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The Psionics #2

We are the Catalyst

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Kidnapped and imprisoned, telepathic children are forced to gather military intelligence. Repeatedly stripped of their memories, they live in ignorance of the world above. You can’t tell anyone a secret if you don’t remember it. It’s not child abuse if no one knows you exist.

Epsilon 17 appears to be just another mindless tool, empty of thought. But it’s a lie. The carefully constructed shell she hides behind protects her from their mind wipes. One day she will destroy the Institute. All she needs is a chance.

That chance could be Toby, if he doesn’t die first. He should never have left the safety of the suburbs, but cornered in an alley by a gang, he’s out of options. Of course, if he realized he had superpowers, he probably wouldn’t have been so worried. Unfortunately, they come at the cost of a finger, and his old life. Injured and panicked, he would have stayed on the dirty ground until the Institute came for him, if it wasn’t for Serena. Name-taking, ass-kicking Serena. She can punch through walls and practically fly, surely she can keep him safe…

But the Institute is sending Epsilon 17 to hunt him down, and she’s never lost a trail.

Can ARC, the mysterious group Serena works for, protect him? He has to get his powers in order, fast. It’s time for Toby to stand up for himself. An underground war is raging, and Toby’s just been drafted.

Can be read as a standalone


First published July 26, 2016

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About the author

Tash McAdam

15 books83 followers
Tash is a Welsh-Canadian author, activist and educator. Their publications include The Psionics (Nine Star Press), and the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections Blood Sport and Sink or Swim (Orca Books). They are also featured in multiple anthologies. Tash is a recipient of the Shoot for the Moon fund for trans writers, and a founding mentor with the Gender Generations Project.

When they’re not writing or reading you can probably find Tash in a lake, lying on the carpet thinking about monsters, or getting a new tattoo. They enjoy regular cups of tea, existential philosophy, and sharp objects.

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5 stars
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8 (22%)
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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen.
2,032 reviews113 followers
June 23, 2019
1. I Am the Storm | ★★★ 1/2

I received a review copy from the author through #ReviewPit. This does not affect my rating or opinions.

4.75 stars. 4.5 stars. (I had originally planned to reread this after reading the first book, but it was such an intense experience that I don't feel prepared to undergo again. Reread-ability is a factor in ratings for me, but I also don't want to ignore my initial impression.)

Mindreaders. Telepaths. Psychics. There are many names, but here at the Institute, they like the scientific terms. We are the Psionics, and they use us without shame.

One of my very first thoughts was that this story flows incredibly well and is immediately engaging: in just a few paragraphs, I was hooked by the action and deeply invested in the protagonists; I don't generally enjoy action scenes, but the ones in this book were so well written. I couldn't put the book down

It's disconcerting to find yourself rooting for multiple sides in a conflict, and it takes masterful writing to pull off — which this book definitely exhibits. The juxtaposition of soft wholesome human interactions with fancy tech and violent conflict kept me on my toes; it was the epitome of an emotional roller coaster, and if your mental state is right, it's an incredible ride. (But if you're a mood reader and/or sensitive to certain topics, please be aware and take care of your own mental state. Content warnings are listed below.)

I think this is what happiness is. Making your own decisions, feeling safe as you do whatever you want.

The plot is nuanced and the worldbuilding detailed (with lots of diverse characters, by the way!), but at its heart this narrative felt refreshingly straightforward. It's poignant and memorable. It's one of the best books I've read this year.

(Also, this review was so hard to write because honestly, this just blew me away.)

content warnings:
Profile Image for Alix.
12 reviews
February 19, 2019
Great read! This book starts with a very personal act of resistance - and had me hooked from there, as the story spiraled ever outward and back inward through the minds and plights of the two pov characters.

Epsilon17 and Toby make for fantastic contrasting protagonists who (unbeknownst to them) share a common goal. The book is action-packed, and full of compelling characters that you can't wait to learn more about and spend more time with. I'm trying to keep this review spoiler free, but the ending has definitely left me both satisfied with the story as it stands, and eagerly awaiting the next in the series.
Profile Image for Stephanie   GooglyEyes.
1,160 reviews32 followers
February 25, 2019

I was slightly sad to see that this didn't pick up where 1 left off. I come to find out that this can be read as a standalone, but the characters from the first are in this one, so we know they made it and are OK....for now...

Just like in the first book, each chapter oscillates between characters.
One chapter follows the events happening to Toby while the others follow Epsilon 17.

