Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Science of Being Angry

Melleby, Nicole. The Science of Being Angry
May 10th 2022 by Algonquin Young Readers

Joey is a triplet who lives with her brothers Colton and Thomas, two moms, and older half brother Benny in an apartment. When she and her two brothers go out at night to swim in the complex pool when they are not supposed to, Joey punches the security guard who tries to talk to them. Since this isn't the first issue, the family is evicted and end up in a hotel. Benny goes to stay with his father, who is the gym teacher at the children's charter school. Joey has long had anger issues, and the breathing exercises her moms recommend don't really work. She is alienated from her friends, especially Layla, so is glad when she is asked to join a hockey team. When her class starts on a DNA and genetics unit in science, this is an additional source of tension for Layla, since her father was a sperm donor, and she has only basic information about him. Wondering if her anger issues might be genetic, she wants to try to find out more, and enlists Layla to help, since her former friend is very interested in genealogy. The two manage to submit DNA to 23 and Me, and are anxiously awaiting results. Joey starts to have trouble on the hockey team with Eli, who calls her "Bruiser" and aggressively "fools around", shoving her all in the name of "fun". Joey's instances of aggression start to escalate, and her moms talk about putting her into therapy. She also struggles with her relationship with Layla as the two reconnect, and she doesn't want to tell her friend what is really bothering her. Will Joey be able to find out more about the causes of her anger, her family genetics, and the real nature of her feelings for Layla?

Like Gerber's Focused, Pages' Button Pusher, or Carter's  Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers this is an interesting look at a tween who is struggling with understanding and dealing with her neurological differences. This is something we are seeing more and more with young people, as mental health issues have been exacerbated during the pandemic. Joey's moms are very supportive, and don't make Joey feel bad about her actions, but do try to help her deal with situations, and dole out reasonable punishments when needed. They are a bit slow to get her help, but do think about it and eventually take her to family and individual therapy. 

I was more interested in the dive into genetics, and the debate over nature versus nuture introduced in Joey's science class. It was also good to see that the school mentions that the genetics project is meant to be inclusive of a variety of families; assigning family trees is rarely a good idea in middle school anymore, since familes are much more richly textured than they have been in the past. Joey takes a look at how her Mom, to whom she is genetically related, looks and acts, but also tries to understand how Mama, who is not genetically related, has informed her personality as well. 

There are not too many books that include information on children who were born through in vitro fertilization, other than Robert's Nikki on the Line, so it is good to see this kind of representation in middle grade literature. This also felt reminscent of Smith's Code Name Serendipity, but with a more middle school feel, thanks to the inclusion of hockey and a budding romance. 

My readers will be interested in the friend drama between Joey and Layla, as well as the fact that there is more to Joey's feelings than friendship. I don't want to describe too much of this and ruin some nice twists and turns in the plot, but fans of this author's Hurricane Season, Ashley Herring Blake, and Barbara Dee will enjoy the inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ themes. 

Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment