The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty tackles many issues that most school children can easily relate to and there is just the right amount of superpowers to make superhero fantasy readers pick it up too.
Lucy Callahan becomes a very special girl after being struck by lightning when she was just eight — her brain has become a supercomputer as far as maths is concerned. Since then Lucy has been home-schooled and she’s mastered every maths problem she comes across, and by the time she is 12, Lucy is ready for college.
No, she doesn’t go to college at 12, as her grandmother sensibly suggests that she needs to experience real life, the life she missed in middle school so she has to go to middle school (grade seven) for one year. And not just that, Lucy is also told to do other things besides studies while there — like make friends, take part in school activity, and explore other subjects and books. Thinking this won’t be hard for a genius like her, Lucy agrees to this idea, though a bit reluctantly since she considers it a waste of time. But middle-school is more than getting good grades, as Lucy soon learns.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl brings alive school life with all its stresses, friendships, bullies, laughter and fights. The characterisation is on point, making the readers relate and sympathise with even the minor ones, without making anyone too much of a caricature. I particularly liked the teacher-student bond presented in the story, for no doubt connectivity does bring out the best in students and the right teachers can make their students overcome any hurdle.
As the story progresses, Lucy evolves and learns that despite being a math whiz and intellectually superior than those around her, she has much to learn from them and there is so much that others can do better than she can. For instance, homeschooling has never given Lucy a chance to indulge in a project with others and interact with different kinds of people in the community, or handle public speaking with confidence. Lucy learns to let go of her need for structure and a rigid routine to be able to deal with the unpredictability and chaos in real life.
The language and flow of the story is easy, the chapters are short and the plot twists have an emotional note that keep your attention till the end.
Published in Dawn, Young World, November 30th, 2019