E17 is a young adult raised in the"Institute" and programmed for doing their bidding. She trains and studies and does missions for The Institute. After these missions, "soldiers" are dropped into what the call "The Tank" to wipe their memories so they're a blank slate to start all over again. This is The Institutes way of keeping them "loyal" to their cause. Only, our E17 has a secret. They hide their mind away while locked in The Tank and for the last 5 years have kept all the memories.
E17 isn't a fighter though, they're a thinker and loyalties are really not aligning with The Institute at the moment. Only problem is, it seem like the Director's son, Icarus, is the only one who can see through E17's barriers. It's not a good thing, or so it seems. Icarus seems a bit unstable and a total "Yes Man" for the Institute.

Meanwhile, Toby is over the wall with Serena and ARC, trying to hone in his newfound skills.
Apparently he was a Blank (natural shield against Psi's) but when his life was threatened, his skills burst through with a vengeance, knocking out Psionic's and systems within so many miles.

The Institute now wakes E17, one of the best Readers they have to track down Toby, Maelstrom, to bring him in as a terrorist. Only, what E17 is finding is that Toby isn't a terrorist threat, and maybe, just maybe he could be an ally.

A few things about this book that let me down...
The beginning was confusing because I really thought we were coming in where 1 left off, bummer.
Some of the chapters, especially with E17 seemed to drag on a bit.
The death of an important side character, seriously, what the hell? (said in best Gustavo Tiberius voice)
There is obviously something between E17 and Icarus, but that seems waylaid by what is happening with Toby and E17 and I really feel like there could be more...also what happened to Icarus? I don't believe for one second he and Pollux are down.

That all being said, i give this book a 3.5 action/adventure stars

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Alex Jay Lore.
Author 5 books111 followers
March 1, 2019
This is such a great continuation of the Psionics series, though it should be noted that this book can absolutely be read on its own, though you'll get more connections (and awesome recurring characters!) if you read I AM THE STORM first.

Anyway, this installment of the series felt in many ways more fleshed out than the first book and introduces readers more to ARC, the organization trying to take down the Institute, who exploit Psionics like Epsilon 17. I loved the found family dynamics in ARC and how we get to know more about characters that were introduced in the previous book. Honestly, the snarky exchanges and strong friendships between Sam, Serena, Toby, and the rest were what tied this fast-paced, action-packed book together for me.

I loved E17 and Toby as alternating POVs because they presented such vastly different world views and experiences. Toby in particular has my heart though the ending has me at the edge of my seat to read what E17 is holding in store for us in the next book (s).

