Authors are always encouraged to write an opening hook that will make the reader keep on reading. If this opening doesn't make you want to read more, I'm not sure what will:
I don't remember the moment that changed my life 4 years ago. Call it a side effect of being struck by lightning. That bolt of electricity burned a small hole in my memory. It also rewired my brain, transforming me into Lucille Fanny Callahan, math genius. (p. 1)
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl (Random House, 2018) is by North Carolina writer Stacy McAnulty, a former mechanical engineer. Stacy's previous career explains why she can write a book that seamlessly weaves math into every page of the book.
Lucy's newly acquired brilliant math skills is central to this middle grade novel that both boys and girls will enjoy. But the book is much more than that. Along with Lucy's new skills, she struggles with obsessive compulsive habits that make her feel different than others and leave her perfectly happy to be home schooled by her grandmother. But, Nana has other ideas. When her grandmother insists she attends East Hamlin Middle, Lucy thinks,
...Nana is forcing me to be part of this germ-infested community where people are called my peers only because we are the same age. My real peers [people she interacts with online] are creating algorithms and solving problems. They'll be changing the world while I'll be wasting time memorizing textbooks and ducking dodgeballs. p. 23
In school, she is cruelly teased for her OCD habits, but, "The dirt and germs bother me more than the nasty comments." (p. 38)
In an effort to blend in and not be seen as a freak, she deliberately makes mistakes in math class.
Nana wants 1 year, 1 friend, 1 book, and 1 activity. I calculate this will be easier to achieve without being a freaky genius. I can be normal smart. It's only middle school. This is about survival. (p. 55)
Lucy is grouped with Windy (the girl who knows everything about everybody) and Levi (a quiet photographer who "sees things in an instant that I must miss every day" (p. 113) for a service project. When the unlikely trio bond over their project at a pet adoption agency, for the first time, Lucy has friends who stick up for her. Working at the agency takes this plucky protagonist out of her comfort zone and proves to be a turning point for her. Suddenly, people (and dogs) start mattering to her more than getting the right answer to a math problem.
In the end,
Since starting at East Hamlin, I've climbed the 55 steps in the school 232 times and counted all 950 lockers. I've grown 3/4 of an inch and gained 6 pounds. I've had 77 math classes with 1 amazing teacher. I've read 2 books in language arts class (or 91,255 words). I've helped save 23 dogs so far and fallen in love with 1. I've even made 2 friends. I can add it all up, but the total doesn't begin to tell the story. As it turns out, I'm more than just numbers. (p. 283)
Teachers will like the comprehensive Educator's Guide; Educators and Counselors will appreciate the Empathy Guide that stimulates discussion on stereotypes and relating to someone who is different than oneself.
Random House is giving away a copy of LIGHTNING GIRL. Leave me a comment by October 25 for a chance to win. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. US addresses only.