The Monster Hypothesis
Correction: home to 454 people, now that Kick Winter is living in the swamp Hollows with her Grandma Missouri, the town (fake) psychic. Bohring is anything but boring for Kick who has already blown a hole through the kitchen floor, befriended a chicken-eating gator, and discovered that the town's hundred-year curse is upon them.
It's the Bohring curse and all the kids are about to become monsters-or so the legend goes. People are worried-except for Kick. She knows there's a scientific explanation for everything, especially curses and monsters. But Kick is the new kid in school and she's determined to make a name for herself . . . by pretending to be psychic.
According to her calculations: one teeny-tiny life + (fake) psychic skills = popularity. But when kids start disappearing and glowing creatures start showing up, Kick's theory quickly evaporates in a puff of foul-smelling swamp gas. Can Kick use her (real) science smarts to prove the curse is a hoax? Or is it just-maybe-sort of-somehow possible the curse is here?
Author Romily Bernard weaves a fast-paced middle-grade mystery filled with humor and scientific intrigue, set in a perfectly eerie Southern town.
The problem is that now people expect her to help save them from the curse that plagues their small town- a curse that Kick certainly does not believe in that says a witch cursed the town that every 100 years, their children would all turn into monsters. However, when the clues start appearing and indicate that the curse might be real, Kick is left to fight against the fake facts while also protecting the secret that she is not a psychic. Accompanied by her cousin and budding friend, Carolina, they will try to create and test hypotheses about this monster curse.
What I loved: I always adore stories which feature characters, especially girls, who are STEM-oriented and use these tools in fun ways. This was no exception, and it was so cool to watch Kick investigate and form hypotheses. There are also some really fantastic messages about being true to yourself and seeking out friendships with people who respect you for who you are. The mystery and intrigue is just icing on the cake, making this a fast and devourable book overall. I would happily read a whole series featuring these characters and this intriguing location.
Final verdict: THE MONSTER HYPOTHESIS is a highly devourable, clever, and downright delightful book that combines STEM, curses, and fantastic messages into a page-turning middle grade read. Highly recommend for mystery readers in this age range.