This series is definitely for you if you love fast-paced, action-driven YA that's no-romo and in the vein of Dollhouse and Sense8. Go, pick this up, and strap in for a wild ride!
2 reviews
February 25, 2019
I decided to jump straight in with We Are The Catalyst, even thought it technically has another book before it, and it was the right decision! The pacing is quick and tight, and the alternating points of view lend themselves really well to dramatic irony -- Toby and 17 both know things the other doesn't, and watching them slowly come together is an absolute joy. McAdams fits the worldbuilding in around the characters, using their experiences to contextualise events, which is a refreshing change from infodump-style exposition. Toby is wonderful, 17 is full of the righteous anger I think we all feel these days, and the supporting characters are sharp and memorable.
3 reviews6 followers
February 20, 2019
Although we do see the two POV characters from the first book quite a bit, this book follows two new characters; Toby, who has grown up in the central city with all the amenities of life, and Epsilon 17 who has been locked up by The Institute - an organization dedicated to using superpowered children to control and subdue the population. This gives us a lot of new information about the world and those that live in it. This book documents the fight between the ARC and the Institute, as well as giving us an awesome ride in terms of what is possible when people have superpowers. While this book comes to a very satisfying conclusion on it's own, it also brings up loads of questions to be answered as the series continues. But most importantly, it's an awesome adventure that will keep you engrossed throughout the entire story.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2 reviews
February 19, 2019
This starts out with a description of what life is like for Epsilon 17 as an unwitting tool of the Institute in a way that's truly haunting and grips you and immediately puts you on her side, and doesn't let go from there. The two main characters are connected in ways beyond even their own knowledge and trying to untangle the mystery and see what happens to them next makes you want to keep going past the point where a reasonable person would go to sleep for the night (not that I would know anything about that...). A fun, gripping, exciting read! I'm excited to see what else this universe has in store for us!
Profile Image for James.
2 reviews
February 25, 2019
All the characters are really interesting and I cared about them immediately. Epsilon 17 is a fascinating example of resistance and strength and Toby is very relatable. I was immediately drawn into the complicated Institute, a high powered, Government organization that controls the country through secret means. Tash McAdams has created a vibrant, complicated world that unfolds wonderfully. The story is full of diverse characters and unexpected events! I definitely recommend!!
1 review
March 5, 2019
Epsilon 17 is a prisoner of the Institute. Her powerful abilities make her a dangerous tool, but her captivity has kept her physically weak and helplessly ignorant. Her only solace comes in the form of a happy, energetic boy who populates her dreams and shows her a taste of a life she can barely imagine. The regular memory wipes are meant to keep her docile, but Epsilon 17 remembers. She remembers five years of dehumanization. Five years of isolation. Five years of being a tool for manipulation, assassination, and murder—the invisible arm of a shadow government bent on unwavering control. She remembers and she is angry. She is angry and so she waits.
Toby is a kind, athletic boy, blissfully unaware of his own privilege. As a citizen of the City, Toby’s life is full of happiness and safety. The infrastructure of the City protects citizens from the extreme climate that has driven whole populations from their homes. Desperate refugees live in sprawling slums that stretch for kilometers around the walls protecting the City. There are horror stories of disease, crime, and extreme poverty, but as every citizen knows, the people in these slums chose to live out their lives of self-determination outside of the protection of the government. Toby is comfortable in this knowledge until he meets and befriends Alyssa, a girl from the slums who sneaks into the City to read in the library. When she fails to show up for their usual hang-out, Toby is worried. When he receives her distress call, Toby is moved to action. He abandons his life of comfort and ventures out into the slums in search of his friend. His clean clothes and well-fed build immediately attract unwanted attention and a moment of extreme stress and pain leads to an incredible revelation. One that attracts even more confusing and unwanted attention.
Epsilon 17, sent to hunt the mysterious Maelstrom, finds an unexpected opportunity. Toby, injured and lost in the chaos of the slums, finds an unexpected ally. And both begin to walk a new, unexpected path toward extreme danger, but also toward each other.
This is a truly lovely book. The plot is tight and thrillingly action-packed. The characters are complex and compelling and heartbreakingly real. The intensity of their emotions is agonizing and beautifully written. McAdam weaves the worldbuilding seamlessly through the eyes and experiences of Epsilon 17 and Toby—no expository dumps or clunky explanatory dialogue here. The telepathy is equally as fascinating as it is terrifying. This is an exciting and absorbing book! I read the last half in a single sitting in which I bounced off doorways and tripped over furniture, my nose buried in the text. The ending haunts me and I cannot wait for more!
If you are looking for action-packed science fiction, full of complex characters (many of whom are queer!) and nuanced exploration of loneliness, love, friendship, and loyalty—this book is for you!
17 reviews
March 2, 2019
Wow, just Wow! The best sci-fi novel I’ve read in years. An exciting, exhilarating, roller coaster of a ride.
A fast moving page turner that I couldn’t put down.
As with all good sci-fi the world was well developed, well described and fascinating. When the storyline, characters and world are all good then sci-fi is good. This is good.
The great thing about it was not just that it was an exciting adventure thriller but that the characters were so different and well developed; no cardboard cut-outs here. The lead good guys are fallible, not so strong and clever [well apart from their specific super-powers obviously] as to annoy one. The ‘fiendish’ bad guys are not the sort of amateurs who make stupid mistakes like leaving doors unlocked or locking the single hero in a place he can escape from after telling him their plans. Yes I’ve read some pretty annoying books recently.
Actually I think the bad guys might think that they are the good guys, I think they may have interesting back stories; further Psionics novels may reveal this?
I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
Profile Image for BookLooksbyB.
109 reviews15 followers
September 7, 2019
(3.5/5 stars)

