Lightning Girl! Whether You Love Math or Not

May 3rd, 2018

Once upon a time, I secretly loved math. I was good at it. And just last month, I wished I had kept up some of my skills, particularly in geometry. It would have served me well in revising my work-in-progress. Here was my problem:

If Linc walks 504 feet along the perimeter of a circle with a circumference of 1800 feet, to get from his house to his neighbor’s, how many fewer feet will he travel if he cuts straight across the circle?

I turned to Facebook friends and got an answer, but I wished one of my real life friends was Lucy Callahan, aka, Lightning Girl in The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty. Lucy’s skills would have been useful, yes, but despite her extreme quirks, Lucy could become one of those true friends you never knew you wanted.

She doesn’t start out that way. At 8 years old, Lucy was struck by lightning, which stilled her heart for 2.5 to 5 minutes (she hates that no one knows the exact number). It also left her with acquired savant syndrome, which, in practical terms, means she is a math super genius. Her OCD and anxiety, however, have kept her lagging, socially. Now at 12, she wants to leap from homeschool to college. While she may be academically ready, her grandma (and guardian) insists that, first, she go to middle school. If, in 1 year there, she can make 1 friend, join 1 activity, and read 1 non-math book, she can skip straight to college.*

Sounds easy. When you understand advanced calculus, how hard can middle school be, right? But while math is a constant, which subscribes to unchanging rules and predictable outcomes, middle school is not. Lucy finds it hard and sometimes heartbreaking to navigate 7th grade. Her experience involves Windy, maybe her 1 friend?; Levi, a real irritation; and a school service project that may take Lucy far from her small comfort zone but allows her to find the right equation for her life.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, released only two days ago, is one of those books that people — girls and boys, math kids and non-math kids — will be talking about. The events, reactions, and emotions are so universal, you’ll feel all the feelings that Stacy McAnulty, in her middle grade debut, wants you to experience. And that adds up to a story and a character that may long stay with you.

A note about this review: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl came onto my radar thanks to Stacy’s agent (not mine, by the way) and a yummy Christmastime breakfast. Soon after, I received the ARC from Stacy’s editor at Random House, but I was neither asked to write this nor compensated for this. I choose to bring you only books I happen to love.

*The numerals in this paragraph are not my normal style; they are a nod to the way Lucy sees the world.

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@Barrie Summy


13 thoughts on “Lightning Girl! Whether You Love Math or Not”

    An amazing book for everyone
    All the characters have so much thought put into them and you will see that straight away.
    This is my fav book at the moment so…
    it’s a YOU HAVE TO BUY!
    (if you have kids they will love it)
    trust me

  2. I used to have a teacher who said that numbers were your friend. With that said, numbers and I used to be close but somewhere along the way we parted company and it can get awkward when we see each other now. 🙂

    Sounds like a fun book. Thanks for reviewing.

    1. I actually know when and why numbers and I parted company. Looking back, it had a lot to do with gender bias. But in a happily-ever-after sense, it led me to writing 🙂

  3. I always loved math. It was like a puzzle for me until I got to Pre-Calculus. I could no longer visualize the formulas in my head. I still love math though. Geometry was my favourite. And middle school (in my day it was junior high school) was challenging. I sure can relate to that. – Margy

    1. I loved geometry, too, Margy; especially, the proofs. They were like solving puzzle. (Yes, junior high for me, too.)

  4. I’m looking forward to reading this book! I love reading your reviews, Jody. I feel like I’m sitting across a table, sipping my tea and chatting with you. Thanks for reviewing!

    1. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, Barrie, but that’s my sleight-of-hand reviewing technique shining through. When a book is in print, I turn off my critiquing engine, and go into chat mode. 🙂

  5. Sounds like a fun book for tweens! Even without the extra challenges Lucy faces, middle school is not easy for quirky smart kids. When they didn’t offer GT math at my son’s elementary school, I volunteered to teach it and wished I’d kept up my math skills too.

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