The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
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.
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.
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.