The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

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The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
Age Range
8+
Release Date
May 01, 2018
ISBN
978-1524767570
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Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test--middle school!

Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty's smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
An Awesome Book!
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
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.
Good Points
Mathematics is a positive!
Great characters
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Lucy in the Sky with Problems
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4.0
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4.0
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N/A
Lucy lives with her supportive grandmother, and frequently sees her uncle, who is young, fun, and a bit misguided. Lucy has been homeschooled, but her grandmother decides that it is time for Lucy to acquire the social skills that middle school will provide. Why? Lucy was struck by lightning when she was young, and because of the resultant brain damage is now a mathematical savant but also suffers from OCD and social anxiety. Her grandmother's idea of sticking things out for one year and making one friend seems all but impossible, since Lucy can't even sit in a chair without repeating the action three times. Lucy is socially savvy enough to realize that her mathematical abilities will not win her any friends, and she tries very hard to do just enough to get A- grades, but an early attempt puts her on her teacher's radar for cheating with a boy named Levi. Levi struggles in math, but is accepting of Lucy and her quirks. When the class has to participate in a social service project-- in a group-- Lucy is not sure how she will do. Luckily, she and Levi are able to work together, along with Windy, to help out a local pet rescue, Pet Hut. Lucy runs the numbers and works out a formula she can use to tell which dogs will take longer to be adopted, so that those dogs can be featured on the web site. In the meantime, her grandmother is considering enrolling her in a school for the gifted, and of course, nothing in Lucy's life runs smoothly. Her friendship with Windy is a good one, until Windy's past friendship with mean girl Maddie complicates things. Will Lucy be able to survive middle school?
Good Points
This had an excellent balance of unusual and usual middle school challenges. Readers who enjoy problems novels because they make their own lives seem better will find Lucy's OCD and social difficulty interesting, while the problems with group projects and friends will appeal to everyone. Lucy's grandmother was wonderfully supportive and no-nonsense, and her attitude contributes greatly to Lucy's resilience. Lucy's problems are not downplayed, but are handled in a realistic way. The pet rescue story line was intriguing, and Lucy's talents in math actually are very valuable to the organization-- I think Lucy may have a really good career ahead of her as an actuary!

There are a growing number of middle grade novels about children with a variety of mental health concerns, and this is a great addition to that collection. Reader's who learned more about OCD in Schwartz's Finding Perfect, Tashjian's Multiple Choice, and Rompella's Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners, or readers who were intrigued by the challenges faced by characters in Baskin's ANything But Typical or O'Reilly's The notations of Cooper Cameron will be intrigued to investigae Lucy's coping mechanisms.
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