Vivid, detailed writing, 2 very different character’s stories all told in a demented dystopian world. Though this book has 2 character perspectives, I instantly grew more attached to E17. Toby was interesting & funny, however E17 stole the show for me and I found myself enjoying her chapters more than Toby’s. E17’s chapters were intense, tragic, suspenseful, & so well thought out that I couldn’t put the book down until I knew how her chapter ended each time I picked this up to read. I started this trilogy with book 2, which I feel hindered my reading experience a little as there were character names & references that I feel I should have been familiar with but wasn’t and figured they were from the first book. Despite that, the story telling & detail helped keep me on track & made it easier to understand what was happening a little better. If you’re fan of dystopian worlds, rising rebellions, quite awesomely queer characters & super charged psionic powers I definitely recommend checking this book out! :)
Profile Image for Delaney.
1 review1 follower
March 20, 2019
I loved this book! The world is rich and diverse, and the characters are all in depth and fully realized. Exciting and thoughtful, this was a fun and emotional read. I’ve been a fan of Tash’s work since I was a young teenager and their talent for writing continues to shine in this second novel. Can’t wait for more Psionics!!
Profile Image for Michelle Shemon.
383 reviews4 followers
March 27, 2019
We are the Catalyst
The Psionics Book 2
Tash McAdam

This was a great story! I loved the characters, and the details provided. It made them real. The world building and descriptions were wonderful. They really pulled you into the story. The twists were great. I loved the adventure, and the action. This was an amazing read.
698 reviews4 followers
March 26, 2019
I really enjoyed this story. Really good plot to the story. Very well written. Would highly recommend it to anyone who likes this kind of stories. Can't wait to read more from this author.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Marie.
14 reviews
August 14, 2019
Book 2 takes us with a different set of main characters who teach us much more about this exciting sci-fi world. I love the relationship building, the fight scenes, and of course, the exciting magical elements of telepathy and telekinesis!
Profile Image for Tina Burch.
75 reviews4 followers
September 29, 2020
I could not get into this book. I picked it up multiple times and could only read a few pages before putting it down again. Not sure why I couldn't get in to it, as it seemed like a really great book.
Profile Image for Mary Fan.
Author 48 books354 followers
March 13, 2019
The death of dystopia has been greatly exaggerated, and thank goodness. I, for one, never get sick of stories about scrappy teens rising up against cruel regimes, of dark worlds juxtaposed with the stubborn idealism, gritty persistence, and hope that fuels rebellion. WE ARE THE CATALYST delivers all that and more.

In a world where kids with psionic powers are enslaved by the almighty Institute - stripped of their humanity to be used as weapons - an underground rebellion is brewing, and two teens find themselves at the center of it all. On one side is Epsilon 17, a prisoner of the Institute forced to do their bidding and essentially treated like an object – kept suspended in stasis between missions and robbed of memories. But despite the Institute’s best efforts, E17 has managed to hold onto the core of who she is, buried deep, deep inside. She secretly longs to see the Institute’s downfall and hopes that the very rebels she’s dispatched to destroy will succeed. On the other side is Toby, a privileged boy whose teen misadventure sends him on an explosive path after he accidentally discovers his previously dormant – but abnormally potent – psionic abilities. The Institute is after him for his untapped power, but the rebels get to him first, and within a few pages, the book takes off running in a dystopian game of cat-and-mouse as Toby and his newfound allies struggle to keep one step ahead of the Institute.

WE ARE THE CATALYST is the second book in Tash McAdam’s fast-paced YA dystopian thriller series, “The Psionics,” and like the first book, I AM THE STORM, the adventure never slows down. I know I use the phrase “pulse pounding” a lot to describe Tash’s work, but that’s because there’s no better way to describe the effect of these books and their writing style. Relentless pacing, high-octane action, wicked twists… all against intricately constructed world-building, told through unique and memorable character voices, and interspersed with heart-melting character moments. WE ARE THE CATALYST takes place a few years after I AM THE STORM, with the main characters of the first book, Serena and Sam, among Toby’s allies in the rebellion. Shifting the perspectives to Toby and E17 opens the world to whole new perspectives and shows the conflict from different angles.

I loved every moment of this book, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
Profile Image for Jenn.
821 reviews22 followers
February 28, 2019
Shades of Dollhouse in this exciting thriller. I downloaded and read it pretty much in one go. I liked the twists and turns and the mystery of it all.

The description says this is part of a series, but I didn't feel I was missing anything from earlier books at all. I'll look out for more in the series; this isn't exactly a cliffhanger but there's plenty of space for more stories.

Receiving an ARC did not affect my review in any way.
Profile Image for Insert Name Here.
288 reviews8 followers
February 22, 2019
I tried to like this, but the language just isn't for me. I can't even put my finger on what, exactly, was upsetting me; all I can say is that this one is not for me, but the story and writing are solid if you want to check it out for yourselves.

Thanks for allowing me to read in exchange for an honest review.
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