I rarely read books intended for a younger MG audience, but Greene is my yoga instructor and also studying to get her PhD in…I want to say Biology…so when she asked me to check out a couple of her books, I said sure. Actually, I think I said something along the lines of, “Really? Can’t you leave something for the rest of us to be good at?” That sass earned the whole class quite a long “break” in Dragon, although I’m sure if I asked her, she would claim complete innocence on the matter. She’s sneaky that way.
In all honesty, she’s an incredibly sweet, overachieving woman, and although I suspect this book might be a bit on the young side for most of my readers, it’s definitely one I would want to put on the shelves in classrooms. Green’s protagonist is, like her, a scientist, and I found it incredibly refreshing to read about a young girl interested in science written from an inside perspective. Many of my friends are scientists and engineers, but they don’t write fiction, so characters with their interests are not always written as well as they could be. Greene uses her own knowledge of the field to make the character come alive for me.
Whenever Kali went on about the constellations or discussed an experiment in her honor’s chemistry class, I thought, this must be what it’s like to be great in this subject! It’s Greene’s passion, and as a result, Kali lights up whenever she gets to discuss her favorite subject. In fact, Kali seemed like the kind of kid I would want to hang out with when I was that age – smart, funny, and yes, curious about boys.
Admittedly, I have a soft spot for books about smart girls who are also interested in dating. I enjoy a character who can excel in astronomy or physics but also struggles with what to say to a cute boy in class. It speaks to a truth I can relate to, and it’s one of the things I liked to read about when I was that age. Sometimes it’s wonderful to read about a girl saving the world; other times, I just want to read about a girl who learns how to save herself. One is not necessarily better than another, especially for a young reader.
Kali makes a few extremely poor choices when it comes to boys and to her friends, but then, most teenagers do. (Noticeably, none of these impact her academic efforts, which are clearly of utmost importance to her.) The smart ones learn from those mistakes and strive to change something in themselves as a result. They take risks, even knowing that the inherent definition of risk implies occasional failure. Adolescence is all about the growth that comes from that cycle of risk-taking, failure, and success. It was lovely to read a book that approached this idea and made choosing do to the right thing, and occasionally the risky one, look so appealing.