, the author is a master of voice, for it is Kate Malone's voice that will capture readers the fresh, sassy, smart voice of an A-student who is not so sure which Kate she is, Good Kate or Bad Kate. This story will speak to older teenagers in a voice they will recognize and remember. Dean Schneider is a middle school English teacher in Nashville.