The Thirteenth Circle

 
4.3 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
457 0
The Thirteenth Circle
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
9+
Release Date
January 30, 2024
ISBN
978-1250891594
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Cat knows aliens are real, and she’s determined to prove it. By studying the Weston Farm Circles, her town’s legendary crop circle phenomenon, she’ll not only demonstrate the existence of extraterrestrial life, but also win the grand prize in the McMurray Youth Science Competition―a feat she’s sure will impress her distant NASA scientist father.

Dani most certainly does not believe in aliens. How can she, when they go against every scientific principle she’s been taught? So when Dani is paired with Cat to enter the McMurray Youth Science Competition―which she has to win to avoid going to her parents’ artsy summer camp―she knows she’s at a disadvantage. Her solution? Disprove Cat’s theory, of course . . . without telling her partner her true intentions.

But as the girls bond over science, it becomes clear that there is something strange about the Weston Farm Circles. And when Dani and Cat’s project is threatened by suspicious forces, they’ll have to work together to expose the truth, once and for all.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Tin Foil Hats and Crop Circles
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
After being out sick, Dani is not happy to find that she is partnered with Cat for a science fair project. Even worse is the fact that Cat has already turned in the application for the McMurray competition, and wants to study the local phenomenon of the Weston Farm Circles that appear every 13 years. Cat is that "weird" girl who wears science t shirts and believes in aliens, and Dani is beside herself that her scholarship to ScienceU summer camp could depend on Cat's help. Dani decides that she will work with Cat, but take a different approach to the project, concentrating more on proving that the circles are a hoax, rather than finding proof of alien presence. Cat has a lot of great scientific equipment because her father works for NASA, but ever since her parents divorced and he moved to Houston, he supplies her with equipment for her lab out of guilt. The girls manage to work together and get along for the most part. They gather a lot of information about crop circles, look into the history of the phenomenon, and even spend nights at the farm testing soil and wheat. They think that they have seen something forming a circle, and test the wheat samples, even microwaving some and hypothesizing that the circles are perhaps formed by some sort of microwaves. Things get even stranger when agents (whom they dub "Men in Black") show up at the farm and limit access, and even use an electromagnetic pulse to scramble all of the equipment in the area. Cat's mother is NOT pleased that Cat's phone and several pieces of equipment have been ruined, no matter whose fault it is. The girls don't always get along, and as their research hits snags, there are some tense moments. When their research is stolen from Cat's room, things look even more serious. When the competition is no longer their biggest concern, and the girls are actually put into danger, will they be able to see their project through to the end? (Don't want to give away all the twists and turns!)

Good Points
I liked that there was a lot of great scientific inquiry represented, and Cat even manages to accurately map out the next location of the crop circles, which was very cool. While both girls really enjoy science, there is some realistic push back by some of Dani's friends about her new pursuit. I also liked that Dani's parents are more into art (they run a summer camp called Artistikids) and would prefer that she take dance classes. Dani envies Cat her more scientific parents, who give her freedom and resources to put together a helpful lab in the attic. The different parenting styles were interesting to see. A good balance of scientific descriptions and middle school friend drama makes this an engaging and compelling read.

Readers who enjoyed Keller's Jennifer Chan is Not Alone, which had some similar elements, will enjoy this deep dive into crop circles and possible space aliens. This would be a great book for science teachers to use in the classroom!
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Aliens or Science?
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
What a curious conflict between characters. Cat is the biggest weirdo in the seventh grade and she’s determined to prove aliens are creating crop circles at a local farm every thirteen years. Dani wants to get a scholarship to a science camp but her only chance to win one is by pairing up with Cat in a science competition. The idea of aliens is stupid to her so her goal is to disprove her partner’s hypothesis. She doesn’t share this secret with her partner although her comments should give away her plan. Cat knows a lot more about crop circles and space than Dani so Dani’s going to need to come up with her own hypothesis soon. The chapters alternate between the two characters’ viewpoints so readers will experience the excitement and inner turmoil developing within their minds.
Science and math are key elements in the story as both characters love the subjects and respect the process. They quickly figure out the appearance of the crop circles is related to prime numbers. The circles arise every thirteen years and there are always a prime number of them. The girls research news reports about past crop circles around the world although Cat and Dani have different perspectives on what actually happened. They carefully follow the scientific method as they collect evidence from the farm and save control samples for comparison. Strangely, researchers should be unbiased but Cat twists their observations to fit aliens as the cause while Dani does the exact same thing to explain natural causes. They don’t realize their opposing views are actually challenging each other to be better scientists.
Both girls soon recognize something strange is going on, stranger than UFOs and aliens, but they don’t know what. Cat is present when a circle forms right in front of her although she’s not actually able to see it. Men in dark suits show up, ala Men in Black, who take control of the scene, confiscate all of the girls’ evidence and kick them off the property. The owner of the farm is interviewed on the news and the girls know he’s lying about what’s happening. A crop-dusting pilot shares some information with them that gets Dani wondering about her own hypothesis. The author saves some surprises until later in the plot although experienced readers should have a pretty good idea of where the plot’s headed.
What didn’t work as well:
Clues start falling into place enough that the outcome is fairly predictable halfway into the book. The details still need to be refined but readers will get the gist of the resolution.
The Final Verdict:
This book should really appeal to lovers of space research and the scientific method. The back-and-forth of perspectives between Dani and Cat will keep readers wondering about the truth although alien believers will be rooting for Cat. The book’s ending seems to leave the door open for a sequel. Overall, I recommend you give this book a shot.
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