An Awesome Book!
Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning at age 8 and became a math genius as a result. Her diagnosis is called acquired savant syndrome, and she also has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). To say that she's different than other kids her age is an understatement, but now she's 12, and her grandmother (Nana) has decided that Lucy needs to start to socialize after 4 years of homeschooling and self-schooling.
Lucy starts 7th grade as the book begins, and Nana lays out her expectations for the school year: Lucy must spend 1 year at the school, make 1 friend, join 1 activity, and read 1 (non-math) book.
THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL by Stacy McAnulty follows Lucy through the first half of that 7th grade school year. During that time, Lucy has to navigate typical middle school stuff (feeling different, making friends, feeling betrayed, struggling with school work, and managing relationships) while having an exceptional brain that she's trying to hide so that she can fit in.
This book is AWESOME. Lucy is a terrific character who is written incredibly well by McAnulty. Although Lucy's differences are a part of her, they don't completely define her, and the same is true for the friends (and enemies) that she makes during the first half of 7th grade. Through a school assignment that requires her to do a group volunteer project, Lucy also bonds with a sweet dog named Pi who makes her re-evaluate some of her phobias. And she gets to use her math skills to help other dogs, too!
Middle School can be awful, and LIGHTNING GIRL does a good job of showing the horrible aspects of that time while highlighting the benefits of friendships, a supportive family, and general kindness to others while navigating it. The kids in the book are the focus, but the adults are well drawn, too, and Nana is particularly great.
It's so nice to read a book where Mathematics plays a positive role. I've always been one of those "I'm not good at math" people, and despite the high level math that is discussed, I felt that the book made the subject pretty darn interesting. The struggles that come with middle school are shown and managed in a realistic and sympathetic way, too.
Overall, I appreciate that THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL took two of my worst experiences (math and middle school) and made them interesting, approachable, and enjoyable. Many thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.