Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
You may not know this about me but just because I haven't really had the chance to share this knowledge; it's not a big secret or anything. I LOVE MATH. There, I've said it, whew! I was super fortunate to have some excellent math teachers and for the subject to come easily (except for calculus). Even now I think "I love math or numbers" a few times a week. Like for real, that is a thought I regularly think. But I know that not everyone has had such good experinces (for example, my sister) and especially that people often see a huge disconnect between math and more creative pursuits like writing such as in this book.
The titular Gregory K. starts as one of those people. His family is completely math obsessed from his parents to his jerky older brother to his precocious younger sister. All just seem to "get" math in a way that eludes Gregory who is dangerously close to failing his math class and just wants to write poetry. His super cool math teacher gives him the following assignment: keep a journal. This eventually allows Gregory to plan a project for a math competition, incorporate math in to poetry, and to process his feelings over the fact that his best friend is moving away (and the fact that he lied to her, promising that he would definitely attend Author Camp with her). Let's look at a bulleted list of some of my favorite parts.
- I loved Mr. Davis and his insight into Gregory's personality. He knows that Gregory loves writing and that, no matter what he says, he does not love math. So he assigns him writing but encourages him to write about math and how it fits in to his life. How great is that? Give the kid a chance to play to his strengths while also encouraging him in an area of life where he must demonstrate some expertise despite lacking some natural aptitude.
- As we read along in Gregory's journal, we are reminded of how much of a role math can play in our everyday lives. Maybe we're not engineers but mathematical patterns can be seen in so much of nature and it's cool to have those realizations. Of especial note is the Fibonacci Sequence, which plays a huge role in the story, and some jokes about pi/pie since Gregory's best friend's mom owns a pie shop.
- I did not like Gregory's older brother O who seems to thrive on pestering Gregory but I did like his adorable little sister who is the first in his family to discover his writing talent and to encourage him. In fact the whole family is pretty supportive once Gregory shares how he actually feels about math and where his passions truly lie. This is a great example of a healthy family unit in literature and I hope others will resonate with its depiction; I loved the frequent mention of family meals as I grew up in a house where we ate dinner together.
- Lastly, for once I can say that I loved the poetry in this book. I've read plenty of YA/MG books involving poetry and I usually skim past it to get to the prose. Here though I understand the poems and appreciate their patterns.