REVIEW: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
Middle school is the one problem Lucy Callahan can’t solve in this middle-grade novel perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by 7s.
Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!
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.
Dear Ms. McAnulty,
I don’t read many books about middle school age children but I do remember those days. Trying to fit into a new school, make new friends, learn new routines, survive cliques and gossip – yes, I remember all that. Since math isn’t my forte, I would love to have some of Lucy’s genius level skills.
Since I’ve admitted I don’t have much experience reading the latest books geared towards 12 year olds, I’m probably going to have missed most tropes and standard plot devices more seasoned readers would immediately notice. Lucy has acquired savant syndrome and is living with her grandmother who decides that despite being academically ready for college, Lucy needs real world experience with her age peers. Much groaning and sighing later, Lucy is enrolled in her local public school and dreading the 1 year she must endure before returning to her (mainly) introverted, solitary studying.
The usual pitfalls wait for Lucy: new in school, making friends, learning her way around. But she also has to face revealing some personal quirks she just knows are going to make her life difficult. Along with her math talent, she has OCD and relentlessly cleans everything before touching it – thus earning the cruel nickname the cleaning lady from her classmates. She also has to tap her foot 3 times whenever she stops and sit/stand/sit/stand/sit or else the numbers of pi start to flood her brain, taking over her senses. That doesn’t make her any more popular. She can hide her synesthesia though, only silently commenting on what color various numbers are for her.
Forced into this world and among these students, can Lucy survive by trying to hide her one talent in order to fit in as much as she can?
Lucy does survive and does make at least 1 friend, try at least 1 new activity and reads at least 1 book that isn’t about math. There are mean girls, awkward social situations, forced friendships which morph into something more real and 1 caring teacher – of course he’s Lucy’s math teacher – who helps and challenges her. Not everyone understands her or even tries; her grandma doesn’t give in despite all Lucy’s sulking at times.
By the end, Lucy has learned some people skills, expanded her world and maybe learned that not everything can or should be calculated. Pretty standard but the book is written so that Lucy is real to me, her challenges aren’t unbelievable, her mistakes are understandable and she seems like a 12 year old. There are a few things I wasn’t sure about – how someone with her well described OCD would endure handling a dog or the fact that she wasn’t truly bullied in this school world where it seems so unfortunately commonplace. I like that there are some unfinished issues when the book closes leaving me to ponder what Lucy’s next choices in life will be and what effect this semester has had on her future. Maybe grandma did know what she was up to after all. B